Just a few years back, RIM’s BlackBerry was the reigning smartphone champion. Now the company’s earnings have fallen dramatically and it is facing a grim future. Can it continue to stay in business, or will it end up another casualty of progress? That’s the question many consumers are asking themselves as they watch a once beloved company gradually disintegrate, thanks to an inability to keep pace with its competitors.
With greater and greater numbers of customers leaving behind their BlackBerries in favor of iPhones and Android-supported devices, RIM has consistently failed to meet sales expectations, and there have been rumors floating about that the company might soon be up for sale.
This is stunning news coming from a company that was valued at $29.4 billion just one year ago, and is now said to be worth a mere $7.3 billion.
One of the kindest things that has been said about RIM recently is that the company is in “complete disarray” and facing a “bleak future.” What originally led the BlackBerry to fame was being the most practical portable email reader you could get, but when the iPhone came along in 2007, it erased the shine of uniqueness that hovered around the BlackBerry. Now email is just one of dozens of functions on your average smartphone, and RIM was unable to respond to the challenge.
One thing that can’t be denied, BlackBerry fans certainly are loyal. They love the design of their phones and appreciate the focus on “fast messaging features,” and most of all, the “pleasure of typing on a real keyboard.” Many of the staunchly faithful use BlackBerries for business, where a touchscreen is of less importance than speed, reliability, and familiarity. By the way, keep in mind, that in spite of the problems troubling RIM today, there are still 75 million people around the world who use the BlackBerry — and that includes our very own President Obama.
Road to Salvation
If RIM is to win back users, it needs to offer touch devices that are equal to Android and iOS, and that includes a healthy native app ecosystem.
Technology companies are increasingly moving toward ecosystems that include a variety of devices that sync to the Cloud and are tied to vast app store catalogs. To even stay in the game Rim absolutely must convoke more users to take up the PlayBook as well as BlackBerry smartphones.
RIM claims it is not abandoning the consumer market, simply refocusing on its core strengths, mainly its enterprise user base. That may seem like a great idea, but RIM shouldn’t forget that smartphones are not just for any longer. In fact, it may not be long before the smartphone completely replaces the feature phone, at least in the U.S.
A Shot in the Dark
It’s taken for granted that RIM has very little time left in which to turn things around. The largest asset it has left to offer is the BlackBerry 10, which combines the BlackBerry’s traditional software with a new operating system and interface. So far, no one has seen the new phone yet, so speculation is high as to what it will look like, but everyone is waiting to see if this new device will have what it takes to save RIM. In order to succeed, RIM has to stir up the fire for the BlackBerry 10 and get consumers feeling the way they did back when the very first BlackBerry came out. With this new device they might be able to do just that and recapture some of the old magic.