Lispian Random meanderings on whatever catches my fancy

RIM No More?

Although I’ve never wanted a RIM device I’ve appreciated what they offered way back when, mainly the 90s when it was a very handy device for sales people or those on the road. An easy way to stay connected. But I could never own one because the device made little sense to me as a techie. It always seemed to be nothing but a bunch of compromises structured around upselling various other services. The constant and only focus on the business user may well have been warranted early on, but as consumer sales of handheld devices eclipsed business sales RIM stood around, hands in pockets, hoping that it didn’t matter. And when they tried to do a consumer product it always seemed halfhearted. Like the Playbook. I was looking forward to that, but when it came out it seemed some “genius” at RIM figured it had to be tethered to a Blackberry to operate fully. Why? Who the hell knows. All I know is that it pushed many people I knew to an iPad. I doubt that was RIM’s intent, but that’s what they accomplished.

I also never fully understood their idiotic notion of having so many devices. I even mentioned this to folks I knew when I worked at Bell. Why so many variants? And they weren’t alone in this lunacy. Same held for Motorola. Or Bell, for that matter, with their infinite number of combinations to create a cellular plan. I railed about that but the “adults” as we jokingly called them claimed going to a simple set of plans (casual, student, power) would not be profitable. Instead they spent inordinate amounts of money attempting to lure customers from competitors. It was madness. Even crazier was that each of their surveys showed the product lines were too confusing. Solution? More product lines.

And thus in my peripheral dealings with RIM I saw the same lunacy. Instead of taking a deep breath when the iPhone came out and saying: “We’ll make two devices: one with a keypad and one without.” They instead started making more and more with keypads and a couple of horrid devices without. It appeared to be an attempt to be “different” but instead just confused issues more.

And then there was the stupidity of not properly supporting the Mac. A lot of Mac owners wanted Blackberrys before the iPhone came out and those that had one couldn’t properly sync and otherwise link up to their favoured desktop. It took until 2010, I believe, before an adequate solution from RIM appeared for the Mac. That was sadly way too late.

I now watch the circus that is happening at RIM and read various articles on what’s going on and fear that RIM isn’t long for this world. In my opinion they need someone who isn’t tethered to the old world thinking of telephony and handhelds. They need someone who can look at where the market will go, not where it is or has been. Mimicking the iPhone is a losing business strategy. That market is sewn up near term. They need instead to find out what the iPhone is NOT good at and focus on those aspects. What is it that the iPhone users wish they could do and ensure the next RIM phones do that. And, no, it’s not Flash. What they need to find is the 3 or 4 main features that a majority of their users wish and then focus madly on those 3 or 4. They need to eliminate the vast majority of their handhelds, reducing it to 2 at most. Each should be fully featured, no crippling. And they need to be an utter joy to use.

Finally, they have to make a decision of whether they stick with QNX or opt for something else. Personally I think opting for QNX with a 100% compatible Android layer is the way to go. That way they can focus on a very robust and secure operating system which will appeal to businesses while offering Android compatibility. And I’m not talking partial compatibility but full compatibility. Effectively a Posix-like layer atop QNX but for Android. And why not switch to Android? Security. QNX offers massive advantages in security that Android, which is built atop Linux and is a huge OS, cannot. A focus on security, especially messaging security, would be huge as more and more people worry about their privacy. Allow for P2P-based “cliques” to be formed for messaging and provide that P2P software for Android and iPhone so that users on those devices can interact in those environments. People love being part of a group so RIM should provide a way of creating those for people.

Sadly I feel that what RIM will do is more of the same. I further fear they will end up like Nortel with other firms who were their lesser just a few years ago picking at their bones.

I’m sure when all the dust settles RIM will either be another sad tale in a future edition of The Innovator’s Dilemma or will have found their way to defeat the dilemma. The way their going right now they’ll be a future sad chapter.

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March 2012
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