Research In Motion (RIM) has built a reputation as a secure, reliable, business-oriented mobile platform. Back when RIM was the only game in town, this was good enough--but now snazzy smartphones have appeared on the consumer market, and RIM can't keep up.
Not only has RIM's hardware lagged in the past few years, but its corporate culture hasn't kept pace with the demands of a competitive market. A good example: last week's network meltdown, in which some customers lost email and messaging services for three days.
While such an outage is embarrassing to any company, RIM's PR just didn't know how to spin the situation. "They handled that all wrong," industry analyst Jeff Kagan tells PCWorld.
"They have the most secure, advanced email delivery system in the world," Kagan says. "But they're not taking advantage of that--they're not telling the world that." Kagan notes that in such situations a company needs a point man that can tout its system's benefits.
Network issues notwithstanding, RIM can't catch up to its competitors in hardware or "coolness." When it introduced its "cool" new BlackBerry PlayBook tablet in April, it forgot to include messaging and native email, which are, as we know, where RIM's strengths lie. Not surprisingly, the tablet's since had its prices slashed by up to $200.
Earlier this week RIM proudly announced a new mobile OS: BBX, which is supposed to combine the best elements of the current BlackBerry OS and QNX (an operating system RIM purchased from Harman International). The presentation was half-baked, as RIM didn't give much detail about the software, nor did it give a timetable for when devices running the OS will reach the market.
Plus, RIM says BBX will have increased support for Android applications. RIM says it will be very easy for developers to get their Android apps to run on BBX BlackBerrys. This may be a short-term way for RIM to play catch-up with other app stores, but it could be devastating in the long term. After all, why would developers want to become native BBX developers when they can just write Android apps that will run on the OS?
RIM also suggests that BBX will give BlackBerry a more "consumer-like" flavor--similar to what's in its competitor's platforms. Kagan says this is a big mistake.
"They shouldn't try to compete with Apple and Google," Kagan says. "They're going to lose. They've been losing over the last four years. They don't have the brand name in the consumer space, and they're going to knock their head against the wall until they die if they try to get a name there."