Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Media's Insatiable Hunger for RIM's Downfall

Why Everyone's Full of Shit and Should Just Shut Up Already About the Blackberry Failing

I find it ridiculous and incredibly annoying that there is a non-stop stream of articles being published by many top news sources (if you can believe that any truly exist anymore) about the death of Blackberry. I believe they've been releasing these for years now, or at least since I worked at RIM back in 2005. I remember thinking it was so weird to read the articles while working on the inside as they didn't seem to correlate with anything that was going on or actually happening within the company, it was like the authors were just making stuff up, or had a strong hate on for RIM, especially the Canadian press, who'd you'd think would support the country's giant!

What's the newest hubbub about? The United Arab Emirates doesn't think they are secure enough and are a security threat after failing to install shitty spy code that failed miserably? Boohoo, a 3rd world country with just under 7 million people, most of who make $1.20 an hour doesn't want Blackberry anymore, oh the lost business, oh the humanity! Sure Abu Dhabi has almost a million people and is really expensive, but still, what kind of business that relies on Blackberry is going to stand for the overpriced rent and then the loss of the use of their primary mobile communications tool (The one that the rest of the company globally will still be using)? I don't know if the UAE is threatening to just get rid of all Blackberries, or just what is used in the government, which would then be an inconsequential amount, but it's still overblown. Isn't that the country where women who get raped then get sent to jail because of it?

Anyways, enough ranting about the UAE, it's not going to be that significant a loss with all of the current expansion.

Here is what people don't seem to get:
Businesses already use Blackberry, and if you've ever worked in a big corporation, god help us if they decide to change a primary piece of technology that
  1. Everyone relies on
  2. Everyone already knows how to use
Many people will bitch and moan if they get their Blackberries taken away for even a day during a potential transition, despite how cool the iPhone looks. Getting a change that big in is huge and takes a long time and a lot of money to do, more so than makes it worth it. Perhaps the next wave of huge companies are starting today and using iPhones, but it's a little too hard to tell this early and will they outnumber the ones who still exist?

How many big companies do you know of that are still using IE6 for christ's sake? If they can't upgrade something that simple and vulnerable, how can they hope to get around to changing something a 1000 times more complex?

I'm pretty sure Blackberries are much cheaper in terms of data transfer due to the encryption you get, and not to mention that Blackberry is the most secure way to go, and there are people who are fanatical about having massive security in large corporations. Triple BES, word.

I can't speak for all corporations, but I'm sure many of them have most of the cool features people like locked out anyways. The policies are just too strong to ignore with Blackberry, do those exist within consumer oriented smartphones? Can you nuke your iPhone with one command from IT no matter where they are in the world?

The majority of people at huge companies are just too tech illiterate to know how to use new features of smart phones anyways (let alone their basic personal cell phones), even the training just on how to use the iphone would be monumental, not to mention the complaints of typing woes on a touchscreen.


Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.

Sure you COULD use them, and smaller companies surely do, but you are going to have to pry the BB's out of the masses' cold dead fingers before we start seeing iPhones inside huge organizations. There is no cost justification to make the switch, and everyone is already established.

RIM may very well end up sucking at the consumer/prosumer market, but I don't think they are ever going to lose businesses in the short term, they just have way better technology and solutions to offer. They surely aren't going to go under. Journalists don't get this because they don't generally live in the environments where Blackberries thrive. They focus on the cool, on the masses, and on the hype, most of which is their own.

New York Times recently writes that RIM may be dying because 80% of the Fortune 100 is testing and deploying iPhones. What does that even mean? It probably means they are testing them because someone thought they were cool and wants to see if it's viable, but it doesn't mean they've switched or are going to. More than likely some guy high up in IT wanted a cool toy and Apple said here's a bunch for free, please test them (...so we can come up with good stats)!

Even if 80% of the Fortune 100 switches, there are more than 100 companies out there, and some have lots of employees! And having less apps? What does that have to do with anything related to a business using a Blackberry? if they need something specific they can buy or write it, 90% of the apps out there would be useless or disabled on the devices anyway! Talk about an e-peen competition when it doesn't even matter.

It just seems that there are some fundamental things that the Blackberry has going for it that the consumer/prosumer would never think about or care about, meaning they get overlooked by many people and writers, and those little things are really the deal breakers in large companies.

I want RIM to succeed, I want them to continue to bring in revenue for Canada, and I also want to see Apple crushed. I'd love to see Google do some nifty stuff too as I like them, but what they stand for doesn't exactly jive with big companies who are overly secretive to the point where they are too afraid to even use cloud services for non-confidential data.

Argue on the important points and I'll listen, but argue on the features of apples in a market that only cares about oranges is a fools game.

Ok, so lets assume for a second that everything I've spewed so far is mostly just unresearched bullshit and that Google and iPhone are both viable and have a similar or as good feature set that companies base their decisions on.

It still comes down to this: what do these other offerings provide that justifies the massive cost and disruption of re-evaluating, tearing out, integrating, training, and supporting these new phones? Make no mistake that this will be a humongous cost with lots of hurdles to jump through with unexpected difficulties. Are they going to win on cost advantage and what's the time frame for a return on investment? These new phones are not tried, tested and true, they aren't as trust worthy as the RIM brand, whether or not they are technically superior. I just can't imagine anyone in the corporate world being able to sell the benefits of this cost. It may seem small or stupid just to change over some phones, but nothing is small when it comes to big corp, everything takes months and years and way too many PMs. What about the contracts and licenses already paid for? Vendor relations?

So...am I completely full of shit too? Probably, but from my experiences it just doesn't seem to add up. Most of us reading this live in a bubble. We all have our own lens of perception, but it really comes down to money and risk, and in the backwards mixed up world of big corporations, that's all that truly seems to matter.


  1. For companies like Blackberry and Kraft who were riding high last year, now it looks like they may be not only stalled but are headed for a downward revenue gap. Why do companies think doing more of the same thing will help them compete?


  2. Great post Ivan. I take the opposite viewpoint, I think RIM is on its way down, but, I think they have a long way to go yet, given how much market share and how entrenched they are. Big companies don't just disappear.

    The reason I think they are on their way down is that I think all of their innovations have now been commoditized.

    1. Lower bandwidth? Its not 2001 any more, we have > 6gb monthly plans.
    2. Security? HTTPs anyone?
    3. Lower power usage - doesn't seem relevant any more
    4. BES server with push? You don't need an expensive BES to do push email any more.

    What should RIM do? I have a few half-baked ideas:
    - Drop their custom OS and dev environment, and do something like Mac did with OS X
    - Drop the BES, and integrate directly with google, exchange and any other popular email systems
    - Provide incredible native apps for business users

    I think Android and Apple etc are low-end disruption for RIM, they'll keep moving up the chain until they do everything the BlackBerry does.

  3. Hi Alex, thanks for the great response!
    I cannot argue whether RIM is going to keep going up, that is for the fates to decide, but when I read all the articles today I noticed that they referred to RIM as a growth company and that's not really how I see them. I guess they are growing or trying to, and that's where they are hitting their barriers, but I don't think they can ever truly die or go away, I think they have an entrenched market that they could defend and focus on, they could sustain, or go really niche, but I don't imagine a future where I don't see any existence of a blackberry anymore. I guess since they are already so big, I don't really care if they keep growing per se, it seems like the only reason they do it is because it seems like they can and they should as it's the mandate of a public company.

    I guess in terms of bandwidth, in might only be a minor difference in cost, but at the same time, think of how many emails the average office worker gets a day versus an average consumer, and how much of that email is reviewed on the phone by an employee or a consumer. I don't imagine the consumer is drowning in hundreds of emails a day that require action (unless they have lots of very active friends). If you have enough people in that situation that might add up, but it may still just be moot anyways with current data rates.

    I think the security is still an advantage for RIM however in the way things are encrypted, transferred, and stored, but probably more important is that an admin at Company X can push out a policy that enables/disables any feature on a Blackberry to everyone or a specific person, they can even wipe a compromised or missing phone remotely with no hope of it being stopped or recovered. The power to easily administrate and manage the devices makes for an advantage from big business's stand point.

    I'm pretty sure Blackberries are some of the most durable devices out there, I remember dropping mine on gravel while running and it still worked fine, I just had to snap the corner back together. A friend's co-op job was to drop the new devices over 100 times a day to see if it still worked. He'd just play hackey-sack with it! Perhaps the newer devices are more fragile, I'm not sure, but I can't imagine the competition is more durable. You can't even hold the new iPhone without it stopping from working.

    I can't really comment too much on battery life as I don't currently have a dataplan enabled so I'm not draining my battery like a mofo, but I do remember Mike Lazaridis saying "When's the last time you charged your Blackberry, do you remember? No? Then we are doing our job right". Perhaps that doesn't apply anymore, especially with the data transferring and GPS and everything else, but all I seem to hear about is dying phones on Twitter that can't last more than a day. All I can say from my experiences so far is that what Mike said lies true for me, I seriously can't remember when I charged the battery last, it seems to go forever, I don't need a consistent charging habit, nor do I run into issues where I run out of juice. I've been using the same 8800 since the day it was released, no battery change. Perhaps I'm still living in a glorious shielded world that will be shattered when I get a new device.

    Again, I cannot argue on their success, but I don't think they will fail that easily, they can always scale back, trim the fat and focus on a market that they are already good at and make money, sure it won't be as much, but they won't easily die.

    I do find your Innovator's Dilemma point intriguing however, especially since I now understand what it is since the conference :D

    It will be very interesting to see how it plays out and if it turns true. I do hope they find some innovation and come up with something new, interesting or ground breaking, although it is hard to imagine at this point.

  4. I think the original point of my article was to say that these news pieces keep getting pushed that don't directly talk about a lot of the real issues that relate to their success in the business world and continue to focus on the consumer market. I honestly don't think RIM has been trying to really push a consumer device that hard, I think they've been fucking around and modifying what they got to appeal a bit better to prosumers, but they haven't really truly tried to step out of their space into one that's quite different. When I worked there Mike would strictly say that we don't do prosumer/consumer devices, it's not our market, it's not our focus. I think they eventually got pushed into it somehow with the way the market was moving, as I also remember him saying they would never put camera's in their phones, and he had great reasons why, most businesses don't want cameras in their offices from their own employees and especially from visiting ones. I've been to many places where I have to leave my cell at the door because it has a camera in it, but now almost all phones do, so you can't really fight that. I know of a number of big companies that have all the cameras disabled on their Blackberries.

    I honestly wonder how it feels on the inside of RIM right now with everyone constantly beating down on their door for every little reason that has hardly anything to do with what they make money on. It's like people want RIM to truly step in and fight in this other market (consumer) not realizing they've never really been there in the first place; we the people just bought their phones for some reason even though they weren't meant for us and then expect them to improve it for us and we leave them scratching their heads wondering, "wtf are these people buying our phones for, they weren't made for them, oh well, let's try throwing in a touchscreen and see if that does anything". I guess everyone is trying to tell RIM to get serious if they want to win this market and I believe RIM has yet to step up to the plate to even truly accept the challenge.

  5. Due to the flexibility of the Android platform, I think it's possible that this could move into the business market. It would have to have the guarantee of secrecy though, as you mentioned.

    Nobody serious about business will promote an iPhone as the main device for business use. Consumers may fall prey to fanboyism, but businesses use logic to determine what the optimal and safest solutions are. I don't think putting all your eggs in Steve Jobs' basket is a risk many big businesses are willing to take. I believe some businesses have approved personal iPhones for company email, but I doubt they're promoting them.

    Oh, and if the UAE wants to use first world technology, they should move to first world laws first.