Featured: Is RIM Dead?

June 29, 2012 - Written By Lucian Armasu

RIM has been dismissive about tech reports that the company is in danger and will soon face decline, if it doesn’t start being competitive with the iPhone and Android smartphones. RIM kept dismissing this because their total revenues were doing well, thanks to inertia of the Blackberry brand in the international markets. But they missed the fact that their market share in US and Canada was quickly declining, and instead of trying to start getting very worried about that, they tried to pretend it’s not a problem for them.

They failed to realize that their future decline will be based on the fact that their products are not competitive enough with modern smartphones and that they need a strong ecosystem behind them, with cool apps like the ones on iOS and Android. You can’t compete with them just based on hardware and a keyboard alone, and having their own OS, even a new one, is not going to change that either.

The only way to compete with Apple these day, who changed the rules of the game in 2007, is to join a strong ecosystem like Android. If you as a company think you can just “be like Apple”, you’re in for a big surprise, because Apple a lot of advantages, some obvious, and some hidden, that I’m sure most companies trying to be like Apple don’t even realize what they are. Usually they think that all they have to do is make their own hardware and a nice looking OS, and that’s it. The customers will come in droves!

Then they launch the product to market, and it’s not happening. Palm tried that, HP tried that, Samsung tried that with Bada, and even Nokia wanted to try it with Meego since Symbian was too old news. They all failed to achieve even a tenth of Apple’s success. Why is that? Because they didn’t get that Apple success is a lot more than having your own OS and own hardware.

First off, Apple has huge momentum on its side because of its app ecosystem, which is obviously one of the biggest factors, that even Android with all the manufacturers behind its ecosystem had a hard time to catch up to, and RIM thinks they can just take on Apple themselves? That’s just wishful thinking. They might think that they still have the enterprise market, but that’s quickly dwindling for them because of the BYOD trend (bring your own device), which means you have to win the consumer market first, if you want to be relevant in the future, or you’ll be pushed aside by those who did win it.

Apple is helped by other factors such as the fact that it’s considered the best tech product maker right now, at least by people who don’t follow tech blogs every day. Is RIM anywhere close to being considered that? I don’t think so, and it would take years just to fix this single issue, which is not time they have on their hands. Another big one is that the majority of the tech press is on Apple’s side. They all have Apple products and love them.

This is a huge advantage that should not be treated lightly, because every single product review will be done with Apple’s products as the standard and the point of reference. This has hindered Android for a long time, because of the reviewer liked the way Apple did something more, they would’ve just quickly dismissed Android’s method, without considering its advantages too much. The situation has improved a lot since those days, though, and Android products seem to be getting a lot fairer reviews, even on general tech sites. So maybe RIM’s products will be able to take advantage of this change of mood, too, but it still doesn’t change the fact that the “Apple-media” will quickly report and promote anything Apple does, while RIM has no similar advantage.

With RIM saying BB10 is being pushed to 2013, and Google launching Android 5.0 this fall, Apple launching iOS 6.0 and the new iPhone, and even Microsoft launching Windows Phone 8, the press might not care about RIM anymore, unless they blow them out of the water with BB10 in 2013, which sounds like something very unlikely to happen.

If RIM fails to gain decent traction with BB10 in 2013, it’s all over for them. They have nowhere to turn to internally, and their only chance will be joining Android or the much less popular with almost nonexistent market share, Windows Phone. Joining Android means they have to get serious about competing on hardware, while joining WP means they might never have more than 1-2% market share in the phone business again. The easiest way for RIM out might be just getting acquired, and we all know things don’t look so rosy when you get acquired by another company because you’re on the brink of collapse. So all outcomes pretty much lead to the end of RIM.