Is the Blackberry RIM becoming the Cracked-Berry RIM ?

by Jeff Wiener on January 5, 2010

blackberry-brokenSome of you might have read this post as it was inadvertently published last Thursday. I intended on publishing it today but made a scheduling error. Here it is again.

It’s been an unfortunate few months for RIM. Network outages aren’t viewed very favourably, especially when network security and reliability are two of the very features that are touted as competitive differentiators. What might be viewed as a simple few hour network outage might later be viewed in retrospect as the turning point for RIM.

RIM’s architecture and method of centralizing messages through their NOC (Network Operating Center) can be viewed both as a strength, when everything functions properly, and of course a weakness when it doesn’t. Centralization applies to BlackBerry Internet Subscribers only as corporate subscriber’s messages are routed through their own BES (Blackberry Enterprise Servers).

It wasn’t that long ago that RIM’s major competitors were not other Smartphone manufacturers but cell phone manufacturers with some email capabilities. Motorola, Nokia, Palm, Siemens … they all made Smartphones, but there was only ONE RIM. If you took business email on your handheld seriously there was only one place to turn. You needed corporate email – you purchased a Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES).

This market was RIM’s to lose. And then in rapid succession Apple introduces the iPhone, and Google introduces Android. This one-two punch is much mightier then the Microsoft / Palm punch RIM competed with a few years ago. Palm and Microsoft were easy competitors, both of whom have languished in the fields of oblivion. Palm is near dead, and Microsoft’s Mobile OS isn’t that far behind.

Most customers that walk into a traditional cell phone store looking for a Smartphone don’t know or care enough to ask about network security and reliability. It’s assumed. And the very features that RIM sells as their strengths are showing cracks, possibly large enough to allow their competitors to muscle in. These are the same consumers that post their lives on Facebook, access their on-line banking from public Wi-Fi, and click the “check this out” links their friends send them.

At first Apple’s iPhone was really a consumer toy with email capability. Then iPhone 3G release 2 was introduced to the market with better, but not perfect email capability. The iPhone is a beautiful piece of technology and next to Intel’s first microprocessor, the Apple iPhone will go down in the technology history books as one of the finest game changing pieces of technology this generation has witnessed.

And where does this leave RIM
Do they stick with their centralization concept ?

It’s hard for them to give this up. They have built their brand, concept and methodology around their NOC. And without the NOC what is a Blackberry ?

It’s hard for them to keep it, especially if they continue to have network down-time.

Why do I care ?

Because I am a passionate Canadian that cares about the Canadian technology landscape. 10 years ago Nortel was Canada’s number ONE technology leader. And now, they’re gone. Today RIM is the number ONE tech company in Canada, and they’re in a very precarious position. Yes, they understand corporate email, but, I’m afraid that unless RIM starts to understand the consumer market they will lose ground quickly to Apple and Google. RIM needs to understand the consumer market faster then Apple is starting to understand the corporate email market.

So, my initial question:
Is the Blackberry RIM becoming the Cracked-Berry RIM ?

Unfortunately, the answer is YES. And hopefully I am wrong, but, this one-two-three punch in network failure over such a short period of time could prove their downfall.

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