RIM announced on its earning call this week that their new BlackBerry 10 operating system, based on the QNX OS that powers the BlackBerry Playbook, will not be appearing on smartphones until the latter part of 2012.
This is very bad news for RIM.
Apple recently announced the iPhone 4S, which disappointed many consumers and observers for not being enough of an update, yet is still setting phenomenal sales records. Google has just released the Galaxy Nexus and the new Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) OS and will be updating some current phones and offering the software on future devices releases. Microsoft as well has updated their Windows Phone operating system and new devices are gaining acceptance and even excitement from reviewers. RIM released their flagship Bold 9900 back in August of this year, along with numerous other new BlackBerry smartphones, and aside from praise of the 9900 as the best BlackBerry ever, the rest of their new devices have not received as nice a welcome. Even the 9900 has received criticism for the many things it cannot do that people are starting to demand from their smartphones.
While the other major operating systems have been making huge advances, BlackBerry OS has changed little in comparison, getting flashier but not significantly more functional. Applications that are now generally offered for both iOS and Android often do not make it over to BlackBerry devices. Even Windows Phone, as new as it is, appears to get more attention than more widely adopted BlackBerry OS. Part of this is due to incompatibilities between different BlackBerry OS versions, with applications that work properly on one version unable to work on some or all of the others, but this is still a deficiency in the operating system. The simple truth is that BlackBerry is getting left behind.
RIM needs to give people a reason to buy their products. I challenge someone to give me a compelling reason to buy a BlackBerry today.
- No – GTalk, iMessage, Windows Live Messenger.
- No – Bold 9900 battery is terrible
- No – Exchange and GMail are just as fast
- Yes – Good point since on-screen typing just isn’t as fast or as accurate
- No – Still not as good as those on Android, iOS, or Windows Phone
- Yes – Device encryption and data encryption for corporate networks is better but not more secure for average consumers…and other device offer some similar features.
- No – BlackBerry smartphones have to be reset (requiring the well-known battery pull) as much or more than most competing devices and the famed BlackBerry network has experienced several very highly publicized outages, some of which were regional but at least one of which was worldwide.
That is where RIM is with their BlackBerry brand now. This is where they stand with the best that they have to offer. Not only that, but it will apparently be an entire year before something new, something that they have promised will be more compelling and better suited to compete, will be available to anyone.
Apple has been able to create a huge ecosystem surrounding iOS products. Google has managed to get Android onto a huge number of handsets and tablets with an ecosystem that nearly matches that of iOS. Microsoft is pushing Windows Phone quite hard, and it is picking up traction and is nearly certain to become the third major successful mobile OS. Is there really room for a fourth? RIM needs not only to sell their new BlackBerry devices, whenever they do become available, but they need to simultaneously sell the new OS that powers them. They need to concurrently convince people who think that the BlackBerry brand that is now sorely outdated, and the OS that runs only on a tablet that offers no email, calendar, contacts, tasks, and no access to mobile data, are both worth reconsidering because they are so drastically improved this time. They promise.
It is a hollow promise. RIM needs help. They need a better OS, with an already established application ecosystem, and consumer interest. Something that actually has potential. RIM needs Microsoft and Windows Phone. It already offers a fantastically smooth operating system that is stable and reliable. They have a quickly growing application market and integration with their gaming consoles. Windows Phone may be able to provide RIM the opportunity to adjust to the market they missed out on five years ago, prior to the original iPhone release, while not having to invest as heavily in developing their own operating system just for smartphones that only they will use. At this point, in their financial position, it is too late and too expensive a proposition with no guarantee of success.
Windows Phone with an exclusive BlackBerry Suite may be a shot to the pride of the company in Waterloo but so is a 77% drop in the value of your stock in just one year. More importantly, such an endeavor may be a shot of adrenaline into the arm of an otherwise dying company. Microsoft’s close relationship with Nokia would have the potential to lead to some of the best hardware in the industry running what may be the best mobile operating system with an exclusive suite of business applications and networking features that separate what RIM can offer on Windows Phone from what anyone else can. RIM needs to make a bold move if they ever intend to make another Bold.
This is the plan I can offer RIM. This is something that has potential. I am not reading or hearing anything from RIM that sounds like it even comes close to being worth their time and effort. I am sharing my own ideas and they are from one of the few to think there is still something, anything, that can save RIM as a company. Does anyone think they are paying attention?