I have a soft spot in my heart for RIM. As a longtime BlackBerry user, as an industry observer and writer whose audience is enterprise IT, I watched over the years as RIM just kept getting things right. Although 2011 was the year when mobile device management products multiplied like bunnies from a rabbit brothel, RIM has owned MDM for many years. Even now, as RIM moves its management capabilities to the cloud and starts to embrace iPhones and Android devices thanks to its Ubitexx acquisition, the BlackBerry Enterprise Server is still the high-performance, secure device management technology to beat.
A problem now for RIM is that there is formidable competition. A bigger problem is that enterprise IT managers have succumbed to the immovable forces of Apple and Google. The biggest problem is that though RIM's core services remain strong, the other parts of its mobile ecosystem were felled ages ago. I remember two years ago asking a top RIM executive when the company would have a touch experience. He showed me that the trackpad was very much like a touch interface. I sent him back to Canada with a gentle pat on the back.
But just when you thought things couldn't get worse for RIM, they have.
Following a September financial statement that featured a 15% drop in revenue and an anemic 750,000 BlackBerry Playbook tablets sold, analysts and shareholders called for the heads of RIM's co-CEOs, Jim Balsillie and Mike Laziridis, and a complete restructuring of the company. Then, in mid-October, a worldwide BlackBerry network outage left users without service for days. The rock-solid BlackBerry service also was now in question.
Earlier this month, RIM took a $485 million fourth-quarter charge to write down unsold PlayBooks, even after the company's steep discounts. Sales of RIM's newest BlackBerry phones started well, but the company is already warning that revenue will be less than its earlier guidance. Then RIM lost the name of its newly announced operating system, BBX, in a court battle, and to top it all off, two RIM executives got unruly on a recent flight, leading to their arrest and subsequent firing.
Unless RIM can get its mojo back, its remaining customers will trickle away when contracts expire, and its developers--already frustrated and confused--will move on as well. --Fritz Nelson