BlackBerry Under Threat

One of the unexpected news highlights of the US elections is Obama’s forceful battle to keep using his BlackBerry, which he won this week. The BlackBerry is a communications device built by RIM of Canada. I suspect Obama’s victory actually didn’t matter other than for his personal preferences, since these days several good substitutes are available, such as from Apple, Palm, Nokia and even Google.

Yet a few years ago, this wasn’t true. Dave Weston and I recently wrote a case study on the BlackBerry, and we learnt that in 2005, when RIM was told to shut down the BlackBerry network due to a patent infringement case, Washington DC insiders appealed to keep it running, claiming it was indespensible for the operation of the US government. Ironically, the US defense department cited National Security as the reason why the US government should be exempt from the shutdown — the same reason given now for why Obama should use a “more secure” device.

Only three years have passed, and while the BlackBerry is still the market leader, it is under serious threat. Customer satisfaction is lower than RIM might hope, and the recently launched BlackBerry Pearl is receiving unfavorable initial reviews due to glitches and buggy software. There are signs that the company isn’t particularly well run, for example when RIM was sued for patent infringement in 2000, its managers decided for a year that the best course of action was to simply ignore the lawsuit. On the developer side, there are also growing concerns. People I know who have tried developing software for the BlackBerry complain that it’s a nightmare, and it is much easier to develop applications for alternative platforms.

So, like for many firms that were once dominant in mobile telecommunications before them, RIM are now at risk of being overtaken. And once again, the main contenders are not brand-new firms, but existing firms with strong complementary skills, such as Apple with the iphone, and Google with the Android.

Author: kwanghui

http://kwanghui.com

5 thoughts on “BlackBerry Under Threat”

  1. You reference reviews of the BB Pearl, but I assume (and the link goes to reviews of) you mean the Storm?

    –Q

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  2. It is one of the immutable laws of marketing that “it’s better to be first than better”. IBM, Microsoft, Apple are examples of companies that originally were first, but so are DEC, Xerox, Palm and now perhaps RIM.

    At least in high tech it may be better just to come later, while pioneers get shot full of arrows. Now IBM, Microsoft and even Apple prove there’s big money in eating someone else’s lunch (to coin a phrase)!

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  3. There is no doubt that the competition in this industry has heated up.

    Apple and Google have launched (are launching) powerful Software Development Kits (SDKs) and application stores, which provide strong incentives for developers to create software and create incentives for companies to create for their platform.

    Now, despite the Storm and Pearl’s lack of success, the Blackberry Bold is receiving rave reviews. Its speed, in particular, is a feature which, coupled together with its email is powerful.

    So, the battle is far from over, and RIM has a strong stable market share to tap. The Android and the iPhone are not exactly in the same market, and by the time they address that RIM would have moved on too..

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  4. President Obama has two issues with the continued use of his Blackberry. One is security. The other is archiving. All communications made by senior American officials are supposed to be archived for the purposes of government transparency, accountability, and posterity. This is complicated when the president has a personal device that communicates by e-mail, text, and voice. Presidents have had these capabilities for many years, but it was never a personal device. I can only assume that some work around was created.

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