Okay, so RIM really keeps missing the boat, and this recent insistence on BB10, and touchscreen-only devices first indicates that they really don't get it. I've loved my BlackBerry as an email and calendar appliance for over a decade. But more and more I find that I don't use it... I leave the house with my iPhone, and typically bring my BlackBerry along on trips. This morning as RIM's stock continued to get trashed, I noticed that I boarded a flight with just my iPhone and iPad... No BlackBerry in sight.
Clearly RIM's in trouble and listening to investors prattle on about hope for BlackBerry 10 or the promise of an OS licensing deal has gotten to be too much... There's a much simpler (though more painful) path RIM - I think - needs to follow if it wants even a chance at being competitive, so here it is:
First, there're a couple of hard truths to accept:
1) Today, a mobile OS has value if it has a solid app ecosystem. BlackBerry 7 doesn't, and BlackBerry 10 won't. So let's just drop the idea that the OS is valuable.
2) RIM makes way too many phones, and it has never made an all-touch phone that was very good. Focus is good. Distraction is bad... Especially when it's already led to poor products.
3) RIM's never made decent developer tools, and there's no reason to believe that's changed with BlackBerry 10 (what few third party apps exist for PlayBook tend to suck). This is really more to (1), but let's just be clear: RIM - on its own - is never going to build an app ecosystem.
4) Nobody cares about the NOC. Android and iOS are gaining in the enterprise without one, and RIM's falling behind rapidly even here.
So, with a new grasp of what's truly broken in mind, what needs to happen to give RIM a fighting chance?
1) Build BBM for iOS and Android. There was a time when BBM was a selling point for BlackBerry devices. That ended years ago, and iMessage and the onslaught of free cross-platform messengers have begun to eat BBM's lunch. And yet, BBM tends to be faster and more reliable than the competitors... So open it up, and get a much broader group of people actually finding something of value from the BlackBerry brand.
2: Make one phone. Just one. Kill the rest. Put in a global radio (like the new iPad), a keyboard and a touchscreen. One sku, one device to focus on... Without compromise, and with real single-pointed focus.
3: Kill the PlayBook. It is a terrible device, and it's been decimated by iPad and the legion of Android clones. PlayBook failed because there were no apps. Build a phone that proves you can compete in the new smartphone world, and maybe you can translate that into a tablet competitor at some point... Nobody can deliver the 10x improvement that RIM needs when their focus is split.
4: Switch to Android. If you admit you've lost the OS war, and need to get apps on your platform,
Android's the only real choice left. (Come on guys, BB10 is going to ship after the next major updates from iOS, Android, and even Windows-fucking-phone. The market won't bear a 4th platform with less than 2-3% market share by the end of 2013... Stop the fucking insanity!!!)
Build the core suite of apps on top of Android, and take advantage of getting to run all those Android apps not through some clunky re-packaging process, but directly. RIM have all the Android talent internally to do this. Maybe even do a deal with VMWare if you want virtualisation-driven security for enterprise customers... Either way, bite the bullet and make this switch.
5: Hire someone with vision, taste and a big stick to deliver beatings when compromise or excuses are made. Whether it's industrial design, user interface, or even core applications... Everything RIM's shipped in the last couple years has been filled with shoddy compromises that can only come from large groups making cover-your-ass-decisions. (e.g. How the hell did PlayBook ship with an email client that couldn't view attachments, and why wasn't that fixed even a year after launch?!? Surely somebody in the room was thinking "WTF?!")
Finally: go do this with <100 people. That's enough people to design and build something really special, and it'll kill the politics that seems to have been eating RIM alive these days. If they're not done in 9 months, RIM's probably toast anyway.
Is this enough to save RIM? Who knows... But it's clear that the company needs a radical reset and change of direction. First you need an honest view of what's broken. Then comes a tight focus that you can execute fiercely against.