RIM’s Problem: Too Many Devices. Not Enough Focus (And A Bit Of Denial).

  • July 12, 2011 9:37 pm

By now you’ve no doubt skimmed over the content from RIM’s shareholder meeting that wrapped up earlier tonight. While a lot was covered, one thing in particular stood out — RIM’s plans to push 7 new BlackBerry devices into the market in “rapid succession”. On one hand, RIM is trying to cover as many of the checkboxes as they can. They want to cater to anyone, everyone and every personal want/need. What they can’t do, however, is focus too many company resources on any one project. This is why RIM still doesn’t get it…
 
3-4 years ago when BlackBerry was “the” phone — before iPhones and Android devices took over, and before touchscreens were worth using — RIM had it good. They were able to continuously push out new hardware and cater to various different sectors of the market. But then the iPhone came along with it’s single device, multi-user touchscreen that did away with the need for a dozen different hardware packages and consolidated everything into one. But that was just the hardware and local software. In 2008 when Apple unleashed the App Store, Apple literally ran away with the mobile market and caught everyone with their pants down.

Fast forward several years and things have evened out a bit. Android is quite the force to be reckoned with and Apple’s most closest competitor to worry about. WP7 is still an infant but has potential. The same can be said about HP’s webOS — there’s potential. And while BlackBerries still own a generous portion of the market, their market share in the last 6-12 months has begun slipping — fast.

Moving back to Android and in relation to BlackBerry: In terms of sheer app numbers they’re catching up to Apple. When taking user base into account, they’ve already won (depending on which analyst and charts you look at). But the quality of said apps isn’t there. Why? Too many different pieces of hardware.

So it is the same with RIM, albeit in a slightly different light. RIM doesn’t have 3rd party manufacturers pumping out new phones and getting in the way with their own rules, stipulations and tacky software. Instead, RIM is getting in their own way and shooting their own feet. Seven devices? Really? Why? If RIM scaled things down to two or three major devices consumers would have a lot less to keep track of and get more to get excited about. RIM’s resources could be better spent on making those 2-3 devices exponentially better than their current 5+ device run. (Jack of all trades, master of none — anyone?) And developers would benefit the most — no more developing for handfuls of different hardware.

Outside of apps, the entire ecosystem grows increasingly difficult to bring together the more there is striated and fragmented it becomes with different hardware. We referenced Android before, but it’s actually the perfect example of too much. Look at all the different phones that are out there and how they vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and carrier to carrier. Case in point: The Samsung Galaxy S has four different iterations on four different carriers. Things such as button placement, which buttons to include, and which features on the phone to disable are done at will. And this is done on the same phone. Now take into account multiple different phones on different carriers and you can see how fractured things can become. Carrier individuality is killing Android.

RIM thankfully doesn’t have it quite as bad thanks to in-house hardware. But the point remains: RIM cannot achieve the monumental success they want based on how they currently do things — they cannot expect to get the same result that Apple gets out of a 1-2 phone yearly cycle in 5-10 phones sometimes developed in as little as 6-8 months.

The ideal vision: RIM cutting the crap and focus on 2-3 truly innovative, competitive BlackBerry devices powered by the next-gen QNX OS and featuring some of the latest hardware with style that oozes the sophistication and high-end that RIM was once known for. Can they do it? Do they want to do it?

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Gadget lover, smartphone collector, and beer connoisseur. I’ve been writing about gadgets for three years now and loving every minute of it. Outside of the digital landscape, I enjoy being active outdoors. I’m always up for a good conversation, so feel free to drop me a line!