Is RIM Ready for Its Close-up?

Carl Weinschenk

Life is dramatic for Research In Motion and its iconic BlackBerry phone. Currently, the aging dowager is planning a comeback amidst a general feeling that the times have changed. Unlike “Sunset Boulevard” — in which it was clear that Norma Desmond was in denial and headed for a heart-breaking end — RIM might be able to put some of the pieces back together.

Two pieces of news — or, rather, one piece of news and one rumor — push the needle in contradictory directions this week. Both have to do with BlackBerry 10, which appears to be the platform that will decide the company’s fate.

On the positive side, PCMag says that RIM has started accepting apps for its 10K commitment program. The idea is simple: Every BlackBerry 10 app that is accepted to BlackBerry App World and earns $1,000 on its own will get at least $10,000 from the company.

This sounds proactive and upbeat. Unfortunately for the folks in Waterloo, the other piece of news is not. It suggests that folks may not have devices on which to use those sparkling new apps until spring.

Mobile & Apps and other sites report that Peter Misek, an analyst with Jefferies, predicted BlackBerry 10 won’t be seen until March. That would be the third delay; it initially was set for release this month. That was pushed back until after the new year — a move that elicited criticism because it misses the holiday season.

The prevailing feeling is that wireless carriers and phone makers would like to have a strong third player as a counterweight to Apple and Android. This is particularly true because Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility — a hardware vendor that will compete with other Android users — takes considerable shine off the open source operating system.

It is generally thought that the two prime candidates to play Shemp alongside Moe and Curly are RIM and Microsoft and its Windows Phone. Seen in that context, two delays are not a good thing in a number of ways: It gives the competitor a head start and simply looks bad.

This Motley Fool story posted at MSNBC outlines the struggle between RIM and Microsoft. Rob Danner writes that “[t]o say that RIM faces an uphill battle would be an understatement.” He suggests that one of the aces in the hole that Microsoft has is that it is, well, Microsoft:

Research in Motion has found itself competing against a technology giant in Microsoft. Microsoft has over $63 billion in cash on their balance sheet, so Microsoft has the time and resources to let Windows Phone 8 run its course. Microsoft could even run the division at a loss as they try to launch a new ecosystem with Windows 8 tablets and computers, Windows Phone 8, and a new Xbox software platform.

Danner wrote that before Misek suggested the delay into March. That isn’t likely to increase his faith in RIM. It is fair to point out that the delay is not a fact. It is a prediction from an analyst. If it does materialize, however, the eventual introduction — during spring training when the OS was supposed to be ready during the previous World Series — may be the corporate equivalent of RIM saying, “Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

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