RIM's survival means all business for BlackBerry

RIM's survival means all business for BlackBerry

Summary: RIM needs to get back down to business in order to have a fighting chance for survival and continued relevance in the mobile industry.

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This morning, ZDNet's Editor in Chief, Larry Dignan, posted what I would describe as a group intervention for Research In Motion. The consensus from the ZDNet crew is that RIM needs to get back down to business in order to have a fighting chance for survival and continued relevance in the mobile industry.

Despite my reputation as being something of a RIM-basher, I want to just say this: when I was a BlackBerry user, I loved being a BlackBerry user.

In terms of how the device kept me in touch with my company and was able to keep all my appointments and contacts in check, there was -- and still is -- nothing better in terms of a replacement product that fills the function of what a BlackBerry does for an enterprise user.

So why did I leave the fold? Because I was instructed to terminate my service by my employer two years ago. BlackBerries were now reserved strictly for upper management.

The cost of maintaining so many of the devices in the field was just too high, and it became the target of an overall cost-cutting plan of less-than-critical expenses across the board.

Instead, I was issued a regular cell phone for making company calls and we entered a company-wide managed mobile plan.

Given that I was faced with having to purchase my own data communications device, I decided to go with a product that was more modern in terms of software and applications offered, an Android device. And I've been sticking with Android devices ever since.

My situation is not unique. Many companies are doing the same thing -- abandoning the BlackBerry phones in droves and looking at other solutions, such as iPhones and Androids to fulfill the same or similar role.

To be perfectly honest, I am not at all confident that Research in Motion can be fixed. I've already spelled out scenarios for which the company is likely to meet its end, why it has ended up in the place that it is now and what the significance of its demise actually means for the mobile industry.

But let's take a leap of faith here and say that RIM can be fixed. The question is how do you fix it.

Well first, you throw the two no confidence Co-CEO Bozos Lazaridis and Balsillie out the door and replace them with hungrier and more dynamic management that are willing to take greater risks.

But as Larry Dignan said, that will feel good for a whole ten minutes and then the real issue of what to do with the company is thrown front and center.

There are two primary areas of weakness where RIM has exposure now. In the consumer handset space, they are getting creamed by Apple and the Android hordes at a highly accelerated rate -- one which they have really no hope of regaining at all -- and are also losing a war of attrition to Apple and Android on the enterprise side at a much slower, but still damaging pace.

If I were the new management at RIM, I would immediately exit the consumer market in countries in which BlackBerry consumer handset product has been pushed into near irrelevance. This includes the United States.

I would halt production of consumer oriented handsets and only make enterprise-oriented ones, and I would also eliminate the BIS service as to take strain off the aging BES infrastructure which has shown severe issues with scalability and reliability in the last two years.

The PlayBook, which has become a total consumer flop, should also be pulled from the consumer market and actions should be taken to secure enterprise partners that can develop real business applications for it and the forthcoming BlackBerry 10 QNX-based handset OS.

This may include courting the SAPs and the Oracle's of the world, as well as specialized vertical integrators for key markets (Financial, Industrial, Communications, Transportation, Telecommunications, Government) that can go to town with the native C++ and the Webworks SDKs.

The BlackBerry network operations centers and the core infrastructure and software which runs the secure push messaging needs to be overhauled and optimized for the new QNX OS.

Additionally, this infrastructure needs to be made accessible to other mobile operating systems, such as Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7, in order to diversify RIM's income stream while QNX attempts to gain traction in the marketplace.

And I'll throw another thing out there -- the company may actually want to consider strategically outsourcing all of this NOC and datacenter infrastructure to an IT company that specializes in this sort of thing rather than trying to keep it alive just by itself in an effort to cut costs and focus on what they actually do well.

Finally, I'll add the painfully obvious to the list, which is preparing the company for asset divestiture. This may mean selling off the company in piecemeal fashion to firms like Google, Samsung and HTC, who will need RIM's mobile patents and other ICAP to defend themselves against further patent warfare from Apple and Microsoft.

I can potentially see Google wanting to buy the patents and perhaps the secure messaging infrastructure, whereas a company like Samsung or an HTC may only want the patents and the hardware. QNX would likely have to be divested to a separate concern, such as an automotive industry player that needed a real-time OS.

Certainly licensing of the OS to third parties is also an option, but I don't think that it would be particularly successful in bearing fruit.

A wholesale sell-off of the entire company to a single entity is not unfeasible, but as I have said in earlier articles, the company is probably worth more in pieces.

These are all difficult choices and would be radical changes from what the company is doing today. But if it wants to stay alive, it may very well need to consider one if not all of these things in the immediate months to follow.

Should RIM Get Back to Business in order to stay alive? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Smartphones, Mobility, Networking, Tablets, Wi-Fi

About

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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24 comments
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  • RIM OS AS A RELIGION

    I've noticed a fatal aspect to the RIM culture during the declining years of the company: A blind dedication to the RIM operating system. This sort of technical blindness to a certain technology platform over the practical demands of the market has cost them dearly. RIM developers seem to live in a defensive bubble, desperately clinging to their insular engineering culture, broadcasting contempt toward anything Android. If RIM would let go of this and create a credible Android version of a RIM product (more secure and business oriented), it would have a good chance.
    begelston@...
    • Why do they have to go to Android again?

      What exactly was wrong with Blackberry OS, Windows Mobile, Symbian, MeeGo and others? Nothing - in fact they were/are by and large more powerful as OSes.

      There are no new features in Android or iOS to justify all the hubbub and certainly proclaiming that a company should adopt another companies OS just because it is somewhat trendy sounds a bit shallow to me.
      12312332123
  • Reprieve just came, Angry Birds just released for Playbook :-)

    http://m.crackberry.com/angry-birds-blackberry-playbook-now-available

    Also, 32GB Playbook is now on sale for $249! What are you waiting for? ;-)

    http://www.bestbuy.com/site/BlackBerry+-+PlayBook+Tablet+with+32GB+Memory/2387032.p?id=1218327397902&skuId=2387032&st=playbook&cp=1&lp=2
    sagec
    • RE: RIM's survival means all business for BlackBerry

      @sagec
      "What are you waiting for"...

      Well, RIM not to junk the line into unsupported obscurity like HP did with theirs, and Dell have done recently with the Streak......
      neil.postlethwaite
    • RE: RIM's survival means all business for BlackBerry

      @sagec But they are $5 each. On the iPad and on Android, they have free ad-supported versions as well.
      jperlow
  • Stick a fork in them ... they're done

    Really. There is no saving RIM at this point. If they focus on the corporate landscape which is moving away from them, they're wasting time and money. If they focus on the consumer space, they're doomed. Also, if it's true that MS, Nokia and Amazon took a look and walked away then they should call HP and see if they can get them to buy RIM so that HP can kill them just like they did with Palm. It wouldn't lead anywhere but at least HP would have a ton of IP in their back pocket to do nothing with.
    Oknarf
  • RE: RIM's survival means all business for BlackBerry

    Quite"To be perfectly honest" - that statement could imply that up to this point you haven't (been perfectly honest) So why feel a need for honesty now? Honesty is honesty, it is or it isnt, there are no degrees like perfectly.

    When a salesman makes a statement like that to me, I find it's time to leave.

    Bye!
    inkwell
    • RE: RIM's survival means all business for BlackBerry

      @inkwell So what about that did you not understand? I said upfront that I felt that it was most likely RIM was going to fail -- but if it had any chance of not failing, it had to try to do several things.
      jperlow
      • RE: RIM's survival means all business for BlackBerry

        @jperlow

        So what now, we are not allowed to reply to your comments. Your system just utterly deleted my comment about if you went into a store and heard the sales guy say "the be honest" you would buy from them.

        Or perhaps it was the statement where I said if you defended that position I think even less of you as I do already.

        If you delete this again, seriously, welcome to obscurity, because it won't be me just thinking it. As most people don't actually comment. Only what, 1 in 15, 1 in 20.

        Carry on guys, I just hope you have early retirement plans.
        Bozzer
      • RE: RIM's survival means all business for BlackBerry

        @bozzer I don't have the access nor the rights to delete your comments. Somone else on staff does.
        jperlow
    • RE: RIM's survival means all business for BlackBerry

      @inkwell
      Kind of a cheap shot...
      smather
  • RE: RIM's survival means all business for BlackBerry

    When RIM introduced the Torch a year ago, I thought they were starting on a strategy similar to what the article outlined. I figured they would ditch the consumer space and look for survival in the enterprise space. The trick was to find a piece of ground soft enough to survive the landing, large enough to live off of, and small enough to defend. The Torch (lacking feature parity with other brands) made sense if you viewed it as a device intended to give the faithful a reason not to jump ship and preserve margins in the meantime while the rest of the strategy took place. I was almost thinking RIM had it figured out.

    Then they Osborned themselves with Blackberry OS7, introduced a crippled tablet (no e-mail?), have utterly failed to execute on QNX, and in their public statements appear to be less than clueless.

    Sad though it is, RIM is toast, a Palm with more money to waste. I feel for the employees and shareholders who are the innocent victims of this mismanagement.
    printing724
    • RE: RIM's survival means all business for BlackBerry

      @printing724

      Who is paying you to write that drivel. seriously. who.
      Bozzer
      • RE: RIM's survival means all business for BlackBerry

        @Bozzer RIM is dead, they just don't know it. I have used BlackBerries for a few years and I have defended that choice countless times. I currently use a BlackBerry, but I am dumping it when my contract expires in a couple of months. I have a PlayBook as well that I plan on trading in at Best Buy.<br><br>RIM is a sinking ship thanks in large part to the co-CEO's. RIM is losing on all fronts.<br><br>I'm just a consumer and I have no axe to grind with RIM. I am just not satisfied with the constant delays and under delivery of products and updates. The delay of the PlayBook's OS2 update was the last straw for me. If I were not tied into a contract for another two months, I would go ahead and upgrade to an Android phone right now. Replacing the tablet won't take as long and will be simpler.
        fhinton
  • RE: RIM's survival means all business for BlackBerry

    Another RIM bashing article. Typical. Have you ever run a business? Didn't think so. I do and when it comes to what RIM is going through (i.e. competition), it's perfectly normal for industry leaders to stumble. The only difference here is that they're investing huge money and are actually taking drastic action (which you seem to think is your ideas as to what they should do) in terms of developing a robust operating system. Not initially set-up for mobile, they are taking a huge risk and as far as I'm concerned, will succeed in implementing one of the best operating systems on this planet. And yes, I have iMacs and Macbooks at my office. I also am on my 3rd Blackberry Torch (i.e. Curve, Bold 9000, Torch 9800) and bought the Playbook on the first day. Absolutely the cats meow to my everyday business needs.
    Clawdawg
  • RE: RIM's survival means all business for BlackBerry

    I think the reason why the iPhone and Android smart phones are so popular is for SME's - iPhone and android have native ability to hook up with ms exchange without the requirement of adding complicated BES setups for exchange integration (more cost overheads for business). RIM should develop native exchange server support, that would help boost its sales. I'm suprised this was not even mentioned in the article. Forget about large corporates, they can already afford to setup BES and have dedicated staff to look after it, SME's dont therefore their options are limited.
    airbiscuity
    • RE: RIM's survival means all business for BlackBerry

      @airbiscuity
      Good suggestion.
      smather
    • RE: RIM's survival means all business for BlackBerry

      @airbiscuity

      Huh? iPhones are notorious for having issues with MS Exchange. Want to muck up your Exchange servers - add a bunch of iPhone users.

      Activating a Blackberry for MS Exchange is pretty much one click with BES.

      Also, I think you mean SMB.
      bb_apptix
  • Help Turnaround RIM

    Help Balsillie and Lazaridis turnaround RIM. Join the experiment at www.helpturnaround.com

    "How about offering Android OS, Windows OS, and QNX on BlackBerry devices. Sounds drastic, but it may just help RIM regain their market share. BlackBerry???s OS is primitive by current standards, think Palm OS. However, the brand name and hardware still resonates with consumers (typing without keys, hell no!). Given the option to buy an Android HTC, Samsung, or BlackBerry, I would buy an Android BlackBerry. There is strong brand affinity with BlackBerry, and Berrys are perceived as quality devices. I think most folks would buy an Android BlackBerry. This would be similar to how consumers were receptive to Kindle Fire vs. (insert manufacturer) tablets. Hello, market share.

    Let???s dig into Kindle Fire and Multi-OS BlackBerry analogy deeper. Quite understandably, the phone market is very different from the tablet market. But Amazon???s Fire was a success given the brand affinity (Amazon/ Kindle), perceived quality, and PRICE. Amazon can sell the Fire at a loss, and make up for it with content revenue. RIM can probably steal a page from Amazon???s playbook, but herein lies the problem ??? there is not enough compelling content for BlackBerry devices. However, by offering Windows OS, Android OS, and QNX on BlackBerry devices RIM can potentially make significant headway in the content space as well. Imagine a curated Android, Windows, and QNX app store with excellent search and discovery features. Hello, Mr. Bezos.

    Would this alienate RIM???s corporate clientele? Probably not, given RIM???s recent announcement of multi-platform BlackBerry Enterprise solution.

    Is this a huge undertaking? Sure. Will it be easy? No, but nothing is. The folks in Waterloo are uber smart, so let???s see some results in 2012."

    Above recommendation from www.HelpTurnaround.com - an experiment to curate best strategic recommendations to help turnaround a company.
    Brian Thompson
    • RE: RIM's survival means all business for BlackBerry

      @Brian Thompson
      The Android OS incorporated into the Playbook should be a reality this February.
      smather