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RIM Is The Rodney Dangerfield of Mobility

I’ve been on a bit of a health kick these days.  I am now up at the crack of dawn and going to the gym several times a week.  It feels great actually to get the blood and endorphins going at 6am.  It’s also a great way to get a preview of the financial markets for the day.  As I was watching CNBC this morning, the host interviewed a financial analyst from RBC to talk about RIM’s disappointing earnings and quarterly outlook.  You can see the interview here.

There are so many flaws in this analyst’s opinion in my mind.  He “thinks” there’s “kind of” room for a three horse race in the mobile space.  I guess he hasn’t done much primary market research recently that shows that (at least in the enterprise) it’s still very much a four horse race.  In his three horse race, he says that Windows MOBILE is still vying for that third spot.  Please…..shoot me. Now mind you, I certainly understand that someone who is not in the mobility space would call it Windows Mobile, but isn’t this guy supposed to be an expert?  He then says:

There’s kind of a jump ball for a third platform besides Android and Apple [....] But these results may make it less likely for RIMM to be the case…or it may not.

Well THAT was truly insightful!  Today ladies and gentlemen, it MAY rain….or it MAY not. All I can say is really??  Really???

So let’s be clear.  I’m NOT confused.  ALL the momentum is with Android and iOS.  The current BlackBerry platform is antiquated…just like Symbian.  There’s an important difference though between RIM and Nokia.  Nokia was convinced that it could continue with Symbian and Meego – that is until Stephen Elop came in and wrote his wonderful Burning Platform memo.  Compare that to the fact that the folks at RIM went out and bought a new operating system QNX (pronounced Cue-Nicks not Q-N-X like the analyst said) and then bought The Astonishing Tribe – a highly regarded mobile UI shop – to make the QNX UI modern and hip.  (Don’t forget they also bought Torch Mobile because they knew the native BB browser was horrible).  We can see some of the TAT efforts on the PlayBook (which by the way surprised most analysts by selling 500k units in 1st quarter).  Notice how I said some of TAT’s influence.  The TAT acquisition took place well into the development of the PlayBook UI (which even in its current form is way better IMO than what the BB OS looks like).  But TAT really only did the Calculator application and the Scrapbook.  I can’t tell you how many people have LOVED those two apps and have even said “Wait….THIS comes from RIM?  Really?”

RIM has its back against the wall.  Market share is going down.  The stock price is down over 50% in the last 12 months while Apple’s is up 20% (Nokia’s is down 33% in that same time).  And now, worst of all, there are going to be layoffs, and that is NEVER a good thing for anyone.  But is it dead?  Come on.  In my opinion, most financial analysts (and I stress most) can only see one, maybe two quarters out.  That’s why Microsoft and Nokia are dead too in mobile.

Unlike Marcus Antonius, I come here today neither to praise RIM nor to bury it.  Same goes for Windows Phone and Nokia.  The much praised comedian Rodney Dangerfield had one very famous line: “No Respect!  How come I get not respect around here?”  That’s how I feel about RIM these days.  This is a long term game and we should respect the major players and offer them the opportunity to show us what they’ve got.  Apple was once “dead” and what did they do?  They bought NeXT….OK, they bought Steve Jobs and HE revived the company, but how many Steve Jobs are there in this world?  My dear friend and highly esteemed colleague Maribel Lopez also agrees that it’s not lights out in Waterloo.  Nokia/Microsoft and RIM have very steep hills to climb and they need to move SIGNIFICANTLY faster than what they are doing today – there is no question of that – but the hyperbole and vitriol are way out of hand in my opinion.

7 Comments

  1. Posted June 17, 2011 at 12:20 | Permalink

    Unfortunately, RIM’s earnings (and the resulting opining from analysts) show a company in decline. As you put it, Philippe, “RIM has its back against the wall.” I don’t say that as some sadist, cheerleeding at an intersection for an accident to happen. RIM is a great company, but they have to adapt to new market dynamics to succeed – and do so quickly.

    But let’s acknowledge today as a milestone. It’s now conventional wisdom that RIM does NOT enjoy an UNASSAILABLE position in the enterprise. 6-12 months ago? I was reading well-written opinions explaining why RIM was the ONLY choice, citing feature superiority over anything non-Blackberry. The problem? While those features were important (and continue to be), there are other, arguably more profound capabilities that RIM wasn’t dealing with or effective acknowledging. The epitaph from yesterday’s earnings call? RIM, your position in the enterprise (and otherwise) is under broad assault, and you better get busy doing the right things.

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  2. J
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 20:52 | Permalink

    I think it’s going to take more than some slick UI to save these guys. Roughly 26K apps in their app store compared to roughly 350K and 500K for Android and iOS respectively? Their platform is terrible to develop on, ask any mobile developer. If they’re going to survive they need to inherit the Android or Windows Phone OS and dump their own. Nokia figured it out. RIM needs to do the same.

    Enterprise’s Bring Your Own Technology programs are spelling doom for Blackberry. No one is going to take their stipend to buy a RIM phone. That’s why their revenues are declining. And the Playbook, QNX or TAT are not going to save them. The only thing that will is for them to realize that they are a device manufacturer, not a software company.

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    • Posted June 21, 2011 at 09:47 | Permalink

      @jschwan – I’m not sure I fully agree with that. RIM has a LOT of software that they build. Now granted, most of their revenues come from device sales, but how could they possibly differentiate themselves via Android? Isn’t that why Elop ultimately chose WP7 instead of Android? Even if they were to do Android and make it robust for the enterprise, they would be competing against the likes of Samsung/Sybase and Moto/3LM that would have a huge lead. What makes you say QNX/TAT can’t save them?

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    • Posted June 23, 2011 at 15:58 | Permalink

      I think the issue is everyone wants RIM to be Apple. What’s wrong with RIM being RIM? Everyone assume corporate needs are the same as consumers. Yes BYOT programs are growing at some corporations but no one is going 100% BYOT only. A good mix will still be corporate liable and if your the extent of your companies mobile needs is email – RIM is still the hands down cheapest and secure solution out there. Am I the only one that seems the fragmentation on Android? The absolute failure at providing any application vetting in their App Market? Wasn’t there just a report of Apps stealing data from other Apps?

      RIM has a nice selection of enterprise Apps that leverage exsisting enterprise applications. Should a corporation care (and support) personal liable Apps? Sure you’ll have a handful that are helpful but who is going to vet these Apps, validate they conform to internal/external security and complaince requirements?

      RIM’s aquired solid assets to improve their solution. Everyone seems to think you can take X device and it will be good enough. Reality is only Apple is actively making API’s available for MDM’s to leverage for device management & security. Google, WebOS, Windows Phone 7 have very basic enterprise security support.

      Fully agree RIM needs to execute much faster, improve developer tools and assistance. The WebWorks SDK as well Adobe tools should help.

      It didn’t help RIM now having one device launch since the Torch. They need to release across all carriers. If by next summer they have not improved I suggest get just get out of the hardware race as they cannot compete with HTC, LG, Samsung, ZTE putting out Android devices every month. There is nothing wrong also being #3 or #4 and making a healthy profit in their niche.

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  3. Posted June 22, 2011 at 09:01 | Permalink

    I’m leaning towards @jschwan. RIM could easily write its own “burning platform” memo. Beyond lackluster App numbers, App developers have an atrocious view on developing on their OS’s (the fact that’s plural is further insult to injury).

    Jack Gold published a report last week that poses a POSSIBLE way for RIM to thread the needle. QNX kernel with an Android instance. Native BB for IT. Swipe to Android to keep the natives (IL) happy.

    Can RIM maintain its vertically-integrated model (device, OS, NOC, BES, etc)? Not likely. Should it take the Nokia path and somehow on board a non-burning-platform (Android or WP7)? Risky move, but what other options does it have?

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    • Posted June 23, 2011 at 04:08 | Permalink

      I haven’t read Jack’s report, but that sounds incredibly complicated and awkward to me…talk about split personality! In terms of developing for QNX, I was under the impression that it was much easier than developing for BB OS.

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