Is RIM on the right track with its latest offerings

Is RIM on the right track with its latest offerings
If you ask around, most people in the know of the cell phone biz will probably tell you that RIM is having a pretty hard time right now. The company has found itself closed within the bounds of its own past success, which is making its transition to being more consumer-centric difficult. Plus, the very need of such a transition comes to show that RIM doesn't feel very safe in its primary position of being dedicated solely to the enterprise.

On one hand, the company clearly wants to become a substantial part of the consumer space, but on the other, its deep ties with the enterprise do not allow it to shift enough of its focus to this undertaking. This situation has continued for quite a while, and as a result, RIM is now somewhere in the middle, struggling with the seemingly tricky business of manufacturing devices that cater to both enterprise and consumer needs at the same time.

We really wanted to devote some time to analyzing how RIM is doing these days, especially when it has recently launched its latest offerings. But before that, let's first take a quick glance back and see how the mighty manufacturer ended up like this.

The push for the consumer market

RIM managed to build its healthy business around the BlackBerry smartphones, which were the handsets of choice for the enterprise, due to an array of specialized features such as strong security, as well as unprecedented email and convenience, when it comes to handling text-based communication. But it was also this early when RIM was beginning to taste the sweetness of what it is to play on the mass market, by unleashing lower-cost phones like the Curve and Pearl. After all, in December 2009, RIM reported that over 80% of its net new subscriber account additions have come from non-enterprise customers. However, the consumer market was bound to change very, very soon, catching RIM unprepared. Although a very large share was already taken by the iPhone, the establishment of Android was yet another blow for RIM. Because of Android, many of those users who didn't want an iPhone for some reason now had a pretty strong alternative to fall back on. This meant that RIM had to rethink what it's doing, if it didn't want to be left outside alone.

However, with products like the disastrous Storm family, as well as the uninspiring Torch, the future didn't look very rosy for the Canadian manufacturer. Actually, although not very successful, the original Torch marked an important moment for the company, as it was its first touchscreen handset that worked. Unfortunately, even with the usable capacitive touchscreen, the Torch 9800 failed as it simply wasn't good enough, in terms of both hardware and software.

At this point, it was clear that RIM isn't where it wants to, and it needed to make a choice – to either contract its business and focus on what it's proven to do pretty well – products for the enterprise, or to continue its struggle against Apple and Google for a chunk of the alluring consumer market. What it unveiled subsequently revealed the bold choice it's made...

Undefined present

Today, Research in Motion's latest creations are already facing an uphill battle against the iPhone and Android. RIM's current-gen troops include the Bold 9900, which is the company's signature smartphone, the full-touchscreen Torch 9850 and the successor to the original Torch in the 9810. Along with the lightweight forces, the company has also deployed the heavy artillery in the form of the PlayBook tablet, running on the new QNX platform.

Right from the start, we declared the Bold 9810 a device that's already behind the curve. And how wouldn't we... the 9810 is what the original Torch should have been from day one! It had nothing really new to bring to the table, and looking at it now, it seems like the perfect representation of RIM's undefined present. While it remains true to the enterprise world in its essence, it also tries to appeal to the consumer, but it fails tremendously due to its total lack of wow-factor. It does have some decent specs, but if you want to gain prominence with the broad public nowadays, you have to lose the portrait sliding keyboard, and pack a bigger screen... and that's not a sacrifice that the enterprise is willing to do. Actually, this is what the Torch 9850 tries to achieve, and it does succeed to a certain point. The 9850 is good-looking, fast and capable, and we actually liked it in our review. So, what's the problem with it? Well, it's good, but it's not that good. Regular users have little reason to side with it, instead of with a high-end Android device or the iPhone, which come with ecosystems that are way more developed. So, while we consider the 9850 a pretty solid attempt at crafting a capable consumer smartphone, it will take more than that to bring RIM firmly on its feet again.

Looking at the Canadian manufacturer's current lineup, we like the Bold 9900 the most. It is arguably the best Bold ever, but it is a device, which is evidently targeted to the business. Not too many average Joes will pick up the Bold 9900, instead of the Sensation 4G, or the EVO 3D, or the iPhone 4, or the Galaxy S II...

And the PlayBook? Well, it could do pretty well as a business-dedicated tablet, the perfect companion for the BlackBerry-sporting businessperson, but no – RIM is doing its best to convince us that the PlayBook is rather a tablet, which you can have lots of fun time with. While it may be so, there are many other tablets out there, which are much more capable at this than the PlayBook.

The right track

It's evident that winning the heart of the consumer isn't an easy task. If it wants to have the Apple or Android appeal, RIM first has to learn to understand the consumer. Alas, the message its products are trying to convey is pretty vague. Obviously, the company doesn't want (and cannot afford) to lose the appeal it has for the enterprise, but at the same time, it desperately tries to lure in regular users with products they don't need. And that sure seems like a risky undertaking to us.

RIM isn't quite on the right track yet. While it's doing its best to remain relevant on the business front, by implementing “new” features like a touchscreen on the new Bold, it has to rethink its strategy with the consumer. Adopting the new QNX platform seems like the right choice, since one of the more significant issues within its ecosystem is the aging BlackBerry OS itself. However, the first QNX smartphones are not expected to launch until (hopefully) early next year, and just how well they'll do remains to be seen. And until then, iOS 5 and Ice Cream Sandwich will have already hit the market, delivering their goods to happy consumers all around the world.

Many consider QNX as RIM's last chance to survive in this cruel world, and we certainly hope that the legendary Canadian manufacturer will pull it off. Not all is lost for these guys yet. After all, they are still enjoying those pretty decent profits, but if they don't act as quickly as possible, RIM's chances to get back on the right track might soon be lost forever.



5. droidnator

Posts: 93; Member since: Mar 10, 2011

Sammy's OS sucks. If RIM were to change QNX for anything, it should be Android, not Samsung's half-baked platform that has only two fanboys, one of which is from Sweden. And is trolling non-stop.

8. gimme some unregistered

RIM using bada,,, wot have you been smokin' dude?!!!

13. PeterIfromsweden

Posts: 1230; Member since: Aug 03, 2011

Listen, i'm not saying RIM is going to use bada, it is just a suggestion. But bada would definitely be good for them, much better than the dated BBOS

11. PeterIfromsweden

Posts: 1230; Member since: Aug 03, 2011

bada does not suck, it is a great OS. It has more functions and personalization options than both WP7 and IOS, so with your reasoning you think IOS and WP7 sucks.

15. bobfreking55

Posts: 866; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

Its the hardware mostly that sucks on BB. Not much on the software. NO PLANS FOR DUAL CORE? SMALL SCREENS?? (Proof that no one likes small screens anymore) AND THE QWERTY KEYBOARD THAT IS TOO NARROW.

48. dionddc

Posts: 129; Member since: Jul 19, 2011

What makes you think that customisation makes a phone better?

7. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

lord i hope your joking. they wont give up as they still have a lock down on business, but they will be relegated to a business niche product and forgot about by everyone else if QNX fails. Ill take QNX over plain ol iOS any day, but it doesnt hold a candle to what Android is offering or even windows8 prognosis.. outlook not so good.

10. taco5O.

Posts: 12; Member since: Sep 22, 2011

Nah, RIM should not use bada, alltought it is much better than IOS. RIM should adopt Android as their main OS for everyday people, and WP7 for the business people.

21. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

as serious as i dont think you are, they are using android.. well.. at least the market. QNX is android market and app capable. So it gives BB security while being able to have a little fun.

12. PeterIfromsweden

Posts: 1230; Member since: Aug 03, 2011

With bada, the outlook for RIM looks pretty good !

27. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

yea, nothing like going from a premium business platform to a cheap teenager's platform that no one knows about!! lol

28. PeterIfromsweden

Posts: 1230; Member since: Aug 03, 2011

Haha, as both you and i know bada is not a cheap teenagers platform. bada is a smartphone OS that has more funtcions and personalization options than IOS and WP7, yet faster than Android.

37. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

actually, samsung themselves call it a "value OS" platform. value is a nice term for CHEAP. :) Its prime phone uses year old tech..

32. kunal2609

Posts: 10; Member since: Sep 22, 2011

what is ur problem??stop mentioning bada drives its sales from korea....and low end devices elsewhere!!nothing exceptional...even samsung uses age old hardware in their NEW WAVE 3!!grow up!!

38. XiphiasGladius

Posts: 813; Member since: Aug 21, 2011

What the heck has just happened to you peter? each day your getting out of tune. . .

39. Life unregistered

Well Mr.Peter, if you're really from Sweden and if you really own all the phones you showed in you profile, then buy only NOKIA phones if you want to avoid European recession.

2. ayephoner

Posts: 858; Member since: Jun 09, 2009

right track? yes. right time? NO. they need QNX phones out this year. to compete with the iphone and the slew of android options and to capture the holiday market, they should have been much more motivated to get these devices to the consumer this year.

6. droidnator

Posts: 93; Member since: Mar 10, 2011

Just a d**k would be my guess.

4. HTCiscool

Posts: 449; Member since: Jul 16, 2011

The problem is that although blackberrys are ok.RIM chooses to price them right at the top of the range so none of their problems can be forgiven. The original Torch was absolutely horrible, the Playbook was great, save for no apps and their latest trio are alright, but priced too highly for me to consider. I fear it must be too late, if the Bold was dual core they may have had a chance.

9. EasyFix unregistered

They need to build a phone that is on par with all the other major players. Dual/Quad Core 4" plus screen 8 Meg Camera 1080p Video etc. The platform would be fine if they would get email on par with the other platforms. Support for Exchange without BES. BES should be optional. There are some enterprises that would use it. Very secure. However, most users, even corporate users don't need it and don't want it.

14. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

There is a reason why RIM is trying to find a home for 800,000 PlayBooks.... The PlayBook is symptomatic of RIM's struggles.

17. Dan__ unregistered

Stop mentioning Bada in every of your posts...

20. PeterIfromsweden

Posts: 1230; Member since: Aug 03, 2011

But there is no reason for my comment to be moderated. It is completely ON TOPIC. I was just suggesting RIM might be using bada if QNX fails, and that is on topic.

24. John_ unregistered

Peter, this is a RIM article - I am glad you got moderated. It just gets annoying to turn every discussion about bada. Just discuss the current topic...

26. PeterIfromsweden

Posts: 1230; Member since: Aug 03, 2011

I am duscussing the current topic.

22. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

peter is being moderated from saying bada. can we add bada to the list of banned words? lol

23. PeterIfromsweden

Posts: 1230; Member since: Aug 03, 2011

Nope, that can't be allowed. One of the PhoneArena team said to me that "we have no anti-bada bias". PhoneArena, please live up to that statement !

25. iPhoneFan unregistered

He just excessively uses Bada, don't you agree?

29. jack1059 unregistered

I think rim are on the right track with their current offerings. However, if they hope to survive with what they have, they'd better pick up the pace. New phone development needs to be faster, and their needs to be greater differentiation between phones. That seems fairly non substantial, but its what people expect these days, along with speedy firmware updates and a decent app store. If they can't get those things right, and quickly, then they'll get sold off for their patents. In my uneducated opinion Id give them a year to turn it around.

30. kickinbass

Posts: 26; Member since: Aug 17, 2011

I am in the business of cell phones, we still get a lot of loyal customers still upgrading to BB, on the other hand a good 60% upgrade to IOS or Android. Yet many try out the IOs and return it to go back to it's Server based entity. Well never the less, BB really needs to improve Browser service substantially to gain back confidence of it's loyalty base but the need too hustle cause they are digging deeper and deeper.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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