Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian company best known for creating the BlackBerry smartphone, was recently placed on the endangered companies list by influential business writer Henry Blodget of Business Insider. Blodget’s controversial May 19 web headline pronounced that “RIM’s toast,” while his article’s otherwise identical print version at Canadian Business stated that “RIM is dead.”
Has anyone informed the more than 40 million worldwide users of the device that has been called the CrackBerry, the crack cocaine of smartphones? Oh, make that, more than 40 million but minus one, because Blodget himself has switched, albeit after great personal debate, to Apple-based methamphetamine.
Without doubt the über-popular BlackBerry enjoyed more than a decade of solid market domination since its introduction in 1999; however, consider for just one example the transition from phonograph to mp3 player, and look no further for proof that the slow, sick or weak gazelles in business are inevitably going to fall prey to changing times. For every Nintendo on the cutting edge of development, there’s an Atari waiting to shake hands with Michael Jackson’s other four brothers in long-term obscurity.
Blodget maintains that the BlackBerry simply cannot compete with the iPhone or Android, which will spell the end for the Waterloo-based manufacturer. As for RIM itself, he cites additional reasons for the company’s time as having passed, including RIM’s products no longer being indisputably best in class and the smartphone arena now being driven by apps, a category in which RIM has fewer developers.
Last August, the semi-anticipated BlackBerry Torch slider phone sold 150,000 units in its first three days. A respectable number, until ranked against Apple’s three-day sales of 1.7 million units for iPhone 4. “You’ll just be amazed by how it’s a quantum leap over anything that’s out there,” said RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie, in the leadup to the Torch’s release. Alas, a ‘leap year’ was not registered.
Surely, Balsillie wasn’t referring to the 1989-1993 TV series Quantum Leap starring Scott Bakula, wherein Bakula’s character ‘leaped’ into people in the past in order to change history for the better. Then again, as Blodget describes the current situation, the management at RIM is so behind the times, only a product ahead of the curve (like the “transparent aluminum” from Star Trek IV) can reverse the telecom/wireless company’s declining fortunes.
It’s possible that the BlackBerry will have more traction than forecast. Stock marketers and general big business types do not embrace change quickly, and they are the demographic that put the BlackBerry on top in the first place. The iPhone and iPad have not (yet) proven to be game changers à la iPod, but they are formidable — and Blodget suspects that will be enough.
Ultimately, bold pronouncements that RIM will cease to exist are more than likely typical corporate hyper-drama, wherein an admittedly humiliating slip in stature from major to minor tech player signifies spiritual death, versus the headline-generator suggesting that all of RIM’s base belonging to Apple. Regardless of whether RIM’s market share shrinks, per Blodget, to the level of respectable Nokia or irrelevant Palm, the real losers in all of this will be local residents of Waterloo, Ontario where the company is based and from whence come the vast majority of its almost 20,000 employees. One imagines some bitterly amusing social networking updates, “No more RIMjobs,” to follow.
Speaking of which, the latest/best/newest technological tools excel at facilitating Twitter/Facebook status updates. They’re so efficient now that they even include the model and brand of your mobile device, just in case anyone out there needs to confirm that you are truly cutting edge.
The BlackBerry likely won’t go on to carry the elder statesman cachet of a rotary phone. Even if it was to do so, how many old-school rotary phone owners do you know?
Image courtesy of MattHurst.