Editor Brian Jackson over at ITBusiness.ca is getting all over us about posting some predictions for next year, so I'd better get at it.
Here's the coward's way of putting it: "2013 will be a critical year in determining Research in Motion's future -- or if it has one." Meh. Take a stand, will ya?
A braver man would say unequivocally that "BB10 will be the magic bullet that slays the vampire sucking the life out of RIM." Note that I never said I was that braver man.
Let's go through the checklist of things that must happen for RIM to turn around and head back to relevance.
1. On Jan. 31, when RIM unveils its BlackBerry 10 devices, people's reaction had better be to hyperventilate with excitement. BlackBerry 10 has to be the slickest, most intuitive, most powerful mobile operating system on the market if RIM is going to bring defectors back into the fold and steal share from the three major OS players it'll be competing against.
2. Did I say three? I meant "two." Because if Windows Phone 8, with its cross-device ecosystem and captive body of ISVs actually gains traction over the holiday season, taking enough market share to become relevant, RIM will be buried. Windows Phone share is possibly the biggest threat to RIM's recovery, next to a BB10 flop.
3. RIM must retain its enterprise market share. New CEO Thorsten Heins has made some good noises about returning to RIM enterprise roots and focussing more on those customers. That's a good strategy, since I wouldn't bet anything of value on RIM winning a lot of consumer share in the near term. (I'm reading today that RIM will be surpassed by iOS devices in shipments before the end of the year, which is not a good sign.)
4. RIM must license that killer OS to other hardware manufacturers. RIM has gained a reputation for unimaginative devices over the last couple of years, where as handset makers like Samsung and HTC have been hitting home runs on the hardware side. Samsung, in particular, has been garnering brand loyalty with its Galaxy line. RIM's got to take advantage of that.
5. RIM has to put some marketing muscle behind its Fusion mobile management platform. This dovetails with Point 3, above. A promising development for RIM when it was announced almost a year ago, Fusion has had minimal profile since. Others are quickly jumping on the cross-platform management bandwagon, and quickly. RIM will have lost a key differentiator if Fusion doesn't get more traction.
6. RIM has to win developers, not carriers. Come on. Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer doesn't even consider the BlackBerry a smart phone. It's about the apps.
That's a lot of ducks to line up. Nos. 1 and 2 both have a fighting chance. As for No. 3, RIM may have to regain rather than maintain enterprise footprint. As for No. 4, at least Heins has entertained licensing, though it's not likely soon. Fusion's boat may have already sailed. And No. 6? Well, that depends on No. 1.
Obviously, 2013 is a critical year for RIM's future. But I don't think anything gets resolved in the next 12 months. Like HP's turnaround (next prediction), this is a multi-year journey. I say a mild recovery on all fronts for RIM, but in December 2013, the company still won't be out of the woods