Best Argument: No
What success requires
We began our debate by defining success; and if we require that both companies remain independent entities, then I have to argue that they both will be around for at least the next couple of years.
If they cannot get to 10% or more of the smartphone market in that time period, then I have my doubts for long term success.
Regarding Nokia, they continue to push Windows Phone with solid hardware and fantastic applications and services, yet Windows Phone just cannot seem to gain much traction in the smartphone market. With their Symbian PureView device now available and a Windows Phone version coming in the future -- along with the promise of Windows Phone 8 -- I have to believe there is real potential here for Nokia to turn the tide and show success with Windows Phone. It won't be easy and Microsoft and Verizon have to get on board and show their support too.
In regards to RIM, the enterprise market that still uses BlackBerry devices is slow to change and this works to their advantage as they work out details of BB OS 10. If RIM can get BB OS 10 devices running a slick and functional operating system based on QNX out before the end of the year, I think they too will be able to maintain their market share and grow it in 2013.
The stated objective for RIM and Nokia is surviving intact, as independent companies.
While there is no question that both of these former mobile industry giants have technology and intellectual property of value, the difficult truth is that in order to survive intact for the next several years, both need to stage tremendous comebacks.
Over the next year, this is going to involve severe austerity measures (a massive headcount scale-down at both companies as well as asset divestiture) in order to reduce the run rate on cash reserves, as well as a perfect execution of yet-to-be-released products (BlackBerry 10 for RIM and Windows Phone Apollo handsets for Nokia).
Assuming the execution is perfect, we are also making a big assumption that the new products will allow them to distinguish themselves and draw attention to consumers that would otherwise be looking at the products from their competitors, such as Apple and Samsung, who are also continuing to innovate and command a very strong lead in the smartphone and tablet market.
In the case of Nokia, we cannot even be assured that their patron, Microsoft, is fully committed to keeping them afloat, given the company's recent move toward branding their own devices with Surface.
And if RIM's previous performance with attracting developers to their QNX-based PlayBook is any indication of future success with BlackBerry 10 handsets, we could very well be looking at the company's last stand come this fall.
Any way you look at this, the challenges seem nearly insurmountable.
Can't imagine survival
Of all the Great Debates that I've moderated so far, I've never had a harder time picking a winner than I have with this one. As Matt Miller clearly explained, while both Nokia and RIM are facing severe headwinds, the two companies still have assets, cash, and some opportunities they can exploit. Nokia still has Microsoft behind it and RIM is a smaller company with more flexibility and a high-margin software and services business that could eventually carry the company.
On the other hand, Jason Perlow effectively illustrated the fact that both of these companies waited way too long before being honest with themselves about their challenges and taking action. That has left both of them in a precarious position financially where they have to cut costs while simultaneously investing in new innovations that can help dig them out. Unfortunately, neither company has shown signs that they are prepared to become leaders in smartphone devices again.
Ultimately, unless something changes, it's difficult to imagine either of these companies surviving as independent players in the smartphone market 24 months from now. For that reason, I have to side with Perlow.