Is RIM really done?

In a recent article at MobileCrunch John Biggs stated that RIM is done for and it will become a takeover target in a couple of years. Not denying the obvious problems that RIM faces and will face, I think that John exaggerates. Sure, the management call always fail and kill the company, but the company has the chances of surviving for a few obvious reasons.

While Blackberry may have lost a large amount of their fans, many customers in different markets still see RIM as an iconic brand, who’s products don’t really have competitors. Just look at many countries of Latin America and Asia and you will see how big of a stronghold RIM still has there. Even in USA and Europe many categories of customers still prefer Blackberry smartphones, mostly because of messaging. Yes, there are other solutions for messaging, but almost none of them are a direct competitor to BBM, and don’t forget the network effect of BBM, which is still huge.

More importantly, RIM is still growing and continues to make money, which literally buys more time. Lazaridis and Balsillie still have time to fix everything and ensure an independent future for RIM. RIM certainly isn’t in a position like Apple was 1997, when the company was losing money at such a high pace, that everybody thought it wouldn’t last another few month — but even then Apple not only survived, but also became the biggest tech company in the world.

And lets not forget that a large amount of RIM’s business is selling BES and BIS to corporations and individual consumers don’t really affect this part of the business. Yes, some companies may have moved from RIM’s corporate solutions, but most of them, who are paranoid (for a reason) about security, don’t really have other options. Plus you should remember that most corporations are very slow when updating their IT infrastructure — it takes them years, years that they will continue to be a client of RIM and make money for them. This also decreases the pressure on RIM and gives them more time.

RIM’s tablet efforts may have been unsuccessful so far, but the launch of the PlayBook with a brand new software platform clearly shows, that people at RIM at least understand, that they also need to compete in this new market and need a new software platform for their smartphones.

Yes, RIM’s short-term future is pretty bad, but good thing is that they can use the time to turn the company around and create a long-term future for it. Yes, RIM obviously needs a new software platform for their smartphones, which is why they bought QNX — they understand that it would take an unreasonable amount of time to make the platform by themselves from scratch. They also need compelling touchscreen slate phones, since this is clearly the type of product that the largest part of the market wants and what they weren’t able to produce before. Also, if RIM wants to survive as an independent player, they absolutely must push their smartphones to individuals, since they are now the biggest market for smartphones. This will also require RIM to rapidly develop and grow their new QNX-based ecosystem, since ecosystems are precisely what becomes more and more important to individual consumers.

It’s obvious all this won’t be easy, since many of RIM’s problems already exist for some time without adequate solutions, but it would be definitely wrong to say that it’s impossible to save the company and turn the tide on it’s declining influence in the mobile space. Failing companies were saved even in far worse conditions, so everything really depends on RIM’s management and how fast they can do all that, what is required. I think that RIM still has something like a year (or even maybe two years), before the mobile market starts to saturate to the point, when the ecosystems of their competitors are far beyond any reach for them, now will they use this time efficiently? — that is the real question.

Thoughts on tech