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).
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…
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?