RIM: The Long Goodbye Continues, or Prelude to a Comeback?

Carl Weinschenk

One of the longest running — and in many ways most melancholy — dramas in the telecom world is the struggle of once-dominant Research In Motion and BlackBerry to hang on as the world around it changes.

Observers have suggested that the release of the next iteration of the operating system — BlackBerry 10 — will go a long way to determining whether the company will survive. In its report on this year’s BlackBerry Jam Americas conference in San Jose this week, CNNMoney pointed out that a delay announced in June in the OS from late this year to early next could have been — and presumably may still be — the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

But the CNNMoney story goes on to say that the end is not necessarily at hand, at least from RIM’s perspective:

Fast forward three months. RIM spent this week at its BlackBerry Jam Americas developer conference trying to prove those naysayers wrong. The company released a new update to the developer tools for BlackBerry 10 and revealed that the number of BlackBerry subscribers grew 2 million over last quarter to 80 million worldwide.

InformationWeek’s Eric Zeman does a nice job of deconstructing comments made at the conference by CEO Thorsten Heins. Essentially, Zeman suggests that the best-case scenario is a mid-January launch. There are two points that stand out in Zeman’s analysis: A lot could happen in terms of carrier testing to delay things further and the product, if it comes out in January, will meet a nearly saturated post-holiday market:

With such a strong push from these competitors, RIM's BB10 launch might be too little too late. Approximately 250 million cellphones will be sold in the next three months. The vast majority of them will not be BlackBerrys. After this holiday season has come and gone, just how many people will still be in the market for a BlackBerry?

There has been a lot of bad news for a long time for BlackBerry and RIM. ZDNet’s Larry Dignan — who joined others in taking some funny shots at a promotional video RIM released at the conference — takes a contrarian stand and looked at what BlackBerry 10 has going for it. He noted that BlackBerry still has a huge installed base and understands the enterprise and developers will get a generous split if the device thrives. He also says the new OS seems pretty good and most people would welcome a third player beyond Apple and Android. That spot, presumably, is up for grabs between RIM and Microsoft.

The long-running drama really shows no signs of ending. The takeaway from Zeman’s analysis is that the company hurt itself badly by missing the holiday season. At the same time, Dignan’s points that there is a desire for a third player, the apparent differentiation of the OS and the affinity people have for comebacks and underdog stories suggest that RIM will be given every opportunity to right the ship.



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