By Chris Sorensen - Wednesday, July 6, 2011 - 0 Comments
With investors and customers losing faith, its fate may rest in a promised ‘superphone’
At the sprawling Future Shop store in downtown Vancouver, anyone who wants to check out Research In Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet must find it first. When the device debuted in April amid a glitzy ad campaign, it enjoyed front-and-centre billing at the store, but by last week only a single, neglected PlayBook sat collecting dust among the aging Bolds and Curves, two of RIM’s geriatric smartphone models. Just steps away, throngs of customers crowded around displays of shiny iPhones and iPads.
The PlayBook was supposed to catapult RIM back to its dominant perch in the mobile technology sector. After steadily losing ground in the smartphone wars to rivals like Apple and Google, the company’s co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis promised the device would redefine the burgeoning tablet business and set the stage for a new generation of BlackBerry devices. Instead, since the PlayBook’s launch, RIM has been plunged into the darkest period of its 27-year history. The past few months have been marred by an ugly string of profit warnings, product delays, recalls, and a host of nasty commentary from once boosterish analysts.
Patience is wearing thin. Consumers are increasingly gravitating toward RIM’s rivals and investors are selling their shares, which traded as low as $25 in recent months (compared to a high of nearly $150 three years ago). Perhaps most ominously, for the first time there are rumblings that some of RIM’s biggest customers—the wireless carriers that actually buy its devices and wireless email services and sell them to their subscribers—are losing faith.
By Chris Sorensen - Monday, March 7, 2011 at 6:13 PM - 11 Comments
BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion Ltd. has finally lost its crown as the biggest smartphone platform in the United States, according to new data by research firm ComScore. The research shows that phones running Google’s Android software now command just over 31 per cent of the U.S. smartphone market, up from about 24 per cent last October. RIM, by contrast, has dropped to a 30 per cent share from nearly 36 per cent over the same period. Apple, meanwhile, is holding steady around 25 per cent.
In some ways, a changing of the guard was inevitable. Unlike RIM (and even Apple for that matter), Google’s strategy has been to make its OS available on multiple phones, made by multiple manufacturers, sold at a range of prices. But the meteoric rise of Android in just a few years still appears to have taken many in the industry by surprise. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop told employees last month in a now infamous memo that the Finnish cellphone giant essentially got caught flat-footed by the competition, citing Android in particular. Elop compared the Finnish cellphone giant’s predicament to a man standing on a burning oil platform in the icy North Sea with two options before him: either stand there and burn to death, or jump. Nokia jumped. A few days later Nokia announced that it was partnering with Microsoft and will use Windows-based software on future devices.
As for RIM, the Waterloo, Ont.-based company still owns the enterprise market, but most of the growth these days is happening in the consumer space. And RIM still seems to be playing catch-up when it comes to slick multimedia devices. It still doesn’t have a worthy iPhone competitor (although its touchscreens have gotten progressively better) and Apple has already come out with the second iteration of its iPad, while RIM’s PlayBook tablet has yet to make it to store shelves. Equally as troubling, at least for investors, is the recent departure of chief marketing officer Keith Pardy, a former Nokia and Coca-Cola executive, for “personal reasons.” Not only is it bad timing, right before a major product launch, but it suggests RIM’s effort to make its brand as loved as Apple’s has foundered. “Mr. Pardy was likely brought on to help with this image transformation given his prior experience at Nokia and Coca-Cola and his departure may signal a lack of success in this endeavour,” wrote Amitabh Passi, an analyst at UBS in a research note.
On the other hand, investors should take comfort in the fact that RIM isn’t afraid to make changes when the market demands it, or when something isn’t working. Because, as Nokia learned the hard way, the last thing you want to do when you’re falling behind in the fast-moving tech business, is nothing at all.
By Tom Henheffer - Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 10:40 AM - 5 Comments
RIM has finally unveiled a working demo of its rival to the iPad—the BlackBerry Playbook
Research In Motion has been locked in a bitter battle with tech rivals like Apple, but lately it seems shareholders couldn’t be happier. The company, which has been losing ground in the battle over smartphones, finally unveiled a working demo of its rival to the iPad—the BlackBerry Playbook—last Tuesday. Company co-chief executive Mike Lazaridis debuted the seven-inch, multi-touch tablet at the Adobe MAX conference in Los Angeles, showcasing its integrated camera for video conferencing, high-definition screen and full Flash support—all features the iPad has been criticized for lacking.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs has dismissed the Playbook as being “too small,” but RIM shareholders seem to disagree. The device, which hits store shelves as early as next March and is marketed as the world’s first “professional” tablet, drove RIM stock up 5.8 per cent on Tuesday and 10 per cent overall last week.