5 Reasons as to why the RIM ship is sinking
I own a BlackBerry. And a good one too. Perhaps because of this I am extremely sensible to all the good and bad things that Research in Motion does. And perhaps because when one makes their smartphone pick, one sticks to it like a football club – we get angry and excited with too much ease – so I couldn’t be more disappointed with RIM right now. There isn’t even the need to face it, it’s a given fact: the RIM ship is going down and here are just 5 reasons why.
1. “Developers, Developers, Developers”
No, I’m not a Ballmer fan but right now I don’t think there’s been a Ballmer moment where the shouting was more justified that the Developer’s one. And you know what? Look at how RIM treats its developers and the whole app-building experience: no wonder that for each BlackBerry app that’s downloaded, 100 or more iPhone are downloaded at the same time. And RIM even wonders what’s the power of having such a ‘confusing and vast’ app market as Apple’s. The whole concept of a smartphone (or even the tablet, to speak of RIM’s Playbook) is for it to be a versatile personal tool of information – no longer is it just an accessory to make personal organization and communications more efficient – and yet RIM seems to lack the understanding that because apps expand the limits of a smartphone, they can make or break them.
2. The Nokia Mistake
And wasn’t that what Nokia did wrong? Nokia had a big European mobile market share before the 3G revolution and because people were used to the Nokia software’s and GUI’s, they would keep eternally loyal to the brand. Nokia forgot to measure the balance of few hours of software exploration against having a cool ‘smartphone-gadget’ that will surely become weapon of status quo due to its unparalleled functionalities? As more and more uninformed consumers are moving to their second ownership-wave of smartphones, BlackBerry owners are measuring the pros and cons of switching to the likes of HTC and iPhone and what is the biggest reason for them to keep with the Brand? The “oh I’m so used to it’ argument, when its been proven by Nokia to worth nothing.
3. Yes, The BlackBerry Brand!
What happened to it, may you ask? RIM had done a few tech ventures before but when the BlackBerry brand was created it was clearly positioned towards big-buck no-time corporate executives who craved for the built-in e-mail and personal organization sync features. What now? Somehow the brand still attracts the executives but its positioning got diluted embracing the IM-hungry teens, especially in the UK – and we all heard how the London Riots used the BBM as a weapon of mass-coordination. The verb “BlackBerrying” has even become a synonymous for general chatting over the phone, in the UK. While the Blackberry brand used to stand for professional products (and working tools), now it only represents the bad stereotypes of Generation-Y.
4. Product means diversification yet focus
And you know how this was done, by pushing for the existence of so many BlackBerry devices out there, with so many different price ranges and not so many differences between them. While at first the BlackBerry offered an unparalleled service at a balanced cost (affordable for the execs and with a good margin for the company), now we have BlackBerries at such a low price with almost the same hardware features (only differing in technical capabilities that offer no work advantage) as the top-range ones. So what’s the incentive to buy the top-of-the-line BlackBerry? Either you’re a touchscreen fan (like me with the Storm 2) and you don’t need the super chatting speed of a physical qwerty pad, or you’re one of those rare birds who actually doesn’t care for app diversity, doesn’t want to switch to a different OS and just wants to upgrade the smartphone, possibly to sync with the Playbook. RIM’s eagerness to attack all market segments, has led their products to loose focus and overall strategy, hurting the brand as we all see it.
5. Where Tech Companies go to Die
And isn’t that the single most common mistake of any tech company that’s not Apple? Ever since Amazon introduced the very limited first version of the Kindle, that a new market segment was opened and with the iPad it was proven to be a real necessity, with sales of an intermediary product between the laptop and the smartphone skyrocketing. And yes, we know that early-adopters have a strong influence to what the rest of the consumers think of products. And yes, we know connectivity and synchronization issues are worthy arguments to have the complete range of gadgets in your line. But to rush into offering a faulty/limited tablet such, as the Playbook, just to (try to) compete in the tablet wars is not treating loyalists with the respect they deserve – after all to own a complete range of gadgets from a line is still a respectable mid-term investment – and scaring of customers. Especially with a niche such as the BlackBerry one, RIM had no necessity be just another Tech company and consequentially have to fight for survival.
BONUS REASON: Loosing the Competitive Advantage
RIM’s strategy has been so out of focus that I can’t even finish this article without stating yet another reason, one very important even. After the market push of the handicapped BlackBerry Playbook, so many delayed and unfocused BlackBerry smartphones, the recent BBM and e-mail outages and basically everything else RIM has done so far in 2011, customers are moving away from the BlackBerry brand towards HTC and iPhone. And with that BlackBerry is loosing its unique competitive advantage – the BBM: a free and unique worldwide communication tool that is based on a very strong network effect. Since every other smartphone can do what the BlackBerry does the only reason for one to continue with the brand would be the BBM, which no other offers natively. Yet as less people own BlackBerries, the less probable it is for you to use BBM, and hence why would you want to spend your income just to have the native IM chating system with an increasingly smaller network, when the alternative IM apps market is growing in an integrated fashion? I see it. You see it. RIM, somehow, doesn’t, or tends to ignore it.