The BlackBerry maker seems to be trapped in a spiral of business troubles so deep that it can't escape from them. Martyn Warwick reports.
The night before last, a big BlackBerry bash was held in a flash London nightclub. The booze flowed freely as guests watched what were described as "top acts" (Wretch 32 anyone? No, me neither) strutted their stuff. Then, midnight-ish, when the tap was turned off and the music ended, there was a scuffle in the queue for the cloakroom where a man was stabbed in the neck with a broken bottle and left fighting for his life. A 25 year-old male has been arrested.
None of this had anything to do with RIM - other than the fact that the purpose of the party was to promote the BlackBerry Instant Messaging service so beloved of Britain's 'yoof', but it brought the Canadian company yet another slug of bad press at a time that it certainly doesn't need any more.
It's also ironic that the event, evidently arranged quite some time ago, actually took place shortly after RIM's CEO, Thorsten Hinds, said," We believe that BlackBerry cannot succeed if we try to be everybody's darling and all things to all people.”
This was immediately taken to mean that Research In Motion is, to all intents and purposes, to give up on the consumer market and focus instead on its first love - the enterprise, aka yuppies in the business sector. After all, that was where the BlackBerry made its name and where it held sway for so long. However, for the struggling manufacturer to believe it can go back to the future when things have changed so much seems to many analysts and industry observers to be little more than a dangerous mix of self-delusion and wishful thinking.
RIM seems to believe it is living in a world where the Apple's iPhone, Google's Android OS and Twitter are mere flashes in the pan; here today, gone tomorrow upstarts that will fade to black leaving RIM rightfully back in the pre-eminent position it used to occupy. Afraid its not like that, chaps.
Ever heard of the global trend amongst enterprises to adopt the "bring you own device" model for their staff?
That said, picking one's way through the thicket of business babble that is the continuation of the CEO's statement (and excising multiple gobbledy-gook references such as driving "excellence and operating metrics and efficiency"by "full credit professionals" who will be "leveraging partnerships" with a "unique value proposition") and reading the rest of the paragraph, Mr. Heins also said "We plan to build on our strengths to go after targeted consumer segments, and we will seek strong partnerships to deliver those consumer features and content that are not central to the BlackBerry valuable position, for example, media consumption applications.”
So, some consumer sectors will continue in one way or another and that includes the youth market whose members use BlackBerry Messaging as a secure, private, social network. Now that's a consumer sector that definitely can be 'leveraged', expanded and exploited, as can a variety of others. After all, despite its woes, RIM is sat on a cash pile of US$1.8 billion, and whilst this is dwindling, there is still plenty of money (but perhaps less time) left to do something innovative rather than dwelling on past glories and trying to recapture them.
That said, RIM is also a combatant in the patents wars that are distracting far too many ICT companies around the world and now faces a lawsuit from the Dutch company NXP, the third-largest semiconductor company in Europe, which is claiming that the Canadian company is in infringement of six of its patents in relation to both the development and manufacture both BlackBerry devices and the PlayBook tablet.
The patents were granted to the Dutch company between 1997 and 2008 and NXP wants an injunction on RIM products, and, under US law, is claiming, in an Orlando, Florida court, triple monetary damages for lost profits and royalties.
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