Requiem for RIM

Summary:The news of layoffs at Research in Motion (RIM) surprised no one following the maker of the legendary BlackBerry. RIM is not dead yet, but unless it can lay out a concise plan to turn things around it is just a matter of time.

The news of layoffs at Research in Motion (RIM) surprised no one following the maker of the legendary BlackBerry. The company has faced dropping market share for some time and has not instilled confidence in anybody that it knows how to curtail the drop in business. The layoffs of 2,000 employees is a bandaid to stop the bleeding, but the company needs far greater care than that alone. RIM is not dead yet, but unless it can lay out a concise plan to turn things around it is just a matter of time.

There are still millions of BlackBerry phones in customer hands, but the problem facing RIM is they are not competitive with popular handsets. The iPhone and Android phone army has left the BlackBerry so far behind that a complete remake is needed to give RIM a chance. The company understands that and bought QNX to provide the OS  for both the new line of tablets and future smartphones. RIM talked up the advantages that the QNX platform bring to the market, but failed to deliver on the first product, the PlayBook.

Sales of the PlayBook haven't been ground-shaking, and RIM can only blame itself for that. Launching its first tablet into a competitive market, lacking core functionality such as email was suicidal. The BlackBerry has always been famous for its stellar handling of messaging, email included, but the ability is not even there on the PlayBook. Months later, RIM has yet to provide that feature on the tablet.

The delay in getting email onto the PlayBook hasn't been detailed by RIM, but those in the know say the BlackBerry infrastructure can't handle owners with multiple devices. If true, this shows how far RIM is behind the competition which can do simple things like email without problem. The company is dealing not only with a brand new platform and a brand new device, it is trying to make its aging backend handle it all. This is the real problem facing RIM because this is not an easy fix.

The PlayBook hasn't saved RIM as they indicated it might, and new smartphones based on the QNX platform are quite a ways off. Even when finally released, there have been no clear indicators that they will not only be competitive in the crowded smartphone segment but even surpass current offerings. It is too late for RIM to merely compete, they are facing the need to one-up the competition in a key way to get customer entrenched in these other platforms to switch.

It may be too early to give a requiem for RIM, but that time is rapidly approaching. What the company must do is lay out a concise, detailed plan to instill confidence in the market. Lately it seems to be floundering, so it's not clear if the company can even do this.

Image credit: Flickr user gloom

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Topics: BlackBerry, Mobility, Security

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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