The knives are out for RIM’s top management, but the financial press is missing the boat as they focus on short-term results.
In 2002, the company remade the fledgling smartphone industry by releasing the first devices – Blackberry 5800 series – with integrated enterprise class email. The arms race was on, as Microsoft and Palm both quickly entered the market. The tidal wave they spawned engulfed the market, wiping out stalwarts like Motorola – for whom a phone was a voice device – in their path. RIM changed the meaning of “phone” and reaped the profits inherent in that change.
Five years later, along came Apple and changed the meaning of “phone” again. To Apple, “phone” meant the internet in the palm of your hand, plus a limitless supply of software customizations in the form of easy and cheap applications. Now RIM has become prey, instead of being the top predator in the food chain.
To flourish again, RIM must tune out the noise from the street, and re-imagine the mobile all over again. That’s where the press should be focusing their attention — looking for sign posts that indicate that this re-imagination is under way.
The Wall Street Journal published a piece in last Saturday’s paper titled RIM Hopes Cars Drive Playbook Sales. If this is a harbinger for future RIM efforts, then it’s one of those signs, whether you believe in the “auto to mobile” device connection that the story plays up, or not. This story says that RIM is again looking at the role of the phone, what the word “phone” means, and how they can change that meaning. How should a phone interact with other advanced electronics in the car, especially electronics running the same OS as that phone? Should it stream media to in-vehicle displays? Manage the electronics in the vehicle? Provide an easy portal to diagnostic information? Wirelessly find you a parking spot, and pay the bill? Wirelessly pay tolls without having to stop at toll booths? Transmit passport information at border crossings?
These are all good questions for RIM imagineers to ask.
I don’t know the answers to these questions. What I do know is that RIM, and their subsidiary and partner QNX, seem to be thinking about creating an experience beyond what we know as “phone” today. Just as RIM imagined a world where pagers, email, and telephone all worked together, and in the process reinvented the phone, they now imagine a world where that “phone” is the mobile device that is at the hub of our future digital existence.
- Investors call for RIM to shake up execs amid falling share (electronista.com)