When Research In Motion unveiled its PlayBook tablet a lot of heads were turned out of puzzlement instead of amazement because the tablet was such an un-RIMish move. The general sentiment was confusion regarding the tablet itself, which still lingers today: is the PlayBook for the general consumer or for the business/enterprise user? RIM didn’t draw a clear line between the two when it introduced the device and there has been no strong support for either side of the coin. If the PlayBook is the “best of both worlds” solution then many people can’t seem to wrap their brains around that concept. With the PlayBook now just a few weeks away from release, Reuters has published a special report taking us down RIM memory lane by analyzing both RIM’s successes and pitfalls. It also provides some juicy quotes from former insiders and investors alike. Luckily for you, dear reader (not Dear Leader), The Noisecast is full of professionals that will break things down for you, saving you from reading the five page report that will surely prove to be an enormous challenge for your self-diagnosed ADD. I also promise that it will be awesomer (that’s a word now) than the original report as well.
Mike Lazaridis, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Research In Motion pioneered the wireless industry for enterprise and consumer solutions alike with the Blackberry in 1999. What made the Blackberry so awesome was its Enterprise Server which handles wireless email and messaging in an almost unchallenged capacity to all other alternatives. It was fast and secure and its users knew that if one sent an email or a message via the service, delivery was guaranteed no matter where you were. Little has changed with the Blackberry service, including its product line, since 1999 which is either a testament to the timelessness of the service and the devices or one of its biggest downfalls. Now before I continue I want to make you very aware that the tech industry has a huge tendency of being full of Monday morning quarterbacks in its fanbase, its reporters, and its investors. So while it may be obvious to us today what decisions made by people were wrong, we should reserve our Y U NO MAKE OBVIOUS CHOICE judgments to the best of our abilities.
Robert J. Fraser, president of Fraser, Popovski & Associates Inc. and long time consultant for RIM and the wireless industry, tried to convince Lazaridis to move the Blackberry devices to a larger display back in 2005, when larger displays were becoming economically feasible for wireless devices. Obviously he was unsuccessful and RIM continued to churn out small display successors to its Blackberry line. In 2007 a magical and revolutionary device known as the iPhone hit the market with a large touchscreen display and in a sentence that would make our own Ron Cassel proud, Reuters wrote that “the smartphone, once the domain of RIM and its addicted white-collar workers, had gone mainstream” (that was the hipster joke, in case you didn’t catch that). A former RIM employee said:
RIM didn’t expect iPhone to take off the way it did because it was so badly flawed from day one…They believed that users wanted great battery life, great security, great mail handling, minimal network use, and a great keyboard experience. They never expected users didn’t care.
So RIM made a bad choice. We’ve all made bad choices before though. I know I have. Now I’m paying child support for some snotty little blond brat who lives in San Francisco. Unfortunately I can’t go on record saying that because my ass will be crawling with lawyers so I formally redact my previous statement. Anyway, the talk of child support, lawyers, and ass somehow brings us back to the PlayBook, a device that is already late to the game. Or is it? The report states that sources close to Lazaridis say that he never believed that a tablet fit into the Blackberry family but here we are weeks away from the launch of the first Blackberry branded tablet. So it is late? Perhaps, but industry analyst Geoff Blaber says that “history has taught us to be very careful of writing RIM off. By the end of the year [he expects] to see a pretty big change in terms of what they’re offering.” Ooooooh, ominous…and because of that, fuck you Geoff.
The PlayBook is built on the QNX microkernel, the same kernel that powers things like car infotainment, Cisco routers, medical apparatuses (not apparatii), nuclear plants, and other such minutiae. RIM is planning on deploying this kernel to its future Blackberry products as well and is planning on giving them seamless integration capabilities with said devices (remember kids, don’t text while operating a nuclear power plant). The big picture about QNX is that RIM has tailored its development environment to be very similar to that of Android. Remember those reports about the PlayBook possibly running Android apps? Android developers can choose to either easily rewrite their apps for the PlayBook or they can use the supposed built in emulator that will do that for them on the fly. As they say in France, this is “mucho bueno.”
OK, RIM is taking third party development seriously now, but where does this leave its enterprise solutions? The article states that when you mention “enterprise solutions” to a RIM exec today, bricks are shat (their words, not ours. Enterprise solutions, that is, not the shitting of bricks). Business software company SAP has already grabbed up 3,500 iPads and is telling its 100,000 corporate customers to ditch Blackberry completely. It has developed a system called Afaria which lets the iPhone, the iPad, and Android devices from Samsung to seamlessly integrate with one another and to play nice in a completely secure environment. This not only further dwarfs the might of RIM’s enterprise solutions but it encourages companies to invest in whatever smartphone or tablet they want with little fear that they will be locked into a certain brand or device. And in today’s global business environment, flexibility is of great importance (I know you probably figured that out on your own, but I like being a pompous ass).
So RIM, Y U NO BANKRUPT YET? You can thank the world for that. Although RIM is under fire here in North America, its market share is growing tremendously everywhere else because of Blackberry’s Enterprise Server. It is estimated that RIM raked in $35 billion in handset sales in North America during 2010 but the rest of the world ponied up $135 billion. In emerging markets where monthly income is either equivalent to or a fraction of what an average worker makes in a week here, people can’t afford shiny smartphones with unlimited data plans. However, there is a growing necessity to be connected via the internet. RIM’s Enterprise Server can stomp down email to one-fifth of its original size and can reduce usage bandwidth to two-thirds of what it would be without the Enterprise Server. And since Blackberry Messenger is free this is a huge factor of attraction to those who rely on low cost and prepaid wireless solutions in their respective homelands.
So there you have it, a glimpse at the past, present, and future of Research In Motion and the Blackberry. Of course if you want to read the full Reuters article feel free to hit the source link. You’ll be disappointed at the lack of awesome it can provide you compared to our analysis of the same article. What’s that? Everyone else is reading that article? Well in the words of Mike Lazaridis:
Just because the rest of the world wants to go one way doesn’t mean it’s the right way and we will continue to chart our own course. Don’t let the hype cloud the truth.