RIM should go all-in on Android, shut down App World

Research In Motion Ltd. has taken a lot of heat from press and investors recently, so the latest reports out of Waterloo, Ont., deserves some applause. But, I’ll need to know more before the company gets a standing ovation.

The cause for optimism is a new Bloomberg News report which cites three people familiar with RIM’s plan to make its next generation QNX phones completely Android-compatible. RIM has said the new phones should be on the market in early 2012.

The move has the potential to be a great one for RIM, which has two major problems that it needs to fix — its poor selection of apps and lacklustre hardware design.

But despite the strong speculation of an Android-compatible BlackBerry device, I am still a little concerned.

If Android compatibility means that RIM will simply let developers upload Android apps exclusively onto RIM’s App World site, I don’t see the point. Plus, Android developers will not be happy repackaging their apps for RIM’s app store.

RIM needs to embrace itself as a superior messaging and communication handset. That should be its only concern. Keep BlackBerry Messenger and the RIM network as the key differentiator for the brand and fully embrace the Android Market.

The speculation earlier this year that RIM would open up BBM to Android and iOS users was absolute crazy talk. Enterprise users and BBM fanatics are the lifeblood of the company. To pull in a portion of those consumers moving toward Samsung, HTC and LG, RIM will have to fully embrace Android Market as its app platform.

To me, that also means shutting down its app store entirely.

The news will also be met positively from many enterprise IT departments moving away from “BlackBerry-only” and opening up their environment to Android and Apple devices. It will allow businesses to narrow its app development to only two platforms.
Unless the QNX OS is completely revolutionary and garners huge interest from developers, this is the only play to keep RIM strong.

If it pulls this off, which will also be contingent on how effective its Android app emulator turns out to be, all that’s left for the company is to develop a killer line of QNX phones that can actually run these apps smoothly.

Of course, that’s easier said than done.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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