How Blackberry can Save Itself

Today is the start of Blackberry Jam, which is RIM’s big kubaya with developers and such. If you know the pain RIM has dealt with in the last three years then you know that the company is likely less than a year away from being sold for parts. A quick summary…

Everyone used to use Blackberries (“Crackberry”). The iPhone came out. RIM’s leaders sat around thinking that the iPhone was a fad and wouldn’t live up to the hype. They continued with this belief for the next two years as Apple gobbled up market share. Android does the same. Nokia gets in bed with Microsoft and POOF, the world’s former King smartphone brand is now a punchline.

So, can it be saved? Yes. Can it be saved without being bought? Er…maybe.

For all its troubles, RIM has three four things going for it:

1. Security. In today’s IT environment there are still purchasing managers who wake up in cold sweats after dreaming that the company servers were hacked via a mobile breach. It’s not that iOS, Windows Phone, or ANdroid are EASY to hack…but RIM has a long reputation of providing top-notch enterprise security on its devices.

2. Enterprise footprint – Because of #1, there are a LOT of people that wear collared shirts to work that still carry Blackberries. Granted, most of them hate the experience but the device is still on the company log nonetheless. These devices will be refreshed eventually, and while the current state of affairs indicates that most of them WON’T be new Blackberries, it never hurts to be the incumbent.

3. Keyboard. Once upon a time RIM made really SLICK hardware. My BB Bold 8900 is my all time favorite phone in terms of hardware. The keyboard was large and the texture of it made typing an absolute breeze. I could type without looking on my Bold as well as I can type without looking on a laptop.

4. Email. Even with the advancements iOS and ANdroid have made in their email systems, Blackberry still has the BEST mobile email. It syncs, it works correctly, it can be filed easily, it saves, it discards, it does everything you would ever want.

So, what does this mean for the future of RIM? FOr starters, RIM needs to cling to its strengths (above) and abandon any ideas of being a “cool” brand like Apple. The “we can be like APple!” thing nearly killed Dell 4 years ago and it is probably going to kill RIM. But until it does, RIM (and Dell, and HP, and HTC, etc) need to quit behaving like their products should carry a price premium like Apple. Next, RIM needs to find some friends….FAST. Finally, RIM needs to build a developer ecosystem ASAP.

In the past year or so, RIM has released crummy devices with crummy software and had no luck getting developers to make Apps for the BB App World Store Zone whatever its called. So its not like my ideas above are new….but how to accomplish them is.

1. Don’t issue any phone without a physical keyboard. As much as I love my iPhone I greatly miss the keyboard of my 8900. There are people out there that carry an iPhone or Android device AND a Blackberry just because of the BB keyboard making it so much easier to type. The fact that someone would carry two phones because of a single-feature that the 2nd phone is superior at (the keyboard of a BB) speaks volumes.

2. Partner up with Dell. I have advocated that Dell buy RIM for some time. Even without an outright purchase, the two brands could work well together. Dell has moved hardcore in to enterprise service sales. They sell storage and hosting and tons of services with fancy words like “Cloud” and “integrations” (plural) and “synergy”. It wouldn’t be hard for Dell to start adding mobile offerings to those huge “solutions” they are selling to enterprise. For all my sniping about Dell, they have a top-notch sales force that is adept at getting lots of different products in to lots of different places. I have no doubt that Dell’s SMB and Enterprise teams could sell the hell out of mobile IF they could sell it as part of a robust package.

3. Partner up with Microsoft. Now we’re getting somewhere. Microsoft’s investment in Nokia is likely going to pay off. By all accounts, the new Windows Phone (and Metro UI) along with Nokia’s new devices are beginning to resonate with customers. Microsoft is also getting a lot more traction with the developer community than RIM ever did. Ditch the crummy Blackberry OS with its crummy browser and crummy app selection. Go with Windows Phone.

With these partnerships, RIM will no longer be an autonomous brand with complete vertical integration of hardware and software. And that’s FINE. A device with the best keyboard available, using top-notch software that integrates with the desktop, a growing app ecosystem, and a sales force capable of getting RIM’s existing enterprise customers to re-up with a new generation of RIM devices.


One Response

  1. That’s it… Ha. Easier said than done and BB is losing leadership in all their strengths. This includes the most important one – security. I hope RIM makes it. I love competition but they won’t…

    RIP RIM.

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