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RIM Empire Didn't Strike Back At BlackBerry World

Research In Motion didn't quash fears of its demise at BlackBerry World 2012. The company faces real threats that need to be addressed now--not later this year, when BlackBerry 10 launches.

Research In Motion has a plan to turn itself around, but it is quickly running out of time. Its next-gen platform may be on track to arrive later this year, but the mobile industry's blistering pace of innovation won't slow down to wait for RIM to catch up.

RIM provided a first look at BlackBerry 10 during BlackBerry World 2012's opening keynote. RIM has pinned its future on BB10. This platform combines the best of BlackBerry 7 and PlayBook OS 2.0 and will serve as RIM's mobile computing platform in the years to come.

The problem is that RIM barely showed anything about the new OS. It revealed a great software keyboard, a high-level view of the cascading user interface, and a very brief look at the contact and messaging component of the UI. That's it. The message from RIM on BB10 is clear: It's not nearly ready. The company showed so little of the new platform, it's hard to believe there's really a platform at all. The presentations were slick, but RIM didn't show even an early build of BB10 working on a prototype handset. For all intents and purposes, we don't know anything about BB10.

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RIM's hardware strategy is also a mystery. The company didn't introduce any new phones. It wasn't expected to. But the firm didn't provide any direction on what the RIM faithful can expect from its hardware division once BlackBerry 10 arrives. Will the phones be thinner, more attractive, more media-capable, will they have 4G? RIM didn't say. Though RIM's smartphones have historically been solid messaging machines, RIM needs to face the touch screen designs from Apple and Google head on if it wants to win back market share.

What of RIM's planned "enterprise focus"? The company didn't say anything about its BlackBerry Enterprise Servers (BES). Instead, it talked up Mobile Fusion, which gives BlackBerry admins the ability to manage Android smartphones and iPhones. The company didn't say if new versions of BES or BlackBerry Internet Services are on the way, nor how the existing products will work with BB10 once it launches.

RIM did offer developers a handset during the conference, and offered a $10,000 bounty for BB10 apps. The BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha is a tool app writers can use to test their applications. Unfortunately, this device was the subject of some pre-show hype. People expected to see a handset running an early build of BB10. The Dev Alpha doesn't. Instead, it runs a stripped-down version of PlayBook OS 2.0. The device really is a developer's tool, not an early look at RIM's new platform. It is simply a testbed and nothing more. For whatever reason, this device didn't impress Wall Street, and RIM's stock sank further after it was unveiled.

Amplifying all these problems, RIM cancelled its analyst briefings, which typically take place during BBW. It said it doesn't want to update analysts and investors until BB10 is ready to launch. That means investors are going to remain in the dark for a while.

The one positive message coming from RIM this week was delivered to the press Wednesday. RIM CEO Thorsten Heins demonstrated that he understands how much trouble RIM is in. He has a plan to fix it, and appears to have rallied the troops, to a degree. He reiterated over and over that BB10 won't be launched until it is perfect.

Since no one can really say what "perfect" means, I'd settle for "competitive." RIM has to address the features and usability offered by Android, iOS, and to a lesser extend Windows Phone. It has to be as elegant, as powerful, and as user friendly as the platforms offered by the market leaders.

Based on what little we know, it is impossible to say whether or not RIM can make up lost ground before time runs out.

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User Rank: Apprentice
5/7/2012 | 4:15:42 PM
re: RIM Empire Didn't Strike Back At BlackBerry World
Good Article, I had always hoped and wanted that RIM/blackberry could turn itself around, but I don't think it's going to be possible unless they get rid of the blackberries all together. I agree they need to focus on the enteprise, but do it as a solution provider for iPhone. I want RIM in the enterprise, but there is such bad perception out there about blackberries and it's not all true, just fanboys creating perception...that and RIM executives not keeping up with the market.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/5/2012 | 5:54:31 PM
re: RIM Empire Didn't Strike Back At BlackBerry World
Let's forget about the past. I don't buy a TV based on what was happening last year, I buy it based on what is happening now and what I can see happening in the near future. Why would I buy a smart phone any differently?
The new OS will be similar to the current Playbook OS, with some enhancements. The current Playbook OS is pretty solid and multitasks better than the other competing OSes.
I can't see them not getting it functioning since it already functions and the only thing that they need to add is the BBS functionality. They probably should also allow the phone to video conference and text message/social media with non-Rim products.
Other than that, they have to focus on increasing the apps that are currently out there which I am assuming are compatible with the new phone OS.
If they can come up with some app that works 10Xs better on their multitasking OS than on Apple and Android OSes, they can be the product to own again.
Also, they might want to find a way to allow people to turn off using their network for emails and messages so people can bypass it if problems occur like they have in the past.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/5/2012 | 5:18:28 PM
re: RIM Empire Didn't Strike Back At BlackBerry World
jtonge, honestly, you did a much better defense and justification for buying BB 10 than Heins did in his 40 minute introduction presentation last week. I do believe that RIM could always sell enough BB 10 type phones to a hardcore base of subscribers that are RIM fans or faithful. I would venture that they could have a hardcore base from 30-60 on a world wide basis. I do have a lot of doubts that they can grow higher above the 75 million base, because there will be defections and then trying to win over converts in the fact of the huge supply of smartphone choices, which will include the super phone, IPhone 5 which will be supplanted by IPhone 5S, IPhone 6, etc, etc. Then, the Androids will be proliferating everywhere on the planet too with upgrades.
So, that is the main problem, RIM could retain some hardcore base. Lets just say they retain 70-80 and that is the max they can attract for the next year or two.
Then, if that is the case, the company has to shrink and lay off and figure out drastic ways to cut costs and overhead to give a return to shareholders. RIght now, RIM is running at the rate of costs as if they have a base of 150 million. That is just not going to happen.
So, in other words, it is pink slip city in Waterloo someday, and that will happen when they realize they cannot grow past a hardcore base.
As for the main point of this article today, Eric Zeman is right that BB World was a failed chance to showcase everything so much better, but, the problem is that BB World could not be cancelled in order to wait and allow for a better show such as in August or September, when, they would be able to show off a better BB 10 unit.
People are not stupid. The calendar came up and this was the best they could scramble to put together for a show. This is not Heins fault, as the show was already scheduled before he took over.
It is entirely Mike and Jim's fault for everything that went wrong with the RIM image and failure to upgrade BB phones by 2010 to stay in the competitive race.
You even admit that BB 6 was a poor OS/Browser. True, BB 7 which took so long to come out was better, but, still woefully behind the competition.
Now, each day Heins is on the job, the more fault can be laid on his doorstep. Many feel he is not the right person to save a company from its current destiny. That may be true, and he may be an interim CEO and RIM may have to resort to some outsider to do the dirty business of shrinking the company and just selling phones to its hardcore base.
One proviso, if RIM starts reporting losses Q by Q, the stock price will be severely punished much more, sub $10. That will mandate pink slips, shrinking, and finding its hardcore market and trying then to eck out a profit and run the business on that basis. The stock price will be
$5 to $10 once the final story is written and if they can shrink to a profitable company will a phone that satisfies a hardcore base on a consistent basis.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/5/2012 | 2:52:35 PM
re: RIM Empire Didn't Strike Back At BlackBerry World
The problem Microsoft has is that noone knows about it, plus they hate Microsoft for their crappy software that tries to shove unrelated, proprietary code down developers and consumers throats.

The PlayBook is rocking with the OS2.0 update. You even get Modern Combat Pegasus, which must be at least a ten buck game, free. And there is also two free leading race car games. That's $30 in games for free, on a $200 tablet.

I take it everywhere because it fits in my jacket pocket and pairs with my BlackBerry Curve 9300 with OS6.0. So it taps in with bluetooth to get free high-speed data on my $45 unlimited everything cell phone plan. Can't argue with that. Yes the phone is not impressive but I tell you that two years ago when I bought it, it was better than all the Androids I looked at and it was $299 with no contract.

Yes the Galaxy S had just come out when I purchased my Curve. At $699 I'd never pay that for a so-so phone. I have a friend with one and it takes ten minutes to type a sentence. If we are walking somewhere, they have to stop walking to type and then it takes literally minutes for them to get out their msg and even then the msg is shortened and full of spelling mistakes which is made worse by their autocorrect feature. You can't even understand what they are saying. I laugh at people who use one, that they are that trendy that they would sacrifice everthying - battery, cell, msging, email, security and privacy (its full of spyware) etc just for apps.

On a BB, you can walk and type and pump out sentences easy. Yes browser and apps are useless on OS6.0, but I have a tablet for apps. My phone primary purpose is communication, which BlackBerry excels at. Keep in mind I'm not using OS7.0 which is light years ahead of OS6.0.

As a front-end developer I do testing across all browsers and the PlayBook's mobile browser is up there with Chrome for desktops. I am suprised BlackBerry hasn't tried to brand their browser and give it out free on desktops. I shove hundreds of kilobytes of javascript down its throat and it renders everything great and the animations are fluid. It even does CSS3 3D transforms well. These are things that even Mozilla Firefox can't do as well, or spent over a year trying to catch up to Google Chrome. Hats off to BlackBerry for choosing webkit and doing webkit well.

Than there is the talk about developers and apps for BB. All I can say is that I've never been treated so well by a company before. Apple and Google ignore you ("ok I've reached out to Paul Irish and a couple others at Google once or twice in the past and they are exceptional people). But RIM has changed. They give you more ways to program than anyone else. They're not trying to shove anything down our throats. They are saying, code them any way you want, just give us apps and we are greatful to you. That's a developers dream. Reaching out with events, tools, libraries and compliance with standards that make our life easier.

What's also funny is how people say go "android" or go this way or that. Yet even Samsung doesn't want to be called "a Google Phone". How do you think that makes Samsung feel, that they are nearly entirely responsible for Android's platform's success, yet are only branding Google and not their own product. It's a marketing nightmare. If someone comes out with a better piece of hardware, Samsung can literally lose all the marketshare over night because they don't have a brand to stand on.

Also, for years bloggers have been saying "when is QNX going to make it to the phone". The experts, even at Intel, knew that QNX was perfect for mobile due to its microkernel OS. But then when BlackBerry tries to deliver with this company, everyone says the opposite. But it only took 1 year between acquisition of QNX and the PlayBook. By all means that is an amazing feat of corporate integration. But with BB10, we are looking at 2.5 years since acquisition, so I really believe they are going to deliver a phone that doesn't crash, that is easy on the battery and yet is more powerful in terms of browser, CPU and memory than any other phone.

The new camera feature on BB10 is going to be in demand - that is an awesome feature that takes a significant amount of processor speed to produce. There is also one other significant possibility that will make RIM double its marketshare and that is Nokia. If Windows Phone doesn't catch on that is the end of them, and they will break up and get sold, BlackBerry is in the best position to nab that marketshare in a matter of months. It is also in a position to steal its developers.

As much misfortune that has happened to RIM, everyone forgets that the future could bring some really great luck.
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