We all know Research in Motion (RIM), we all know BlackBerry, and we all know the perils that the Canadian based company has been running through over the last few years. It is hard to pinpoint exactly where RIM began its downward spiral into redundancy, was the initial decision to have two co-CEOs a recipe for disaster? Was it the lack luster launch of the playbook? Was it the October 2011 global outage for millions of BlackBerry customers? Or has it been a slow methodical disaster based on the stubborn denial of innovation since the original iPhone and Android devices launched? No matter what the cause RIM is on the eve of its final Hail Mary, the product launch of BlackBerry 10.
In early 2012 co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie stepped down after two decades of running the company. The former chief operating officer Thorsten Heins stepped up to fill the role as president and CEO. Over the last year, Heins has taken over the development of RIM’s newest mobile operating system, BlackBerry 10. Though, the OS has had several supposed launch dates within 2012, Heins opted to iron out all of the kinks before delivering the product to the public. Finally, on November 12th Heins announced BlackBerry 10’s launch date would be January 30th, 2013, along with the lunch of “several new products”. Since that announcement RIM’s stock has jumped over 32% over the course of less than two weeks.
There is little known about BlackBerry 10, save for the fact that all of your notifications, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, calendar, or email will all be accessible from The Hub. Many of skeptics are saying that BB10 is too little too late, Heins argues however that new mobile OS will be such a quality product it should not be underestimated. For a long time now, RIM has focused much of its strategy on enterprise and government adoption. Unfortunately for RIM, we have seen a consistent reduction of that user base as companies and government branches switch to the ever more secure iPhone.
RIM is certainly facing an uphill battle upon the launch of BB10. Their previous niche was within the business market, working rather seamlessly with the Microsoft ecosystem that most businesses run on, but now Windows Phone 8 is attempted to move in on that market. In the ever shifting landscape of smartphones, what is RIM’s strategy going to be? Will they focus again on enterprise? If this is the case they will be up against more competition than ever before. Will they focus on a combination of the enterprise market as well as the consumer market? If this is the case, can RIM create a product that appeals to a mass audience while at the same time maintaining the security and appeal businesses are used to? Another option that RIM has is licensing BB10 to other OEMs in the hopes of creating a larger and more adoptable ecosystem. It is likely that this possibility will only come to fruition if the initial launch of the coming BlackBerry 10 products fails.
In an interview with Engadget’s Tim Stevens, Thorsten Heins is quoted saying that “RIM is all in” on this BlackBerry 10 bet, and that “there is no plan B”. From where we are sitting, Heins and co. would need to come up with something incredible to bring the company back from the edge. They certainly will not become the dominant force they once were in the smart phone world, but they could slowly inch themselves back into relevancy a la Apple in the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s. Needless to say, January 30th cannot come fast enough for RIM, and we will be paying close attention to whatever they have in store.