As recently as 2005, my most valued business possession was my big blue Blackberry phone. With its uncanny ability to handle email, Canadian manufacturer Research In Motion (RIM) had built the ultimate pager system for the business world. In 2011, the Blackberry is still the ultimate pager when what it needs to be is an all-encompassing computing environment. Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android have staked their claims at the tops of the device and OS mountains and there is no room left for RIM’s Blackberry except the valley of death in between.
RIM seemed to have taken the best path of combining a Google-style love of handset variety and combining it with Apple’s tight control over design and engineering. What they did wrong, though, was to continue their focus on being the best business email device on the market, which they still are. In the 24 by 7 world of today’s global economy, though, it’s no longer a status symbol to carry multiple devices in order to keep in touch. Rather than two phones, a PIM, and at least one pager, today’s consumers want one device that does everything reasonably well, rather than gathering best-of-breed single-function devices on their belts.
RIM did try to step into the ‘app’ world in order to fill the greater needs of its users, but it was too little (and still is) too late. Android and Apple have the level of options no other company can match. RIM also tried to bring an iPad competitor to the market with the Playbook. With severe connectivity constraints (such as requiring a Blackberry phone and not supporting Citrix), the Playbook simply can’t compete in the business world. Though the iPad and Android tablets may not be fully suited to the corporate world, they are highly customizable through their app markets.
As RIM slips further and further in the market share game, the debate will continue: were they not nimble enough due to their unusual corporate structure, or did they simply rest on their laurels while other companies continued to innovate. In the end, RIM will likely go the way of Nextel as a great business tool that simply stayed too focused for too long. Niche markets will serve RIM well in the future, but it has a permanent reservation as a sideline player in tomorrow’s business tech environment.
NielsenWire, In U.S. Smartphone Market, Android is Top Operating System, Apple is Top Manufacturer