Can RIM Stay Relevant?

by Jordan Richardson on June 28, 2010

When Research in Motion delivered its quarterly results last Thursday, the reaction was mixed. Revenues were on the lower end of expectations, said co-chief exec Jim Balsillie, but profits still beat analyst predictions.

In response to the results, many analysts began to question whether RIM was still a relevant force in a growing marketplace. With more Android-powered smart phones making their way in than ever before, analysts say that RIM lacks that powerful and popular device with the “wow” factor that other phone makers are developing.

Without a “wow” device, “RIM’s devices look stale. They look dull,” says PCMag analyst Sascha Segan.

The Waterloo company is rumoured to have some new devices on the horizon, but Balsillie was mum about any possibilities when he revealed the quarterly results. “I’m just not going to talk anything more about our products or our launches until our time,” he said.

According to analysts, RIM’s main concern should be the Android devices gaining market share. Currently RIM and Apple are one and two in the market, respectively, but the gap between the two is ever-increasing and Android is climbing while RIM is essentially sitting tight.

RIM has built a considerable foundation early on through appealing largely to business clients. It’s hardly surprising that they were recently given an tribute by journalists, as their appeal to professionals is well worth taking note of. But RIM’s general appeal to more casual consumers and users may be dwindling due to a lack of fresh “wow” products.

Naturally the opinions of a few analysts always come with opposition and the numbers for RIM do pack some encouraging details. The company shipped their 100 millionth BlackBerry in the quarter, for instance, and added 4.9 million new BlackBerry subscribers for a total subscriber base of 46 million. RIM expects to add similar subscriber numbers in the second quarter of 2010.

It should also be noted that RIM is increasing its presence in European, Asian and Latin American markets. While they do indeed face more competition in North American markets, their global presence does seem to be mounting rather well.

So can RIM stay relevant? Do they need a “wow” device to keep their place on top of the market?

A “wow” device never hurts, of course, and Research in Motion would surely benefit from some buzz around a key product. But the BlackBerry is still a very popular device and it’s still powering through many markets, even as Android phones are making inroads with a number of North American carriers. It’s clear where the challenge is coming from for RIM; now the Waterloo boys just have to do something about it.

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Matt Klassen June 28, 2010 at 1:50 pm

I have a feeling we may be writing stories like this after every RIM quarterly. 🙂

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