RIM: A Floor Wax Or A Dessert Topping?

There was that great Saturday Night Live commercial spoof for Shimmer Floor Wax:

Dan Aykroyd: New Shimmer is a floor wax!
Gilda Radner: No, new Shimmer is a dessert topping!

In the end, it was both. “New Shimmer, for the greatest shine you ever tasted!”

A recent announcement about the debut of RIM’s iPad Challenger made me think about just how much RIM is falling behind with their mobile devices and whether they are even focusing on the right business. Are they a device company or are they a mobile infrastructure company?

Why are they in the device business? Aren’t they really an infrastructure company?

Back in January I wrote a blog iPhone Sits on the Cusp of Consumer and Enterprise where I talked about how RIM still had a monopoly on enterprise mobile. Since that time I have seen great strides by other vendors in making a compelling case for Blackberry alternatives.

As a long-time Blackberry user (I am on my 4th, a Blackberry Tour) I have sat and watched the world pass me by: Apple, Motorola, HTC have all come up with very tempting mobile devices. But I stuck with my Blackberry because it was an “enterprise” device.

BlackPadMeanwhile, RIM has tried to keep up with the “consumer” devices. The Storm was so bad it was immediately followed by the Storm II – not much better. Now we’ve got the Torch. Jury is out but it doesn’t look good.

Why is RIM the darling of the enterprise? It’s not because they have the best devices. It’s because they have an architecture and infrastructure that appeals to the IT department. They give IT what they want most: security and control.

In a global climate of specialization and intense competition I constantly urge businesses to focus on their strengths to remain competitive. RIM’s message delivery and application management system is still the heart of their value proposition. They would do well to leave the devices to those who clearly have a better handle on them and focus on what they do best.

  • Great point. I love the integration of my blackberry with the enterprise server, and I know IT guys love it too, along with security and all the other back end stuff. But I end up using a 4 year old phone which is great for email and calls but really can’t do anything else. I’m not sure why RIM has such a hard time making a good current device (I mean how hard can it be?), but they seem unable, so why not focus on what they are good at? Of course, that means a big revenue stream would go away, and Wall Street would punish them while waiting for the software licensing revenue to kick in.

    • Perhaps they could grow the business more if they focused on what they were *best* at?

  • Hey I saw that SNL skit, funny! Thanks for posting. Just browsing the freshly pressed and figured I would drop by.


  • Nice post! Love the Twitter example. Was happy to read something without any jargon.
    RIM’s doing exceptionally well for itself. 100 million sales. Yes, maybe the response towards certain products like Storm, Storm II maybe bad, but they’re making up for it currently with Curve and Bold.
    I wholeheartedly agree with the fact that RIM should just restrict itself to making PDA’s and the likes of that. As for making IT guys happy, yes they are super happy with the security. But not governments.
    The high encryption technology is a huge problem for a country like India which is under constant security threat.
    ” Indian authorities had asked Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian manufacturer of BlackBerry to provide them access to the encryption technology following the concern that it could be used by terrorist and rebel groups to carry out proxy war attacks on India.” – Wikipedia.


    • Thanks, Bakbakee. Encryption is RIM’s strength and weakness.

  • I feel that I have a bit of perspective here, because I’ve been on both sides of the argument. As a former iPhone using blackberry convert turn iPhone relapser I can tell you RIMM, is in trouble (and also as an investment type entrepreneurial guy). I’ve had my iPhone 4 connected to my firm’s Microsoft Exchange Server since the phone came out, and it represents a significant change. I have been seeing a major shift in finance as more and more people are converting to iPhones. IT departments are catching on to the fact that the iPhone can fit almost as neatly into their plans as a Blackberry.

    The fact is, the strength Enterprise is fading and RIMM trying to get into these other spaces (consumer, apps, etc) to gain some sort of traction. They are flailing. The Blackberry was a Blackberry before it was a phone. They made it a phone. And, for the better of a decade all they have been able to do is dress up the same idea. They’ve taken features that became popular on other devices or operating systems and integrated them into theirs (think Microsoft), all the while the have been devoid of innovation.

    • Andre, Great point about Blackberry being a dedicated device before it was a phone. And yes, like Microsoft they are attempting to keep up with innovation from other companies. Thanks for the comment.

  • JM

    Agreed…I think RIM would do very well to license access to their services rather than trying to compete in the consumer device market right now. They apparently don’t understand what people want or how to make it.

    Whatever happened to BlackBerry Connect? Heck, there was even a full BlackBerry Application Suite in the works for a few platforms like Windows Mobile and NOKIA smartphones.

    • JM,

      It’s a mistake many businesses make — not understanding your market and what makes you special. There is a temptation to be everything to everybody, a path then generally leads to failure.

      • I think this is more acutely shown in the release of the Playbook than anything else, the ‘me too’ factor – we must have a tablet. But in doing this RIM have made a vital error, the form factor (in my humble opinion anyway). a tablet must be just that, a large screen estate to play with and display full documents, full web sites (ok with or without flash !) and be an alternative to a laptop for those on the move. For me the Playbook is an oversized phone, without the phone bit :-)

  • Oliver,

    I agree. There is a need for a tablet device and a need for a phone device. Shrink the tablet down too much and you get diminishing returns (pun intended).


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