5 Reasons You Shouldn't Count RIM Out Yet4:00 PM EST Tue. Oct. 02, 2012
Anyone following the tech world is familiar with Research In Motion's woes. Over the past two years, the former industry giant has seen its lunch get eaten in the smartphone market by rivals Apple and Google, with its market share (and its profits) slipping steadily.
But, that doesn't mean the Waterloo, Ontario-based company should be pronounced dead just yet. Beneath all the bad news are little silver linings that could offer RIM a glimmer a hope.
Whether it's RIM's own resolve to pick itself back up, or the anticipated arrival of a new mobile OS, here are five reasons BlackBerry may get that shot at revival after all.
For a closer look at how RIM let the mobile device market slip through its hands, see a preview of our exclusive report, "An Inside Look At Where RIM Went So Wrong." The full article is available exclusively on the CRN Tech News app, available now in the Apple App Store.
When RIM announced during its first-quarter earnings call in June that the highly anticipated launch of its BlackBerry 10 operating system was being delayed, some took the news as the final nail in the BlackBerry era's coffin. But, it's tough to completely dismiss the old theory that good things come to those who wait.
Yes, BlackBerry 10, the next-generation operating system RIM says will arm its smartphones with new features including touchscreens and a broader app ecosystem, won't arrive until early 2013. But if the new OS does arrive delivering on all the promises RIM has said it would, former BlackBerry loyalists may just come crawling back.
"The successful launch of the BlackBerry 10 platform and the delivery of high-quality, full-featured BlackBerry 10 smartphones remains the company's No. 1 priority," RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said during the company's first-quarter earnings call. BlackBerry developers are working "relentlessly" toward that end, he said.
When RIM CEO Thorsten Heins took over for former co-CEOs Mike Lazardis and Jim Balsillie in January, investors and analysts were rubbed the wrong way by his insistence that no "seismic" changes were needed to put the company back on its feet. Most agreed RIM needed a major shift in thinking to survive and felt Heins might not be the fresh set of eyes it needs to do so. But, as Heins grew into his CEO role, he seemed to have changed his mind. He began to speak more about the need for a new marketing push, and even on-boarded a new CMO. He stressed the importance of growing BlackBerry's application ecosystem and focusing its efforts on winning back the consumer market that has become so enamored with Apple and Google over the past two years.
"The impression I had after two days as CEO is very different from the impression -- not the impression, the facts -- I discovered after being here for 10 weeks as CEO," Heins said during RIM's fourth-quarter earnings call in March."I am convinced that substantial change is what we need."
While RIM is no doubt finding it hard to fight back against Apple and Google in the U.S., the BlackBerry brand remains relatively strong outside of North America, particularly in emerging markets.
RIM said in its first-quarter earnings statement in July that its subscriber base actually grew in all regions expect for North America, totaling 78 million users. In an interview with CRN, Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen reaffirmed this fact.
"I know the press and a number of analysts talk about RIM in the doom and gloom scenario, and it's true that they have seen fairly significant decline over the past few quarters, past couple years," Nguyen said. "But it's worth highlighting that in markets such as Latin America and certain parts of Asia Pacific, like Indonesia, they continue to be very, very strong."
RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook has struggled for the past two years to carve a significant space for itself in the tablet market. But in an effort to finally give Apple's iPad and Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 a run for their money, RIM has rolled out a number of PlayBook enhancements that could do just that.
Most notable, RIM introduced a new 4G LTE version of the PlayBook in August that promises to deliver a much faster and smoother user experience compared to prior 3G versions. Tasks like sending emails, browsing the Web and downloading multimedia content get a boost in performance, a move that could generate more consumer interest.
What's more, RIM introduced BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 in February, arming its flagship tablet with new capabilities such as native email and a broader app ecosystem.
Regardless of its consumer market struggles, the BlackBerry name will always be synonymous with enterprise security. And, RIM drove home that point with the April launch of its BlackBerry Mobile Fusion mobile device management (MDM) software. Mobile Fusion arms IT teams with the ability to monitor, track and secure tablets and smartphones running on corporate networks through a single, Web-based console. And, those devices don't even have to carry the BlackBerry name -- the solution offers support for Android and iOS devices too.
As the IT consumerization trend heats up, the MDM market is expected to become a more lucrative one, along with one RIM could potentially dominate someday, given its reputation in the security space. "Although RIM is late to the market again, they should make serious inroads into some core corporate accounts," Steven Kantorowitz, president of CelPro Associates, a New York-based solution provider and RIM partner, told CRN. "This will be a great way for RIM to keep the BlackBerry Enterprise Server relevant in the coming years."