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November 12, 2012

RIM Makes the New Toys and BlackBerry 10 Launch Official

Following on the heels of its 50+ wireless carrier pre-launch hardware trials and its recent note on achieving FIPS-2 security certification, we can add the real word on an actual launch day for Research in Motion’s (RIM) new hardware toys and its new operating system. That day is now slated for a global set of launches on January 30, 2013. We now have just about all of the mystery out of RIM with one minor exception – we still have no real or reliable sense of what exactly RIM is going to put out there on the actual toy front.

RIM has done an excellent job of communicating what we can expect to see from the software – and what BlackBerry 10 (BB 10) has to offer is impressive from a user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) perspective. We noted these capabilities at length, and RIM is set up to deliver something new and potentially exciting here.

Still, we can only guess at what the ultimate hardware is going to be and we can hope for the best – that RIM has achieved something truly awe-inspiring on the gadget front to capture the consumer’s eye, we do have a very strong sense of what the UI is going to look like and what the UX is going to feel like. As we’ve noted, there are indeed a number of new things that may very well get a consumer (or enterprise employee) interested enough to make a switch. But we also know that the operating system capabilities follow the hardware – it is never the other way around. Hardware never follows the OS.

Mobile users are not going to flock to a smartphone because the operating system and software is cool. But we don’t yet know if there is going to be enough excitement generated by the new hardware to give RIM the massive boost it needs to get itself back into play as a smartphone vendor – and we should note as well, to get itself back into play as an enterprise mobile vendor. The latter is key for RIM, but it cannot ever hope to re-establish itself on the enterprise front without first completely grabbing the enterprise user’s attention from a consumer hardware perspective.

This is the major fly in RIM’s ointment that refuses to go away. Our own bet is that RIM is not going to be able to deliver the killer hardware it will need to match the software. The software itself lacks the sort of “newness” that Microsoft has introduced with the likes of its new Windows Phone 8 (WP8) Live Apps and Live Tiles. The combination of excellent smartphones that are launching with WP8 will be a tough act to follow if that was all there was to it.

The Island of Misfit Toys

Along with Microsoft’s team of vendors, RIM also has to contend with Samsung. Unless we hear otherwise anytime soon, we can expect to see Samsung’s own next generation smartphone introduced at Mobile World Congress 2013 (which will take place in Barcelona February 25 – 28, 2013) less than 30 days following the RIM launch. This is the venue that Samsung has traditionally used to introduce its next generation technologies (with the exception of 2012, when the Galaxy S III was not ready to show – not that this has hurt Samsung sales). We can expect to see very cool toys from Samsung – for both Android and WP8 then.

Finally – and always – there is Apple. Though there is much being said amongst the pundits on Apple going stale and needing to come up with a new iOS look, feel and set of behaviors, Apple will still prove to be the biggest thorn for RIM and everyone else. Sometime in the first half of the year we are going to see a retina display iPad mini, we may very well see an iPhone 5S - if those never ending Chinese-based rumors, which have now added the iPhone 5S to the chatter are to be believed, and we are likely to see some sort of new UI/UX effort with iOS 6.next.

Apple is actually now in a position to have to work to one-up Microsoft and perhaps even Samsung. Ordinarily that would be a good sign for RIM, but given all of the movement – and noise – that will be the smartphone (and tablet) market in Q1 2013, RIM truly will have a struggle on its hands.

We cannot escape the feeling that its new hardware will become part of the landscape of the Island of Misfit Toys. Come on now, even young folks must surely be up on the famous Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer animated TV movie, which featured a very nose-conscious Rudolph, an elf that wanted to be a dentist, a ticklish snow monster and the Island – where misfit toys such as Charlie-in-the-Box went to live because no one wanted them (“My name is all wrong. No kid wants to play with a Charlie-in-the-Box.”).

There is more to our Charlie reference though – in the end Santa Claus found all of the misfit toys happy new homes. We continue to hope that RIM pulls it off at the end of January. We want RIM to succeed. But it will be all about the new toys. We hope they don’t prove to be misfits – even Santa Claus wouldn’t be able to help as Christmas will be long over by then.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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