August 2 2012, 7:16 AM
RIM Has undoubtably gone through a series of rough times as of late. Their products have struggled somewhat to gain the foothold they expected in the North American/Western European markets, they have struggled with public perception, and have hit financial walls. With mass layoffs on the verge of being carried out, and a delay on BB10 to 2013, RIM has what appears to be an impossible path to success in front of it.
But, there are a few things that they have going for them that could make the transition work. There is no really victory to be had in the short term, but in the long term, they do have plenty of potential to regain market viability.
- They still have a lot of money in the bank. This should never be discounted. This may not be "Apple" money, but they don't have the massive Apple infrastructure to support either. Money in the bank means a definite asset that can be leveraged in a variety of ways, whether it be through investment, to pay expenses, or to help secure credit/loans.
- They still have a massive dedicated user base. I believe it's 75+ million current BBM users at the moment. Now, it's hard to tell how lucrative that is or where these people are spread, but that user base is a strong asset for potential growth.
- THe company is modular and could be re-designed to better adapt to the market. With services like BBM, BIS, and BES coupled with hardware development and other software development, they could change their business model to meet different demands.
- They own QNX. This is actually important since that (either as a product of its own or along with the upcoming BB10) could see a lot of use in non-traditional places.
- RIM has a strong presence in quite a few developing countries with some of their lower end phones. This may not be what saves them, but it could very well be what keeps them going in the short term.
The company is clearly banking on BB10 being a game changer. They are strongly putting their eggs into that basket. From what I have seen, they may not be wrong. The previews of BB10 have shown a lot of potential, great innovation, and some truly remarkable features. The question is: will it be too little, too late? What can the do in the meantime to make a transition from BB7 to BB10, and not have to use up their cash reserves to survive?
- They really need to leverage current BB7 devices better. The Bold 9900 needs to be the clear flagship, but priced ultra competitively. At $600 + (depending on carrier) it simply isn't priced to compete with high end Androids or the iPhone. Slash the price to a level that makes people stop and think about it. $300-$350 would be my guess to the sweet spot for pricing. Work with the carriers to make it happen, and possibly sweeten the deal with a prom bundle of some sort.
- By the same token, drop the price on the Curve 9360 to $199. Make it cheap enough that people don't think twice about it.
- Promote the hell out of those devices. The Bold can be fun and business like at the same time, while the curve can be hip and sexy, targeted towards the younger market. Emphasize the hell out of the keyboard and how social the device is.
- Open up to the possibility of a strategic partnership with a content provider. Think something like Amazon, that can fill BB devices (either BB7 or BB10) with all of the media content they could want.
- Work with that partner to make the Playbook more attractive. With it's ability to run Android applications, partnering with Amazon to make this device more in line with the Kindle Fire, and cross promote the hell out of it could turn it into an instant success over night.
RIM has all the potential in the world to succeed, they just need to shift their view a little to make it happen. They can't compete directly with iOS and Android with their current product lineup priced the way they are, but they can adapt to make their products much more attractive. They can change the perception people have of RIM being old school and out of touch by taking the opportunity to get more of their products into people's hands.
The road to be BB10 will be a tough one, but RIM has the potential to spread their current products whilst creating interest in their future products. They have a good chance right now to recapture some momentum, and curb the negative press they've received. RIM is a company with a future, they just need to set a good path towards it.