Research In Motion we hardly knew you. You have risen and crashed in less time than the BCS. News is out that you are looking for a buyer and will probably go private. This definitely marks the beginning of the end for a once powerful technology company. Here is a note to other tech companies out there looking to reassure people, you don’t give your investors or customers any warm fuzzies by taking out an ad in a newspaper. If you get news about your smartphone from a newspaper, then the phone you are looking for is the Jitterbug.
I had a Blackberry, a RIM 857, before it was a Blackberry, it was a very basic email device with no phone. It was very very cool since this was the early 2000’s when
Palm was king, but you had to dock their device to download your emails. Heck, lots of businesses were still using pagers. I remember talking to the other PC techs that I worked with about the new Treo that was introduced and could do email AND calls on the same device. What else could you possibly need? RIM saw that was where the market was going too. Their integrated email and phones which took them sky high as not only making businesses more productive but it became the first status symbol of the new century. RIM’s market share grew geometrically. Other device manufacturers trailed behind. At that time, Exchange required another server to push the emails out wirelessly so the entire enterprise was locked into one device maker.
RIM’s focus on business’s needs like security pushed it to a dominating 47% of the market in 2009. So how can a leader in the still growing cellphone market lose over a billion, that’s 9 zeros for you public school kids, dollars in the most recent quarter? Easy. They lost sight of the change in the market. Companies were the main buyer of devices. A Blackberry went from a perk to liability. Once Exchange didn’t need the RIM server and iOS and Andriod phones could securely deliver email, a “work” phone was just another device to keep up with. RIM never successfully shifted from a B2B model to the personal consumer model. Companies now are drifting away from the expense of buying phones and are adopting BYOD.
Ultimately, OS lock, meaning RIM never adopted either Andriod or iOS, is the official cause of death. App developers were never going to keep up code for 3 different systems. RIM should have taken a lesson from SEGA, who even remembers the Dreamcast? Other hardware manufacturers have to take notice, even you Apple, the device market is now fully commoditized. (That is a fancy business school word for “it don’t matter”.) Consumers don’t really care about the case or buttons or really even colors. Content is king. If you can show me what I want, whenever I want it, wherever I happen to be, then you win.
There several articles that float around the internet that detail all the pieces of hardware that a smartphone replaces. I won’t be able to make a complete list but here is a short one:
- Appointment Book
- MP3 Player
- DVD Player
- Microcassette Recorder
- Internet Devices
Where do we go from here? Well lots of people are rushing to wearable tech. The biggest seller this Christmas or next will probably be smartwatches. These devices are very limited at this time and they require a link to your phone. This is just the beginning though. Many computer scientists have begun working on implantable tech. Initially, that means small medically related hardware to monitor different systems in the body such as blood sugar or heart rate. There are some interesting applications out there that could create a phone that would be implanted in your body. Its a brave new world so take some time and say goodbye to RIM. This is definitely the end of an era, but its hard to see 10 years as qualifying as an era. Maybe Moore’s Law is true for history too.