"Slow-motion road-kill" is one way to describe the debacle that is Research In Motion. Quite why the company was unable to grasp the nature of the oncoming Apple/Google juggernaut is hard to fathom, but now it has and appears to be taking the only sensible option. Ian Scales reports.
RIM appears to be saying it may edge away from the mobile consumer to concentrate on its core enterprise market where it already has traction. The fact is that the consumer smartphone market has proved a disaster, apart from a few territories where the youth have become Blackberry converts due mostly to Blackberry Messenger.
Yesterday's appalling financial results - in a global smartphone market still booming for most of the companies in it - were expected (see - Bye, Bye, BlackBerry). The question is: where does RIM go from here?
With Apple still riding high with the iPhone and Google's Android filling in the gaps - strange sizes, form factors and lower price-points - the consumer market looks relatively settled from an operating system standpoint. The obvious third force is Microsoft/Nokia who together can be expected to hammer away with Windows Phone until some sort of reasonable market share is forthcoming.
So no more smartphone OS competition is required and, even if it was, it seems unlikely that RIM (rather than, say, Samsung or HP) would be the company with the resources and staying power to provide it.
So now the question is whether RIM can find a new viable space into which to wriggle, or whether it has now left it too late to anything sensible on its own and is doomed to be bought up by someone with a plan.
For even its 'core' business market is looking less attractive than it did just a year ago. RIM's reputation for bullet-proof security for its services, such as Messenger, is in tatters following extensive outages last year. In addition the past year or two has seen the much publicised - and controversial - rise of BYOD (bring your own device) under which employees bring (and even buy) their own smartphones and have IT give them access to corporate facilities. Smartphones, it seems, have become far too 'personal' to have their selection dictated by corporate policy. Security and support is just something IT has to provide after the fact and this change has been bad news for RIM which has based its strategy on there being a distinctly corporate-oriented personal gadget requirement.
And it's not as if it's been able to make headway in tablets either, although it's not unique in that. It managed to sell just 1.3 million of its own PlayBooks over the past year while Apple has shifted 40.5 million iPads.
BlackBerry 10 (BB10) devices are expected later this year and some observers think much will hinge on their success, sporting as they will the QNX operating system. But by then Apple will be rolling out yet another iPhone (the 5?), Google will have added more shine to Android and, of course, Microsoft will be showing off Windows Phone 8. Going on past performance RIM is unlikely to shine with a world-beating OS.
The only sensible option is, in fact, the only option. To continue the process of enthusiastically opening up its Enterprise Server (Mobile Fusion was launched a few months ago, enabling non-Blackberry devices to work across it) so that it can keep its market position in the Enterprise by accommodating all those BYOD devices that CEOs want to attach. Going forward, RIM needs to concentrate on the enterprise and software.
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