Research in Motion Ltd., the beleaguered Waterloo, Ont.-based BlackBerry manufacturer, is at a crossroads.
Wow, does that sound hackneyed. Fact of the matter is, RIM's been dallying at this crossroads for close to two years now, not fully committing to the consumer path nor the enterprise road less travelled. (Mr. Frost, my humblest apologies.)
I've told this story a thousand times now: At a conference some eight or 10 years ago, a RIM representative told me I would never see a camera in a BlackBerry. “You know why?” he said. “Because it's not a consumer device.”
Not long after, RIM got distracted by the shiny object of the consumer market. The problem was, the BlackBerry OS didn't have a shiny, happy, consumer friendly interface. This problem was compounded by the fact that RIM hadn't developed a product and services ecosystem around the device à la Apple's iTunes and App Store. When RIM eventually came late to that game, the company couldn't attract developers to populate its app store.
Through it all, ex-co-CEO Jim Balsillie focused on marketing the BlackBerry as a consumer device, largely ignoring the company's roots and strength: managing mobility for enterprises.
New CEO Thorsten HInes says RIM was late to the BYOD game, and will have to aggressively pursue partnershipa to get back in the game. Building something around the late and yet-to-be-released BlackBerry 10 OS is not just a long shot, it's a non-starter. On the consumer side, there's only one option for RIM: Google's Android operating system.
Android has a product, service and content ecosystem that rivals Apple Inc.'s iOS. RIM, with a useful OS several months out on the horizon, will never catch up. On the consumer side, RIM could rebound by focussing on building the best freakin' Android phones we've ever seen. The BlackBerry brand still has some cachet, especially in Canada. Use that. Don't bother with a doomed effort to build a rival OS.
This would allow RIM to focus on a market it can really own: enterprise management of consumer devices. That's where RIM has potential for a BYOD play. It's Fusion management architecture is a great step in that direction, but it's received virtually no marketing effort since its launch.
The BlackBerry operating system is the albatross around RIM's neck. It has to be ditched so the company can focus on battles it can win.