RIM and Google: The Perfect Storm?

RIM and Google: The Perfect Storm?

Summary: A "Perfect Storm": The Linux-based Android OS, and tight integration with Google's web services, running on  BlackBerry hardware and connected to RIM's corporate messaging/calendar syncing infrastructure would be an unstoppable mobile enterprise device platform that not even Apple's iPhone, Windows Mobile or Palm webOS could dare to challenge. But could the marriage ever be consummated?


A "Perfect Storm": The Linux-based Android OS, and tight integration with Google's web services, running on  BlackBerry hardware and connected to RIM's corporate messaging/calendar syncing infrastructure would be an unstoppable mobile enterprise device platform that not even Apple's iPhone, Windows Mobile or Palm webOS could dare to challenge. But could the marriage ever be consummated? (GoogleBerry Storm concept by Spidermonkey)

In my previous piece about Palm and the potential for webOS to be used for derivative tablet-sized devices, I talked a bit about Google's problem with having to brand Android and finding a major device manufacturer with brand and sex appeal to attract customers in order to make a major commercial success of the platform.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

It occurred to me that the perfect manufacturer, brand and partner for Android devices already exists: Research In Motion.

There is of course, the issue that RIM already has it's own software platform, the BlackBerry OS, which has been under development for about 8 years.

While Android is Linux based, and Blackberry is completely proprietary, both share quite a bit in common from the developer perspective, in that the applications are written in Java. There are of course some religious differences as to how Java is implemented on both systems -- BlackBerry uses a licensed derivative of the Sun J2ME JVM and version 4.x implements a subset of MIDP 2.0, whereas Android's Dalvik is an Open Source re-implementation of Java that uses a unique Google-developed bytecode that is incompatible with that of J2ME, so it cannot be certified as "true" Java. Nevertheless, from a developer perspective, the two systems are very similar in terms of skill sets that are needed to create software that would run on either device.

Still, in order to develop Android and Blackberry apps today, developers need to maintain separate code bases and separate developer platforms. However, if BlackBerry and Android ran on the same JVM, they could in fact share the same developer environment. Developers would not need to prioritize which platform to develop for -- their application development target would in fact be the same.

How could this be done? Either by porting Dalvik natively to the BlackBerry OS, so that Android apps could run side by side with conventional BlackBerry apps and eventually phasing out the licensed Sun J2ME JVM over time, or by having RIM move to Android and port all of their enterprise messaging/calendaring integration services for BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) to that platform, adding any branding and UI customizations required in order to make it more "BlackBerry-like" and including the legacy J2ME JVM on the device to provide legacy app support during that transition period. In terms of level of effort, the second option would probably make a lot more sense.

There are a number of reasons why RIM might want to consider abandoning their own in-house OS for Android. For starters, both RIM and Google are facing three competitors that are encroaching on their space rather quickly -- iPhone, Windows Mobile and Palm webOS, and to a certain extent in the European and Asian markets, Symbian. A strategic alliance between the two where BlackBerry becomes the premier mobile Android platform for enterprise and heavy messaging users and would include tight integration with Google's web services would send shockwaves down Infinite Loop and Microsoft Way.

A RIM/Google alliance would not preclude the existence of other Android devices on the market, such as the T-Mobile G1, but presumably only RIM Android devices would be BES capable. RIM could also run their own Android store with apps that take specific advantage of RIM Android devices, maintaining the unique value of what makes a BlackBerry a BlackBerry.

RIM could also take advantage of Google's massive datacenter infrastructure, and enlisting Google's help in order to provide redundant NOCs, as opposed to the single NOC in Ottawa which they maintain now. This would render BlackBerry system outages a thing of the past, or at least much more infrequent than they occur now.

Would a RIM and Google alliance make sense and result in a "Perfect Storm" for their competitors, or are the two companies incompatible? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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Topics: BlackBerry, Google, Hardware, Mobility


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Why not?

    That's the question to ask.

    Sounds like it could be a very complimentary 'marriage', but as with any lasting relationship it'll require more give than take on both sides to make it work.

    Just so long as one party doesn't stand to lose more than the other.

    But together they would be a very formidable force in the smartphone/mobile comms market.
    • I agree

      I think RIM definitely should consider it:

      1. Android is open source, so RIM could probably recreate their current UI on top of it and no one would even know Android was underneath...except for the fact that their devices could run Android apps.

      2. Android would get them to a Linux kernel, which is stable, fast, scalable & would have drivers for current & future hardware components.

      3. Android is being prep'd for netbooks/tablets, so RIM could potentially develop a "Blackberry" netbook/tablet, with the same Blackberry UI, to target business users.

      4. Using Android would potentially free up some of their OS developers to do other revenue-generating tasks (e.g. app development).

      6. Since all their software would be running on Android, they could potentially offer an "enterprise hardened" Blackberry software package to other Android smartphone vendors, for a fee.
      • Sounds like a win - win

        Blackberry make a great range of handsets, have a trusted secure messaging platform, and are the defacto supplier in the enterprise space. But are being beaten by Apple in the consumer gadget space.

        Google have huge processing power (massive scalability) and are the defacto web based search/sync/collaboration medium for the bulk of consumers (google search, calendar, mail, docs, talk etc). They can also churn out great software at an alarming pace and have kudos with the developer community.

        They have proven to be the 800 pound gorilla that can sprint.

        But enterprise is a bit wary of putting all their eggs in the google cloud.


        Blackberry gain greater access to consumer and mass market for their handsets, faster OS updates, and scalable backend processing to cope with massive growth.

        Google gain more platforms for their OS and a way into the enterprise that'll provide an opportunity to shoe in their comms/collaboration/syncing products.

        Developers WILL swarm to the OS with the biggest market share.

        Google want's to be the Windows of the future - is there anyone who can really stop them?
  • Gosh, what a bunch of nonsense

    RIM can hold its own without that butt-ugly Android
    thing. But one more time, Perlow proposing things for the
    sake of proposing them. Now, let's expect a bunch of
    posts "making the case" for this craziness and mud-
    sliding RIM for not following Perlow's "wise" advice.

    Remember this is the guy who has to carry his own Wi-Fi
    access point but that at the same time argues that Wi-Fi
    is "ubiquitous" (he wants to redefine the word, i.e.,
    spin the issue)
    • Oh please

      <B>"Now, let's expect a bunch of
      posts "making the case" for this craziness and mud-sliding RIM for not following Perlow's "wise" advice."</b>

      You assume far too much. RIM is certainly doing well enough on its own, but a strategic partnership with Google, be it on a technological or simply a business level makes sense period and would make them an even stronger player and would allow them to further cement their position as the mobile enterprise messaging leader. Nobody in their right mind would deny that.
      • Yep, partnering with Google makes sense

        but not in the way you put it. You are simply
        obsessed with Android. First, you said Amazon
        should use it, now that RIM should. And the
        reasons you put forward look pretty weak.
      • Well im in my right mind

        It would give Google a good platform but i dont realy think there is enough for Rim to gain.
        They are already in a strong position and are gaining popularity as I can tell on there own.
        Plus the merger would only realy put them on par with windows mobile in my opinion, the handset may have a better interface but then 6.5/7 would be out by this time.
        Plus I heard that RIM were developing a emulation platform for other phones to run BB OS, if they do this they have no need for google.
    • RIM will do fine...

      but the Storm (the only thing here thats butt ugly) did not. They brought a toothpick to a gun fight. They would have been way better off using Android. Well at least the consumer is benefiting off the 2 for 1 Storms.
      • Maybe, but neither Perlow, nor you

        put forward any compelling reasons. Wait, you
        didn't even provide any reason.
        • Well for starters....

          They didn't actually build a good touch screen OS. They took the basic BB OS and stretched it onto a big screen. The browser was worthless and there were many things that weren't really touch friendly. The overall BB interface is rather lacking to be honest. My wife got a curve at the same time I got a G1 and she has nothing but complaints about the interface when compared to my G1. She'd question more experienced BB users about some of the shortcomings and it turns out that those things were just acceptable. I'm assuming thats because most really haven't tried any other smartphones.

          In a nutshell what the BB does well is get you your email and a decent job of managing info. But it could use a serious overhaul in usability and interfaces. I much prefer even the Palm to the BB and have often questioned why people rave about BB.

          BB gets the job done but having a BB and an Android device to look at side by side the BB shortcomings become apparent while the Android shortcomings are addressed by applications. I'm not knocking it...it just isn't worth all the hype and Android is seriously a better platform.
          • They don't need Google for all you mentioned

            Sorry, still no compelling reasons
  • RE: RIM and Google: The Perfect Storm?

    I definitely see your point.

    But, RIM is on top right now. They are selling BlackBerrys
    like crazy. I'm not sure they will see the value in this.

    I personally would like a device like this, especially if it has
    Nextel's direct connect like one of the Curves has.
  • RE: RIM and Google: The Perfect Storm?

    It would be just perfect! RIM would gain the Google scale
    while would have one less player to worry about.
    From a customer point of view, it is the dream of many of us,
    that can't go iPhone because our carrier providers.
    For the developers it would be a wonderful new field to be
  • RE: RIM and Google: The Perfect Storm?

    STUPID, RIM's 3rd layer of messaging is stupid. I will take a windows based smartphone and activesync it to exchange anyday without BES, without desktop manager. And have better attachment support too. I should know about this stuff. I am an mcse and I support over 20 BES servers for my customers that all SUCK when they have problems. RIM support is terrible too. Samsung's omnia and the iphone are all I am recommending at the moment. If you need something older I would get a TILT. Heck my old blackjack does messaging with exchange better than a blackberry.

    Not to mention the cost of BES client license cost. RIM is a waste of money but all the phone stores push them like cocaine.

    • BES issues

      While I agree that BES can sometimes be problematic, when implemented correctly and given substantial horsepower and back end infrastructure behind them, you'll get your email on your thru BES faster than your native inbox on your PC (Exchange/Notes/Whatever).

      Also, a parternship with Google would probably also entail additional engineering expertise and possible port of BES to a more scalable architecture.
      • It's e-mail

        The deciding factor on a mobile mail solution shouldn't be a 60 second difference in how fast e-mail comes in. It's e-mail. If you need something that allows immediate delivery and response you should use something else. Sometimes things get backed up, sometimes DNS is slow to resolve, etc etc. There are lots of reasons e-mail may take a few minutes as opposed to a few seconds, so relying on immediate responses from e-mail is a really stupid idea. BES is an okay product at best.

        ActiveSync gives you the same functionality at a fraction of the price.
        • And

          And you dont need access to the enterprise server, you can sync via outlook web access.
          On a blackberry with bis via owa you can only get email.
    • I think you missed out the word 'BUT'

      [i]I should know about this stuff... [b]BUT[/b] ...I am an mcse and I support over 20 BES servers for my customers that all SUCK when they have problems.[/i]

      Maybe you need to get some more training or hire someone who knows how to manage BES?

  • RE: RIM and Google: The Perfect Storm?

    Great idea. I doubt if RIM will move in this direction but it would definitely be their smartest move. Just as Apple eventually relented that they were not the end-all-be-all gods of OS development and rebuilt their own OS on top of Unix back when OSX first shipped, it's time for RIM to do the same and focus on what they do best - the Enterprise while leaving things like thread scheduling and memory management to others who can do a better job at it. It would also let them use a better class of web browser (the same one Android uses) which BlackBerry has a terrible problem with today - the experience of browsing the web is just awful.
  • There are more then one NOC

    The One NOC point of failure is wrong concept. RIM has 7 NOC`s and will double that by end of the year. They process more then 5 petabytes of Internet traffic a month (10^15) and never lost one e-mail in 10 years of history. Google on the other hand has availability problem in their services almost every month.