Why RIM went blooey (Part two)

Here’s the continuation of the dozen reasons why I think Research In Motion is in trouble:

• Seven: Too few at the top. For most of the last ten years, upper management at RIM remained  little changed. I admire a lean machine but as the company grew from a bit player to a Goliath, more talent at the top would have been helpful … particularly in marketing. They hired an outsider but he didn’t last. Jim took over the job despite the fact that he already had plenty on his plate.

• Eight: Too many outside interests. I greatly admire and respect Mike and Jim’s mid-life philanthropy but it’s possible they were distracted by their various think tanks, university projects, and other ventures that did not come to fruition. There’s a reason why most businesspeople don’t become philanthropists until later in life.

• Nine: Apps are crucial. An app might turn your smartphone into a flashlight or find a good restaurant in a new neighbourhood. Outside developers don’t care about RIM and they don’t invent apps for the BlackBerry so BlackBerry has far too few, maybe 15,000–25,000 compared to iPhone’s 500,000. No one could possibly use, let alone need, 500,000 apps, but the choice is there and BlackBerry suffers by comparison.

• Ten: RIM’s culture has always been a developer culture. The people who wrote the code were the only ones that mattered. That’s all well and good when you’re the market leader, but when you’re battling for market share, you better have a marketing culture. That was Steve Job’s forte. He knew what people wanted before they even knew what they wanted. Except for the Torch, which was not a great success, RIM stuck with the keyboard and assumed that was the only game in town. They were wrong.

• Eleven: RIM’s acquisition of QNX in April 2010, the company that’s developing the software for the BlackBerry 10, was a mistake for a variety of reasons. First, it sent a message to all of RIM’s developers that said: You and whatever you’re working on is not the future, it’s the past. So much for the developer culture. Second, an inordinate amount of time and effort was spent producing a dud, the PlayBook, launched a year ago, the first RIM product with QNX software. Even though it was a failure, RIM stuck with it and recently issued an update rather than focus on getting new smartphone models out the door fast.

• Twelve: the long time between product launches. The 9900 came out last August (with the old software, not the QNX version) but the BB 10 with QNX won’t be out until this fall. That’s more than a year, way too long to wait. Moreover, the 9900 has quality problems. People I know who bought that model say it resets on its own once a week. RIM’s reliability has never before been an issue. The three-day global outage last fall further reduced client confidence.

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