RIM's Balsillie on Blackberry's future: What? Me Worry?

RIM's Balsillie on Blackberry's future: What? Me Worry?

Summary: RIM's co-CEO is sounding pretty optimistic about his company's place in the competitive world of smartphones. Is his optimism justified?

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To hear Research in Motion's co-CEO Jim Balsillie talk about the future of smartphones and the Blackberry's role in the competitive industry, it's easy to imagine him leaning back in a big leather chair, feet up on the desk and a stogie sticking out of a corner of his mouth.

Listening to Balsillie field questions during his fourth quarter earnings call today, you'd never think that there were rumors floating around about new iPhones - and possibly new carriers for it - later this year. You might not believe that Google's Android is going to have a big impact. And you'd pretty much feel like RIM is headed for a smooth ride in Latin America and China.

After all, Blackberry is a powerful brand name - the strongest, in fact, Balisillie said - and it's only getting stronger.

His voice was as smooth as silk as he answered question after question about growth markets, the competition and inventory issues. And on at least two instances, he suggested that analysts reading deeper into some issues might just "misconstruing" things.

What asked about net subscriber adds in North America, he replied that the continent is just fine and "quite frankly strengthening." Those who think otherwise might be "misconstruing something." He was also asked about inventory issues, but dismissed any concerns by calling them one-time adjustments. "To interpret that as any kind of weakness is misconstrued,” he said.

Stay tuned, he suggested, because the roadmap for fiscal 2011, which began on March 1, is "really quite amazing." No, he didn't offer any hints to what's coming - other than some new hardware that would drive growth in the second half.

It's hard to imagine anyone in this space being so calm, cool and collected in this competitive climate - but RIM has continued to ride the storm well in recent quarters. Maybe there's a Golden Ace up RIM's sleeve and the company's roadmap will, in fact, blow us all away.

We'll know soon enough.

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Topics: BlackBerry, Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones

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17 comments
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  • Sam...

    ...they sold over 40 million smartphones last year and over 10 million last quarter. They're number one in the US by a long way and doing very well in the rest of the world.

    You should probably be more concerned about the iPhone which is, frankly, boring, needs a refresh desperately and doesn't have a raneg of models to fall back on.

    As for Android... yeah, whatever.
    Sleeper Service
    • you number is not correct

      rimm sold 34.4 million devices in 2009.

      as always, facts help your point. so people might actually believe what
      you make up this time.
      bannedfromzdnetagain
      • Actually we're both out...

        RIM's press statement shows that they sold 37 million smartphones in 2009. My figure of over 40 million comes from their subscriber base.

        So I was out by four million - they only sold 12 million more smartphones - or about 50% - more than Apple did and were the top seller in the US.

        So slight error with the numbers, same result.
        Sleeper Service
  • Seriously though, Sam...

    ...why all the hype about a manufacturer that isn't even top dog in its own backyard?

    I mean Apple and Android are all very nice but they're not number one in the US (and, frankly, not even close to being so) because RIM are. Shouldn't you be paying more attention to the winner here?

    Sleeper Service
    • Rim is antequated now though

      Yeah m y spelling sucks...anyways I have a BB 8350i which was nextels version that i had taken to boost. It was my first BB and having used it for about a year have found RIMs platform is a very slow dogged os thats very limited in its ability.Its a one trick pony which is why RIM and Apple should both worry about the Android OS software as they have nailed it as to what a phone os should be. I got this as it was the only upper phone model at the time that could be forced to work on boost unlimited but now I have decided I will get the sprint evo and take it to boost mobile and dump my dinosaur rim phone. BB have a place but as said its just a 1 trick pony and RIMs development team is way to slow to compete anymore.Hell can't even run flash which they have promised for over 2 years
      Fletchguy
  • RIM will buy Palm - How's that for a prediction

    You ZDnet guys... always speculating about something trivial, and always quick to dismiss and jump on the "next big thing" as if current opportunities have all dried up.

    Give me a break. RIM could easily buy Palm for cash and gain access to their webOS if they have nothing up their sleeve. And that's a stretch, because RIM has smart people working for it.
    croberts
    • Why bother...

      Palm will die on it's own within 2 years.
      bobavery
      • Because Palm has talent

        Nobody associate RIM as cutting edge or great in
        design, if they purchased Palm they would gain
        access to some of the best brains to update the
        Blackberry. The Blackberry OS is on life support
        and not to mention their whole infrastructure for
        supporting email and Internet connection. I'm not
        knocking RIM, I'm simply telling the truth,
        because I've used a Blackberry for 10 years.
        TJGodel
        • and all that talent

          is why Palm's market capitalization is 10% of Rimm's and Palm is on it's death bed. Palm's stock price is less than a fast food lunch. Rimm could get any Palm talent they wanted once the rats start jumping from the ship.
          bobavery
          • Palm has talent building the OS

            BUT Small screen + cramped keyboard = their
            downfall.

            I know a few people that love the Pre and find
            the keyboard is usable, but getting people to
            buy one and test it out is not easy. People go
            a lot by looks and they look at the keyboard
            and get turned off right away.

            If Palm would have make the Pre with a spacious
            keyboard and bigger screen, along with better
            marketing it would have IMHO would have had a
            hit as big if not bigger than the iphone.
            rkegel
  • What do you expect a CEO to say?

    Maybe it is wishful thinking and maybe not.

    For RIM, the enterprise is a powerful force and any employer who wants/needs their employees connected to Exchange (or Lotus Domino, or Novell Groupwire) has to think twice before abandoning RIM for someone else's less-than-complete synchronization methodology. (For theses customers, e-mail is simply not enough. Shared calendars, contacts, and tasks, become important components which simply cannot be reliably delivered via IMAP or POP without employee intervention.

    These enterprise needs provide RIM a secondary income stream as well.

    In the consumer space, things are very different. BlackBerry owners using a "blackberry.net" domain for their e-mail still benefit greatly over those that don't but if you use gmail, or hotmail, or aol, or any of a thousand other IMAP and POP providers for e-mail, it really doesn't matter much whose smartphone you use.

    It's these people who can be easily lured away from BlackBerry with some shiny new toy - especially the iPhone.

    In the end, RIMs future rests on which type of customer dominates the BlackBerry universe. If it is consumers, then RIM might have a tough row to hoe.
    M Wagner
  • What do people want from their phones?

    For me, I do like cool new gadgets but usually after my initial love affair, I get bored. Usually I find some device that really meets my needs and use that device.

    I don't use a smart phone for video streaming, watching television, playing high end games or reading books. The screens are to small for me.

    I like maps, social networks, e-mail, stored music, light subway style games (Suduko, brickbreaker, etc), some basic web browsing to find hotels, cabs, plane tickets, restaurants, stores. I don't really stream multimedia so I don't need a high end browser. A contact list, address book, calendar and may be a travel alarm clock are really nice features as well.

    I would bet there are a lot of people out their who just need a phone to do those kinds of things. This is where R.I.M. fits into the market place.

    I use a Droid but now that I know I probably won't ever use or need streaming media, books and video games on my phone, I would consider a R.I.M. device for my next phone. Not unless someone solves the small screen dilemma with out forcing my to carry a second device.
    mr1972
  • RE: RIM's Balsillie on Blackberry's future: What? Me Worry?

    RIM has been a big success but the cell phone industry is changing and RIM is not. Suddenly non cell phone companies like Apple and Google and Walmart are leading and changing the industry and that will continue over coming years.

    RIM is good with phone and with email for business customers, but the web is terrible and the wireless web is the future.

    RIM needs to reinvent itself going forward and they can regain their footing, but if they don't they will keep slipping and before they know it that powerful blackberry brand will be an after thought. jeffkagan.com
    JeffKAGAN
  • http://good.com/

    No, I do not work for Good Inc.
    I was always wondering why people do not "buy" into
    alternative solutions. As an example, Good exist for
    years now. Has a very mature, product line and is not
    based on proprietary protocols. Still it is rarely
    mentioned as a serious RIM problem. I really do not
    understand why ...
    Now imagine WP7+Good ... ;)
    dbjdbj
  • Doomsday! (But not today)

    BlackBerry doomsayers are beginning to sound a heck of a lot like the end-of-the-worlders who keep giving us dates for the earth to blow up, and then, when the date passes, they just change the date!

    Every few months, for years upon years, I have been reading posts about how the BlackBerry is about to sink into oblivion, overtaken by this or that, the iPhone or the Android or whatever.

    But this week, RIM posted a 37-per-cent jump in fourth-quarter profit to $710-million (U.S.). Revenue jumped 35 per cent to $4.08-billion. RIM sold one HUGE pile of new BlackBerries in parts of the world the iPhone can't begin to touch. And that happened in the depths of a global recession, folks!

    Sure. Sooner or later, the BlackBerry will be overtaken by SOMETHING. And sooner or later, the earth will be hit by a massive asteroid or something.

    But it didn't happen today.
    Windy-1
    • re. Doomsday! (But not today)

      And their share price as of today is down ... again ... this time by 10% ... yesterday by 5% .... and the tumble continues, but I agree with you 100% that RIM is one huge company that can take on companies like Apple and Google who at best are second-ups trying to jump aboard the train that RIM has been driving, and will continue driving, for years. The Blackberry will be taken out, and it will probably be by a new device that RIM develops themselves. {smile}
      Rowdy Rhodes
      Freelance Writing Organization - Int'l
      www.fwointl.com
      RowdyRhodes
  • RE: RIM's Balsillie on Blackberry's future: What? Me Worry?

    RIM Management is cool, calm and collected when it comes to facing competition. They've been here before so it's nothing new. Yes, the new competitive products coming to market will be different, but better? Hmmm. Depends on what you needs are. Also depends on whether a number of problems Apple is facing (like huge bandwidth usage compared to RIM's light use) can be resolved. RIM is not out of the game in any far-stretched imaginative point of view. As with all technological developments there will be the ups (3D Movies!) and the downs (Napster) so in conclusion it will be business as usual - corporate warfare to deliver us the finest satisfaction of our relative needs.
    Rowdy Rhodes
    Freelance Writing Organization - Int'l
    www.fwointl.com
    RowdyRhodes