Here’s how to save RIM!

Here's how to save RIM

Roughly a year ago I wrote a piece titled “Does RIM have a future?” only to see Simon, our BlackBerry guy, replying with his own article. I was thinking lately whether it’s possible to make something out of RIM’s business (considering their declining sales and market share) and here are my thoughts on how to save the Canadian company. But first let’s look at the BlackBerry today.

QNX-based OS isn’t that good

While I dig the argument that Android could be more secure (its openness makes it vulnerable), I don’t think QNX is a better option. I guess it’s more reliable in some fashion, but is that enough? Days when we had one business and one personal phone are behind us. We want a single device for everything. Heck, that’s why RIM is now saying QNX-based OS will be able to run Android apps. You know, those are the apps from that “insecure mobile OS.” In other words, to get users on their own platform – RIM is basically saying we can run apps from other platform. You gotta see the paradox here.

As an average user reading “BlackBerrys can now run Android apps” wouldn’t I just grab an Android smartphone and kick the middle man out. Needless to say not all apps will run on BlackBerry devices, especially those demanding more horse power or access to more hardware resources (i.e. sensors, camera and so on).

Hardware

Let’s it – aside from the PlayBook, today’s BlackBerry hardware is like Android smartphones from 6 months ago, maybe even more. On that note, I wonder how well these new BlackBerry devices can run the latest Android apps and games. You could argue Windows Phone 7 devices don’t come with dual-core processors either, but they have Microsoft to back them up. And as we all know, the Redmond giant is super serious about mobile. They’ll pour out billions in the platform just to get their foot in the door and then take it from there. Heck they already did something similar with the X-Box.

In its piece, Simon said there’s plenty of room in the mid-range where RIM could find its clients. I don’t buy that. Grabbing the last year’s high-end Android smartphone seems like a better choice for a new user (not a savvy BlackBerry user, though). The cost is about the same and the hardware is pretty much on par.

Needless to say, that seemed like Nokia’s strategy for Symbian and that wasn’t working as we all know (even without Stephen Elop, the Symbian market share was declining rapidly).

I know it’s not all about the hardware, which leads me to…

Software

You know which company made Facebook for BlackBerry? Research In Motion. For Android and iPhone it was Facebook. No wonder the iOS and Android versions are updated more often than their BlackBerry counterpart. I do applaud RIM for taking the initiative and I’ve no doubts they collaborated (and still do) with Facebook to make for a great app. However, I also doubt they could keep up with all the changes happening lately at Facebook. And you know what – Facebook is just one of many apps. Apple’s AppStore and Google’s Android Market have few times more apps than BlackBerry App World. Of course, the number of apps isn’t that relevant for the average user, but you get the point – developers prefer iOS and Android over BlackBerry.

So what’s the plan? How to save RIM?

Here’s my plan:

  • First, dump QNX and adopt Android.
  • Invest heavily in the new platform. Make a special software for Android that runs ONLY on RIM-made devices, something like HTC’s Sense UI or Samsung’s TouchWIZ. Make that software comprehensive, not just a homescreen skin, to make sure the system is enterprise friendly (i.e. secure enough). That skin should be something in RIM’s style, not to offend existing users. Also make sure that software sings along BlackBerry services – capitalize on existing offering.
  • Keep the BlackBerry App World and filter through apps, allowing only tested stuff. We’re now talking about an app store that’s divided in two main categories – new Android apps and old legacy software.
  • Keep the BlackBerry form factor for future devices but also experiment with other types. RIM never managed to make an impressive all-touchscreen phone, but with an Android that shouldn’t be a problem.

That’s how I think RIM could be saved and that’s how Android apps can *really* run on BlackBerry devices. What do you say?

  • Rayadams

    No needs in RIM at all. They lost everything what made RIM unique.

  • Vinchi

    Very well, written, but what about going the HP route? RIM as it is stands alone, kinda like Apple but without the sexy stuff and the rabid fans, so why not go solutions/software? RIM has two really fantastic pieces of tech that they could license out…. BBM and their push email solution (which nobody does quite as well).

    • Rayadams

      Their push email required email server at operator side. Not a good solution. All modern email servers (MS Exchange, GMail) has their own push which works like RIMs one. In any way you need internet connection on your phone to be able to receive push notifications. So I see no difference when notification goes from server at operator side or directly from internet.

    • http://www.intomobile.com Dusan Belic

      Cool point. But I think other companies will figure out how to make push email cool. iPhone users don’t complain, as far as I know…

  • Moe

    Dumping QNX would be well… DUMB! You main argument was “I don’t think QNX is a better option” is that all? For RIM security is PARAMOUNT, did you know that RIM makes blackberry’s with no camera for the enterprise? yes, because they DEMAND IT! Running android apps in a QNX device will not be different than browsing the internet with flash enabled, as long the users understands that it will be at their own risk it should be ok.

    One of the non-technical reasons for RIM to not adopt Android is the legal minefield that it is (Apple, MS and Oracle are not going to stop suing every single Android maker they find)

    One of the reasons why there are less apps for blackberry is because their java API was just too hard and frustrating to work on.

    Ditching QNX will only lead to a fast demise of RIM, because all the work done since the company was acquired would be worthless, they will have to start from scratch the porting of their core services and BIS/BES are at the core of what makes a blackberry a blackberry.

    About hardware:
    Think for a minute, do you have any reason to suspect that the hardware will not make QNX phones with specs at par o better than their QNX tablet? I will make sense to have a standardized line the same way apple has with iphone/ipad (unified ecosystem)

    I disagree with “RIM never managed to make an impressive all-touchscreen phone” their new 9860/9850 devices are not storm, they had learned their lessons and it shows.

    I think that RIM is moving on the right direction with an OS that once their OS Native Development Kit (to develop in native C/C++) is released and can potentially run UNIX desktop apps like Gimp and Libre Office because QNX is POSIX compliant.

    What RIM has to do to get back in the game is push the marketing machine to the MAX! Because it won’t matter how good or advanced your product is, without good advertisement it won’t sell, Palm is a good example of that. WebOS was great and praised by all, their marketing killed it for good.

    • Anonymous

      Enterprise demand no camera? I guess those were the days…. My grandpa days. He is dead, btw. May he rest in peace.

      • Moe

        Sprint has them, those are blackberry for “mission critical operations” where even contracts have clauses that state that you not only be fired but sued for millions of dollars if you “leak” any information. 

  • http://twitter.com/RodSimmons Rod Simmons

    I was expecting you to say something about taking BBM cross platform or building an app that gives BES Email, contact, and calendar support.

    I don’t think dumping android is the right option however running android apps solves one problem but creates other issues as you highlighted, security.

    As for hardware RIM needs consistency on quality.  The 9930 is unmatched in build quality but then they released the new Torch and it is a hunk of plastic crap. They need more quality devices like the 9930. Dual core is a nice to have …what you want is a highly responsive device. iOS and Windows Phone can run on less hardware and perform well. Currently Android is power hungry so it need better hardware to make the software look good.

    It would be interesting to get stats from a carrier on user device purchases IE purchased a blackberry and upgrades to BlackBerry, iOS, or Android. I speak to too many people that leave Android after 1 version due to software quality.

    Regardless great post

  • http://www.intomobile.com/ Simon Sage

    Re-skinning Android wouldn’t be an entirely unheard-of option for RIM…. They did the same thing for Windows Mobile awhile back through a system called BlackBerry Connect. That really didn’t go anywhere, but WinMo wasn’t enjoying the same adoption as Android is now. I just don’t know that Android is open enough to let RIM drill that deep into the operating system and swap out all of the important parts to plug into the back-end BlackBerry infrastructure. They’re already trying to do that with a company they own, and it’s proving to be hard – I can’t imagine them trying to get the same amount of lee-way with Google. 

    Even now, RIM isn’t shy about going cross-platform. Their latest enterprise management tools will be able to support iOS and Android. If that willingness to support the competition trickles down to the consumer level, I could see RIM making a healthy side-business selling subscriptions to BlackBerry services at very least on Android. I doubt they’d be able to subsist entirely on that, since their core business is selling hardware. You’re right that QNX right now isn’t good, but it’s still not finished. It should be, but it’s not. I’ll give RIM until early next year when QNX phones start coming out before I give up all hope on RIM’s current strategy. If QNX well and definitively flops, then adopting Android wholesale will be their only option left; at very least they’ll have some experience with the App Player to get them started. 

  • Anonymous

    Interesting ideas here but I’m not sold that QNX is a complete failure. I don’t agree with the decision to run Android apps but the OS itself is solid, like webOS done correctly. I do fear the first BB QNX phone with a single core though.

  • Ronellrony_ron2000009

    Dumping QNX is the most dumbest idea ever. Your throwing away millions of dollars in invest money, almost 2 years of work and development and you then shifting RIM back to square one. Which would put them in a deep hole and buy out position. They have to use what they have to there disposal.
    This is both common sense and proper thinking.

    Let’s be logical here: blackberry with android is not blackberry.

    Anyways I’ll be here to help lead the new blackberry for front early next year.

  • Ronellrony_ron2000009

    Dumping QNX is the most dumbest idea ever. Your throwing away millions of dollars in invest money, almost 2 years of work and development and you then shifting RIM back to square one. Which would put them in a deep hole and buy out position. They have to use what they have to there disposal.
    This is both common sense and proper thinking.

    Let’s be logical here: blackberry with android is not blackberry.

    Anyways I’ll be here to help lead the new blackberry for front early next year.

  • Eric Chaelani

    Android is over rated.  Rim choosing

  • Eric Chaelani

    Android is over rated.  Rim choosing

  • Eric Chaelani

    Android is over rated.  Rim choosing

    • Pawe? S

       Keep dreaming. iOS is pure trash. It’s years behind Android (remember multitasking?). There’s no way Android is less stable than ios or blackbarry. Android is Linux based and Linux is the most solid kernel on the Earth. Running stock exchanges, mission critical workloads, HPC, most loaded servers, sonars on nuclear powered submarines, NASA etc. ios is a toy.

  • Revyrah

    Never mention your plan to “save RIM” again. It’s by far the worst assessment/solution to the company’s current status in the market. 

    BB7 phones are actually extremely impressive. Most certainly the hardware is up to par with many android and windows phones out there that were released this year. It is a huge jump up in specs for BlackBerry users, however it is a transition into the os that will certainly bring the company back to the top. 

    QNX IS that good, and the priority for RIM is to continue to do the things they do better than anyone and implement that into QNX. The hardware is there and multi-core processors will indeed be used in the soon to be released BlackBerry phones running QNX. Native apps will still be important to RIM for . With this tech, software, and the development tools RIM has provided for integration of apps developers already have out, RIM will be saving itself without even considering any of the ridiculous ideas you posted.

    • Anonymous

      The problem is, I don’t think any of the BB7 phones will run QNX or BBX.

  • Revyrah

    Never mention your plan to “save RIM” again. It’s by far the worst assessment/solution to the company’s current status in the market. 

    BB7 phones are actually extremely impressive. Most certainly the hardware is up to par with many android and windows phones out there that were released this year. It is a huge jump up in specs for BlackBerry users, however it is a transition into the os that will certainly bring the company back to the top. 

    QNX IS that good, and the priority for RIM is to continue to do the things they do better than anyone and implement that into QNX. The hardware is there and multi-core processors will indeed be used in the soon to be released BlackBerry phones running QNX. Native apps will still be important to RIM for . With this tech, software, and the development tools RIM has provided for integration of apps developers already have out, RIM will be saving itself without even considering any of the ridiculous ideas you posted.

  • Allahyar786

    i change the lcd on bb9900  show,s the lcd blank as soon diconect the call lcd work back to normal can u plz help me thanks

  • AnonGuest

    I have a better idea.  What if they had two lines of phones.  QNX super phone line with all the high security and performance and an Android line!  The would have similar hardware, one line would be mostly for work, and a little play, the other would be mostly play and a little work!

  • AnonGuest

    Oh and BB7 kicks ass.  Everyone I know is upgrading…watch Dec 15 earnings, you’ll see what i mean.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1512901274 Igrar Aliyev

    Android on BlackBerry? Meaning I will have to charge my phone twice a day? Oh no! BBOS 7 is a way better than any Android version it is less battery hungry and more intiutive .

  • TupacLekur

    Blackberry with Android OS? That’s a fail. Maybe if developers would actually implement a close or exit button for Apps on their mobile Linux (Android) I’d switch.  It bites that every single thing is an ‘App’ in Android.  No system utilies like notepad or password keeper, etc, you have to download them from a 3rd party in Market Place. When I had an EVO there was 4 different GPS software that came with the Stock Android that I didn’t need.
    I am way more productive on the BB then I ever was on the Android. Also BB has the best keyboard on any phone in the world, bar none.

  • Maxmz02

    we knew it for long—–, (1) a good OS(2) to be an efficient device manufacture, these 2 point may save RIM, the problem for RIM is: they know the 2 target points, but can’t reach them.
    I use to work in RIM for 3 years, so I experienced some root cause.
    3 years ago I wrote email to my manager saying that RIM is old before it really grow up, RIM’s small company buddy culture is the root cause, CEO may want it efficient, but some managers may even afraid of efficient person in their group, if you figure out problem and introduce efficient approach, both manager and his blood buddy group member will use 3 years to proof their approach works, just like someone point out driving a car is right way, pushing a car is wrong way, then both manager and his blood buddy will hated you, and proof that 3 person can also move the car by pushing it. This is not system oriented company, just small company buddy culture, with a fat body, RIM’s management may be a typical instance in MBA course.

  • http://twitter.com/mazda_corolla Richard Tolar

    Here’s a big problem for RIM.  My _canadian_ company (1 Billion+ annual revenues, 30,000+ employees) recently dumped Blackberry as the corporate standard for iphone.

    Why?  There were many reasons, but a key one:  Cost.  Blackberry cost ~$50 / user (all-in cost), and had dedicated servers to maintain.  iphone cost?  $25 / user.  Plus, no dedicated servers required.  

    No matter what RIM does on the consumer-facing front, if their costs are *double* the competition, they are going to die in the business world.

  • zendroid

    This article is a waste of time and so is RIM. Who cares! They’re finished. They don’t bring anything to the table. Apple+Android+MSFT phones are way ahead. They should just sell the company for its patents before the stock drops under $10 usd. 

  • Mikie

    RIM used to provide a unique service to the larger buisness community.  Namely stable, secure mobile email.  In the years since then, this has become a commodety item, available to all.  So what’s left?  Either RIM need to really punch above their weight in developing hardware and software – (which, lets face it, isn’t going to happen) OR, they need to provide a new killer service to the buisness comminity.  I.E. How about a global data network?  All of us regular buisness people would love a simple monthly bill for usage.  I.E. a simple $x00/month plan, for a true global data provider.  Leverage their global servers, with local mobile providers. 

  • http://twitter.com/AndreDcruz Andre D’Cruz

    Not sure if your strategy will work. But one thing for sure is that your strategy has far more hope than for RIM to continue doing the same thing they have been doing for the last 10 years in such a changed world.

  • http://prowest.ua prowest

    I have an idea for RIM. Instead of sitting around while and IOS, Android, and Windows Phone get all of the good apps, why not contract them to build a version for Blackberry? They could work out a deal like: RIM subsidizes any loss for huge apps developed- bassically only apps like Words with Friends, Doodle Jump, Netflix, etc that are proven sellers. 

    I’m looking for a new phone and would prefer to replace my Bold 9000 with the 9900, but I would like to be able to play Words with Friends and watch Netflix on my phone. People like me prefer Blackberry Bold form factor over the iPhone, but not if it means I lose out on all the cool apps.

    • dtstrickland

      I completely with your comment prowest. I have the 9900, and the only thing that gets me coming from every other OS device in existence, is the lack of cool apps. Netflix would be great. Words with Friends could work on the smaller screen. But there are plenty of great apps that could work on the bold, curve, and torch series of phones. I can’t even get a kindle app for my 9900. I love the keyboard and the other services, but don’t want to miss out on the apps. I hope rim gets its together.

  • Adb45028

    name one serious company (ie banking, government) that wants to switch to Android?!

    • Seriously

      US Army & US DoD & NASA
      Yeah I know, those are not so serious, but who cares.

  • Pawe? S

    “While I dig the argument that Android could be more secure (its openness makes it vulnerable)”

    You’ve got to be kidding. Being Open Source you’re more secure.

  • Tangerine

    RIM is going to sink.

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