RIM is Dead? Long Live The BlackBerry

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Jacob Jegher
Before I get into any detail here, let me confess. I'm a Canadian and a very happy iPhone and iPad user. I'm here to state some facts about why the BlackBerry isn't going away anytime soon. Sorry Apple fan boys! Last December, I published the report, Corporate Mobile Banking: Revolutionizing Cash Management. The report goes into a lot of detail regarding mobile banking trends and predictions for the corporate market. In conducting research for the report, I unearthed a few key trends that are especially relevant to RIM's business and to banks:
  • When interviewing bankers regarding their corporate customers' requirements and desires, pretty much everyone indicated that their corporate clients are almost all BlackBerry shops.
  • About 350 people attended my session on corporate mobile banking at the AFP Conference last fall. This is a conference that is geared towards large corporates. I polled the audience to ask how many are using BlackBerry devices. A sea of hands was raised to the point where it was difficult to pinpoint someone not using a BlackBerry.

What does all this mean? Very simply, BlackBerry emerged as a device for the corporate user, expanded to attack the consumer market, and is now going to have to shrink back to its corporate roots. Don't get me wrong here, there have been some serious casualties on their end, and they have been unable to keep up and compete in the fast paced mobile world. Fact is though, they are still entrenched in the corporate environment. This leads to several key questions that need to be answered.

  • Can RIM hold onto their foothold in the corporate market? One can easily argue that this is already eroding. Pointing back to my informal survey of the audience at my AFP Conference session, I asked how many of them would be switching from the BlackBerry to something else over the next year. About 35 hands shot up, or roughly 10%. That is MASSIVE erosion, and it has the potential to erode further. However, we all know that large corporations move extremely slowly and it takes quite a bit of time for new devices to be supported, regardless of what the users' intentions are.
  • Will BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Knock RIM Out of The Corporate Picture? Likely not. I believe that BYOD is a misnomer as it creates a separation between "church and state" that most people don't want or like. I could go on about this further, but you will have to read about it in my corporate mobile banking report.
  • Can RIM Maintain its Foothold in the Enterprise Software Market? BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) is what corporations use to manage and secure their fleet of Blackberries. RIM has seen the writing on the wall for some time and knows that folks want to switch over and are switching over. Supporting a myriad of devices is a nightmare for corporations and they already have invested in and standardized on BES. In May 2011, RIM announced the acquisition of Ubitexx. This will allow firms with Blackberry Enterprise Servers to support other devices like the iPad or iPhone. It’s a huge and risky move for RIM, but it’s win-win. RIM has accepted the fact that iOS devices are selling like hotcakes to business users; corporations get to stick to the popular, entrenched and secure BES. This also lines up nicely with BYOD initiatives. If RIM can pull this off remains to be seen.

I'm not here to comment on the stock, or anything financial in nature. You can be the judge on if RIM can recover or reinvent itself. And yes, BlackBerry dropped the ball on device and OS evolution. The fact is however, that the BlackBerry dominates in the enterprise and this isn't going away anytime soon. Banks are going to have to be aware of this as they develop corporate mobile banking solutions. Can RIM maintain its foothold? That's a totally different story that I invite you to weigh in on.


  • I don't hold out much hope for RIM unless the strategy with BES and Ubitexx really takes off. As far as devices are concerned, they are still on the wrong path. I upgraded devices last week to replace an EOL unit. The new unit is a total disaster, whereas the older unit would last 3 or 4 days on a charge, the new unit doesn't last even a full day, and that's without using the phone, just getting corporate email. If this trend continues, even BES may not help RIM.

  • Jacob - I agree with your assessment on their need to re-trench back to their corporate roots, but it might be too late. People are used to carrying multiple devices, but not out of desire - out of need. As other devices fulfill the corporate needs, one will be replaced ... most likely the Blackberry.

    After reading your blog post, I saw this tweet (not at all related to your post, but indirectly thought it was interesting)

    Alison Levine ? @Levine_Alison
    "Apparently Canadians still love RIM despite the sales implosion http://buswk.co/H9oAol via @BW. REALLY? Get over it Canada. #blackberrysucks"

  • Abdul and Chris - thanks for your comments.

    Agree, the risks are high and device innovation has been a failure. It will take some time though for the switch to take place.

    Thanks for the link Chris. RIM has lost its lead in Canada as well - http://www.informationweek.com/news/mobility/smart_phones/232700087

  • Good post Jacob. Two years ago I worked closely with a number of developers that built apps for Blackberry App world. From my conversations with them, the demise of the Blackberry as a consumer device was written all over the wall. It is a difficult platform to develop for, and downloads of applications on Blackberry app world, at that time, were outpaced by Apple by at around 10 to 1, giving developers even less incentive to build for the RIM platform.

    For all the reasons you've mentioned, the corporate market is more entrenched, and will be a cash cow for RIM for a while longer. However, I believe that quality apps for the corporate market will increasingly become an important factor in handset selection for companies, and unless RIM creates a platform that's more compelling for developers, app quality and selection will remain an issue. RIM needs to address this issue or sadly the attrition will continue.

  • Very well stated Daniel and good insight. I completely agree.

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