Feature Article

January 29, 2013

Ahead of the Big Launch: Will RIM ... Can RIM Succeed?

Over the last 12 months or so, we’ve covered this question for Research in Motion (RIM) a number of different ways that include looking at the new BlackBerry 10 operating system itself, CEO Thorsten Heins’ effort to rebuild RIM’s senior management team and creating a new spirit of cooperation amongst had become a number of fiefdoms within the company (these had emerged at RIM pre-Heins, and the old regime was directly responsible for them), brief examinations of the likely products RIM will show (we hold out a hope that some of what we know was misdirection by RIM), and various studies of what will become of RIM’s future – for example, will it become a footnote in M&A?

The bottom line for some time has been that RIM’s crown jewels today are to be found in the new operating system. They are software jewels, not hardware jewels. In the old days, RIM had push e-mail and essential hardware to make it all work. Then the BlackBerry Pearl, a consumer device that sold the push e-mail concept outside the enterprise, emerged. The Pearl was followed by the Curve and Bold, which may have kept RIM going in positive directions if it wasn’t for one thing – the iPhone.

It was in late 2007 and early 2008 that RIM chose to look down on the iPhone with a hubris that was rather astounding – and the rest of course is now history. It was right around this point in time that RIM began to lose its way, in the process building a dichotomy within the company as to whether or not RIM would feed the enterprise business or the consumer business. The end result that brings us to the upcoming launch is that RIM ultimately screwed up both markets and delivered touch devices and software that evolved into third rate platforms.

Can RIM regain its footing? Delivering on either exciting new hardware or exciting new software is a daunting challenge – delivering both is an extraordinary challenge. Based on the information we have available to us, we believe that RIM will hit a homerun on the new BlackBerry 10 OS, and maybe a double on the new hardware. RIM will be in attendance at TMC’s ITEXPO Miami 2013 in Miami this week – where we are moderating a number of mobility sessions - and will be showing off the hardware and software as soon as it officially launches. We look forward to getting the hands-on experience.

Emphasis on Software

RIM had hoped that it would have over 100,000 BlackBerry 10 apps ready to roll on launch day, though that number is likely to be closer to 70,000.RIM’s guru of developer relations, Alec Saunders has done an amazing job of revitalizing the RIM developer community and has managed to drive enough enthusiasm to ensure that RIM will be able to stand proud on the app front. The total number that will be available on launch day doesn’t matter as much as the quality of the apps overall – and whether or not they are able to show off BlackBerry 10 as something new and exciting.

The company has also smartly focused on re-energizing its enterprise application base. It isn’t enough to have all the apps consumers are likely to want – it is critical that RIM can also deliver – with its enterprise partners – on the apps that the workforce will want to use. We believe they’ve done a good job here as well. Yesterday, for example, RIM announced that a significant number of applications for the workplace developed by enterprises and enterprise developers will be available when BlackBerry 10 launches tomorrow.

RIM notes that Cisco, SAP, Box, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, Truphone, and BigHand are just some of the companies whose applications, collectively used daily by millions of customers worldwide, will be available for BlackBerry 10 at launch.

“The developer community for enterprise and government has been incredible in the support of BlackBerry 10,” says Derek Peper, VP, Enterprise Partnerships, Research In Motion. “The community sees the potential of the BlackBerry 10 platform to help individuals and organizations make the shift from mobile communications to mobile computing, and have stepped forward with powerful, dynamic and user-friendly applications that can empower employees around the globe.”

As we’ve highlighted since September of 2012, RIM has managed to make – and keep – a number of commitment to developers for BlackBerry 10, making it fast and efficient for organizations to develop and manage applications. Developers were provided with toolkits that included the BlackBerry 10 Native SDK with Cascades, to create graphically rich, high performance native apps in C/C++ or the Qt Modeling Language (QML), and the BlackBerry 10 WebWorks SDK for HTML5 developers, allowing them to create native-like apps using common web programming technologies (HTML5, CSS and JavaScript).

RIM launched BlackBerry Partners for Enterprise in 2012 to succeed the BlackBerry Alliance program and increase support to the enterprise software and services community. RIM also rolled out the BlackBerry 10 Jam World Tour – Enterprise Edition to 11 cities to help enterprise application developers and partners develop for or port existing applications to BlackBerry 10. This proved to be a successful set of events – we provided details from the one RIM held in San Diego last year.

The Problem for RIM…

We often note that hardware catches the user’s eye but it’s the software that keeps them coming back. This is the ultimate truth of the mobile device market, and it underscores Apple’s dominance, it underscores Samsung’s surging success, and it also underscores why Windows Phone 8 is now beginning to build market share. The hardware – any iPhone version, the Galaxy S III and larger Note 2, Nokia’s Lumia 920 (which is flawed but good enough) – grabs the user, then the software takes over – iOS (which is now in need of innovation), Android (which has the buzz, but which we predict won’t hold that buzz), and Windows Phone 8 with live tiles and other innovations) only take over after the hardware has won the attention.

Given the above, can RIM truly deliver on the hardware? This is what it all comes down to. From what we’ve seen, the answer is going to be no – at least once RIM gets beyond its core users. Granted, this core user base is huge – 80 million and counting, but they are all waiting for a true revelation in hardware design and we don’t believe RIM will pull it off.

We will say that they may prove good enough to give RIM a chance to follow up in short order with an ongoing assault on the hardware market – but if it evolves that the devices that will hit the market tomorrow represent a next wave that will not be filled in with additional truly advanced devices the odds will be against RIM.

There is no other point to speculation here – the next step is to see how the new hardware does in the marketplace. RIM’s future hinges on it hitting a hardware homerun. A double or triple won’t cut it.

Good luck RIM! We’re rooting or you to succeed.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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