RIM's Tablet Night Terrors

Picture this. There's a hot new market adjacent to one you've dominated for years. You have the design team, engineering staff, retail distribution, and corporate buyer relations to build and sell that adjacent product. (Okay, so you don't have all the software skills or platforms you need, but you can buy those, right?)

Wouldn't you go for it? I mean, bet the business on it? Sure you would.

Now picture this. You ship a v0.7 tablet and call it done. You ship 500,000 units to corporate resellers and consumer retailers. And you talk about the tablet ecosystem that you have and are building. Then, just one quarter later, you ship 200,000 units to your channel. (Remember that Apple sold, not shipped, sold, 9.25 million iPads in the same period.)

Wouldn't that give you night terrors?

Here's what RIM needs to do to wake up and face reality:

  1. Scale back expectations and promises and revert to its natural market: highly secure, regulated, and locked down industries. Defense comes to mind. This will reset expectations and get the media bull's-eye off your back.
  2. Pull out all the stops to get QNX secured, BES-controlled, and deployed on a new generation of touchscreen phones. This will plug your product holes.
  3. Get the Android compatibility down cold. Don't replicate that ecosystem of content and apps. Embrace it. This will let you appeal to the consumer inside every employee.
  4. Make BES the center of your commercial universe. Deliver more connectors to SAP, Oracle, Salesforce, the cloud, and beyond that Apple or Google. This will attract corporate developers and buyers.

With those steps in motion, the night terrors will subside and a more rational, though smaller, company will emerge into the light of 2012.


Android compatibility may not be an option

It's not clear to me that RIM actually has item 3 "embrace Android compatibility" as a choice. I believe the Google App store is a proprietary piece of Android. As an ISV, the first step is to actually finish the PlayBook, esp. w.r.t. Developer SDKs. Developing on PlayBook is a horror show. At least make it simple to port existing BlackBerry apps to the PlayBook. Instead, RIM has abandoned their ISVs, making years of investment valueless. This has p.o.'ed a lot of RIM ISVs (including us). The current development platform for PlayBook has three different environments, none of which allow re-use of existing BlackBerry code. Mortal mistake.

Does that approach just buy RIM time?

I am wondering if this approach just buys RIM some time as opposed to being a sustainable strategy? In many cases the more consumer-focused platforms of iOS and Android already meet the security requirements of many organizations and along with a good Mobile Device Management platform they will continue to close the gap with RIM which means the pool just keeps shrinking. Unless RIM can develop an EcoSystem that grabs the attention of consumers and developers then they are on limited time and potentially should consider what Nokia has had to do and get out of the SmartPhone OS space and focus on devices. I understand they may have a foothold in the Government and Military environments for some years to come, but I'm not convinced having a strategy where you just focus on a shrinking market segment is a sustainable one.