Research in (Slow)Motion

I laughed when I saw the quote (below) in this Engadget editorial.

“If Apple was able to pull itself back from a “near-death experience,” can RIM regain its lost luster too?”

As some of you know, RIM, the company behind the Blackberry devices, is finding itself in a similar predicament as Apple was only a little more than a decade ago, but with a few key differences.

The Jobs factor
With their stock at a 3-year low, Apple made a bold move and admitted a mistake by buying NeXT, and along with it, Steven P. Jobs, who left Apple after a blowup with Apple’s then CEO, John Sculley.  I’m not going to side with either Sculley or Jobs, I’m just saying that if Apple really didn’t want Jobs back, they wouldn’t have gone out and bought NeXT. My guess is that Steve isn’t currently looking for work, and RIM probably doesn’t have, nor necessarily want a Steve Jobs to come and save them.  In my opinion, Mr. Jobs was one of two reasons why Apple didn’t fall off the tree (see what I did there), but there is a personality that comes with him that not every company may desire.

Did you hear that sound? That little Bing? Yeah, That’s the sound of RIM falling flat on their face.
It is true. Steve Ballmer appeared at BlackBerry World, announcing that Microsoft is bringing Bing Maps to the BlackBerry, declaring that Bing would become the preferred search engine on the new Blackberry phones due to be released this summer. I have several observations about this. First, Bing alone won’t save RIM.  I’ve tried mobile Bing in both mobile Safari and the dedicated Bing app for iPhone. My impression was not a good one. I just don’t like it. Desktop Bing is good. Not good enough to get me to switch from Google, but it’s not terrible either. Mobile Bing is a completely different ball game. In my opinion, Google nailed mobile search. Bing is still a ways away. Microsoft is the only real winner in this deal, and will garner more mobile search market share, leaving RIM with unchanged sales. Second,Microsoft and RIM are competing in the smartphone if I’m not mistaken? Why the partnership with RIM? Lastly, just because Microsoft plopped down $150 million on Apple, doesn’t mean they want to (or even can) save RIM. Apple admitted that they made a mistake and attempted to fix it by rehiring their founder and it worked well. $60 billion in the bank well. To my knowledge, RIM hasn’t yet admitted they have a problem.

BlackBerry OS
I’m sorry to say it but RIM’s own software may be killing their sales. BlackBerry OS is widely considered to be one of the worst Operating Systems around. It looks modern even though it isn’t. It’s generally run on underpowered hardware (previous generation CPU’s etc.), and has very few apps by comparison. RIM acquired an OS called QNX (pronounced “Cue-nix”) that runs on everything from power plants to planes. They’ve modified it for use on their tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook, and they did a good job with it as far as I can tell, but again the gripe with the PlayBook (and at this point any non-iPad tablet) is that their are no apps. They claimed to have 4,000 apps at launch though most are are just not good Adobe Air apps ported to the Playbook. The key for RIM is developers and QNX. They are supposedly going to leverage QNX to work on their phones at some point. The question is when do they plan to and can they do it before their Titanic sinks?

Android Apps on the PlayBook
This is a tricky one. RIM has confirmed Android apps on the PlayBook. The way I see it this clearly says that RIM has absolutely no confidence in their developer base. Probably because that base is being destroyed by Apple’s Death Star and Android’s AT-AT walkers. Which is true. I would sympathize with RIM for jumping ship from the few developers they have, if not for the fact that this is primarily their fault. RIM makes their phones’ hardware and software, decided that they’re app platform would be built on Java. They have almost as much control over their devices as Apple does. Just not executed as well as Apple’s. I had been previously concerned about the safety of running Android apps on the BlackBerry platform. After all, a few apps in the Android Market were discovered to actually be malware. Daniel James did point out that if RIM keeps up with security on their end all your really doing is to “take the most dangerous criminals and put them in the most secure jail”.

The Point
So, what is the point? There are several. (1) No apps, no sales. RIM needs apps to help them succeed and gain lost market share. (2) last gen. doesn’t compare to next gen. Always being one lap behind doesn’t help you win a race. The smartphone race isn’t being run with Model-Ts either, but fast race cars. (3) Blackberry Messenger (BBM) isn’t good if there’s no one to message. Supposedly BBM is one of the few reasons people stick with Blackberries, but with more people moving from Blackberry to iPhone and Android phones everyday (with no BBM) BBM becomes less and less useful.

I would like to thank a person (who’s name I don’t know) in chat during an episode of This is my next podcast for providing the title of this article.

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