Things are looking grim for RIM

Features Marin Perez 05:34, Jul 01 2011

It’s been a tough week for Research In Motion but the company can still pull out of this tailspin

It’s been quite a tough week for Research In Motion, as the company is embroiled in some embarrassing public spectacles. As bad as these moves are, this could also be the turning point where the BlackBerry maker starts to show signs of life.

The brouhaha started when a senior executive allegedly penned a letter criticising the company on BGR. The letter said that RIM had lost focus, needed to reach out to developers more and focus on the end user experience more in order to compete against the iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 7.

That’s nothing too shocking, as we’ve said that many, many times. Beyond the tidbit that RIM almost has a slavish devotion to the carriers during its design process, there was nothing new from this anonymous letter. I’m not doubting the publication that published it but it reveal anything we didn’t already know.

I think it was a pretty cowardly move by the author too, as it would have had much more force if the person claimed credit for it. This isn’t a case of whistle-blowing for the sake of saving lives, as the author just seems to have been burned by internal politics and is venting in a public space without having the courage to take the heat for it. If the author is so fed up and can’t change RIM, that person should quit.

That would be embarrassing enough but RIM actually provided an official response to a letter that may or may not be penned by someone inside the company. In the response, RIM said, “Although this transition has taken longer than anticipated, there is much excitement and optimism within the company about the new products that are lined up for the coming months. There is a fundamental business reality however that following an extended period of hyper growth … it has become necessary for the company to streamline its operations in order to allow it to grow its business profitably while pursuing newer strategic opportunities.”

RIM protests too much. It should be above responding publicly to an anonymous letter that doesn’t reveal anything.

RIM is a multi-billion dollar company that has been on the forefront of mobile technology for the last twenty years or so. It’s been struggling to cope with the smartphone and superphone era but it still has tens of millions of BlackBerry users and it is not going away any time soon.

The tone in the response is highly defensive too, so you have to wonder why there was any response to begin with. The letter would have been just a sad little bump in the road but by responding to it, RIM has elevated it and given it credence. This response truly makes me wonder what is going on with the BlackBerry maker and if the morale is at a low point.

RIM should respond with amazing products and services. I was able to get some extended time with the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and I was impressed with its power, design and style. I’m still not convinced that the app ecosystem will be able to compete with the iPhone and Android but the hardware itself is first class.

Perhaps it was just a bit of misdirection, as news also came out that the company will be examining its managerial structure. For the life of me, I could never understand why it needed Co-Chief Executive Officers and maybe a large shakeup is what’s best for the company.

The company admits that it is in a transition period and it will be a while before we see BlackBerry smartphones running the QNX platform that powers the BlackBerry PlayBook. This is an elegant and powerful smartphone OS that should finally give RIM’s hardware the software it deserves.

It’s easy to write RIM’s obituary now but it’s important to remember that many companies can come back from the brink. Remember, it wasn’t all that long ago that Apple needed a cash infusion from Microsoft to survive. Everybody loves a comeback story but RIM is going to have to do a lot of hard work and get some lucky breaks to pull this off.

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