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RIM and Nokia need a Manhattan… project, that is.

The Boy Genius has published an angst filled missive directed at RIM on the future of BlackBerry OS.  Here are a few choice quotes:

“RIM’s OS is more than antiquated, it’s borderline laughable.”

“There’s so many limitations to RIM’s OS, and even RIM’s data network that it offsets all the wonderful things they’ve managed to accomplish.”

“RIM delivers the same tired package in new hardware and people are starting to catch on. App World? Seriously? From every single developer I’ve spoke to, it’s a non-starter.”

“I’m just frustrated that RIM is going through hardware like it’s nobody’s business yet fails to deliver on the things that everyone wants. Screw business people, screw consumers, everyone wants a WebKit-based browser. It’s inexcusable RIM doesn’t get it.”

To be fair, you should read the whole piece.  I’ve quoted some of the most negative things Boy Genius has to say to make a point. The point is that the business of mobile telephony is a software business now, and no longer a hardware business. 

I’ve spent the last couple of days as a guest of Nokia learning about a tremendously exciting project they have under way in San Francisco which I’ll write about in the future. It’s obvious in conversation with the Nokia team here that the company has a tremendous and far reaching vision of what mobile can be about. However, Nokia suffers from a similar affliction to RIM.  Symbian OS is different from BlackBerry OS.  The same as BlackBerry OS, however, it is a maturing design that is now behind the state of the art. 

Both companies are known and respected as innovators.  RIM primarily gets credit for email, while Nokia introduced the world’s first GPS enabled phones, and the best camera phones in the market.  Both are being perceptually eclipsed because others have shifted the basis of competition from handset innovation to applications and the overall integrated user experience.  The basis of competition has shifted to the operating system and a war for developer mindshare.

RIM and Nokia have a challenge ahead of them.  As early smartphone innovators, they created this market.  They are undisputed leaders.   Others, however, are poised to steal the market away from them.  RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis and Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo ought to have an internal “Manhattan project” under way to counter the threat from Apple, Google/Android and Palm.  Perhaps more than any other aspect of that effort they should consider stealing a page from Apple, focusing their efforts on fewer new phones, operating system innovation, and more new software.

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Geoff July 1, 2009, 2:02 pm

    Well said Alec. I was having this same discussion with a colleague last week.

    We can – yet again – trot out Christensen and the "Innovator's Dilemma". RIM's success is so inextricably tied to their ability to deliver an enterprise email solution (text) that are unable or unwilling to recognize that the world is moving away from them (internet/video).

    That doesn't matter though, because it's just the consumer market that cares about quality mobile internet access – right? If RIM makes radical changes to the Blackberry platform to acknowledge the fact that most services, including email, are moving to a browser interface, won't they be cutting into their own profit generator? We know how the shareholders and the analysts love that idea.

    App World is a disaster. The Blackberry browser experience is embarassing. The native GPS application is laughable. Camera quality is mediocre at best.

    My colleague, who is a branding professional, believes that the only way out for RIM is to create a second brand to pursue this "new" market under a different flag without gutting the Blackberry brand for the corporate faithful.

    What do you think of that idea?

    • Alec July 2, 2009, 8:38 am

      I'm not sure RIM needs a new brand Geoff. BlackBerry is recognized the world over. I think what they need to do is to pay attention to the whole customer experience. Apple is killing it's competition with a single form factor, and a great software experience, when conventional wisdom had said that mobiles were commodity devices and that differentiation would come from personalization and a multitude of form factors.

  • Mitch Brisebois July 1, 2009, 7:22 pm

    The failure of RIM and Windows Mobile to evolve has boosted the fortunes of Opera and its Mini browser. Even in North America, Opera Mini is a must if you don’t have Safari! I have a surprisingly high number of customers who tell me they have no choice but to use Opera.

    I share Boy Genius’ fears. On this Canada Day, we don’t want RIM to flounder as a one-hit-wonder. Where is the “research” in R.I.M.???? c’mon – quit trying to buy hockey teams and invest in software!



  • Alec July 2, 2009, 12:41 pm

    Mitch – that was me in the days when I carried a BlackBerry. The iPhone and Nokia N series phones have webkit based browsers, however. These days RIM and Microsoft stand alone in their regrettably poor browsing experience.

  • Dom DeLuise August 12, 2009, 2:23 pm

    Whatever Mitch. You’re out there in left field as usual with more to say than ability to do. Smoke another one.

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