April 01, 2012

RIM is NOT Abandoning The Consumer Market, Despite What You’ve Heard

All those Chicken Littles out there doing the Muppet Run in frantic circles about how RIM is “abandoning the consumer market” need to calm down and have some dip. That is NOT what was said, nor was it implied. Financial earnings calls are open to a lot of interpretation, and it seems like a lot of doom-seeking RIM bashers are leaping to two hugely-mistaken conclusions. Let’s address them, shall we?

Mistaken conclusion #1: RIM is abandoning the consumer market.
Simply not true. Thorsten stated that BlackBerry cannot succeed and be everything to all people. Their customer base still tends to prioritize security, efficiency, and productivity over more “mainstream” consumer needs like media consumption and entertainment, and it makes sense for RIM to refocus on winning back the ground they’ve lost in their strongest market. RIM makes their money primarily from their infrastructure and service offerings, not handset sales. The business world has become very media-centric and mobile-minded, people. The lines between the “traditional” BlackBerry business user’s needs and the “average” consumer’s needs has become quite narrow and blurred. They are much more closely-related now than they were even just 4 years ago.
That being said, RIM will also be focusing on bringing current feature-phone users into the smartphone age by releasing more entry-level BB7 devices in the coming months. This will expand the BlackBerry brand’s market presence and boost consumer brand awareness worldwide. Indonesia has been a key market for RIM the past few years, and RIM continues to perform well in that market. RIM’s goal is to get these new users to increase their tech savvy and become advanced users who want to upgrade to a top-tier device. (“PSSST. Hey. Kid. Want a BlackBerry? The first one’s free cuz I like ya….”) Hey – it worked on me. I started on an 8300, went to the 9700, and now I’m on the 9900. Flagship all the way, baby!

Heins admitted in his address that RIM was late to the “Bring Your Own Device” game, having depended on corporate IT departments to require the use of BlackBerries as their employees’ only option. They aim to regain ground in this area by making BB10 devices the devices people WANT to bring. The point that many panic-mongers are completely missing is that BYOD sits squarely astride the fence between the enterprise and individual consumer markets. People want to to carry a single device, be it for work or personal use. RIM wants BB10 to make people choose BlackBerry as their daily driver at work and at play. Service solutions like BlackBerry Balance make it an easier choice for both employees and IT departments to choose BlackBerry, and Mobile Fusion makes it easier for companies to support iOS and Android devices while still retaining their BES infrastructure (and keep paying RIM for the pleasure).

Heins also understands that RIM cannot do this alone; it needs help from major partners to offer the consumer and supplemental enterprise applications and services customers are clamoring for. *COUGH*COUGH*NETFLIX*SKYPE*COUGH* RIM is making a lot of progress getting developers to sign up, giving out BB10 development alpha devices and free PlayBooks to encourage participation. Over 6,000 new devs had signed on recently when Thorsten spoke at DevCon Asia, and RIM is going to focus on bringing more major partners on board with BB10.
How anyone gets “RIM is abandoning consumers” from this I can’t quite figure. People hear what they want to hear, I guess, and it seems like lots of people just want RIM to fail.

Mistaken conclusion #2: Thorsten Heins is considering selling RIM.
Thorsten Heins is in his tenth week as the new RIM CEO, and it is pretty clear that the “new office” smell has faded. Thor has ordered an extensive review of the company, and is not pleased with some of the things he’s found so far. Lack of accountability for poor performance, especially at the management level, grossly inefficient processes and behaviors, to name a few, have opened Thorsten’s eyes to the true scope of the vision quest he has embarked upon. “We are committed to turning the company around”, he stated, in direct response to the question of selling company. He went on to say that should the review process point towards that as the best option for the company, all options will be considered, “but that’s not the direction we’re going.”He hasn’t ruled it out completely, but neither has he posted a “For Sale” sign on the lawn. Heins admitted that the company “was on the road to fragmentation”. He understands that RIM has a lot of work to do before they get to that point, and they’re going to give it everything they’ve got.
“We will leave no stone unturned and make the best decision for RIM and stakeholders.” Watch your back, people; Thor’s cleaning house. Expect the bad elements in RIM’s workforce and processes to be scurrying away like roaches when the lights come on.

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