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What's Next for RIM?

By Jeff Kagan
May 17, 2012 5:00 AM PT

RIM execs have invited me to dinner for an off-the-record discussion. I have asked a truckload of questions about them over the last few years here in this column and in media stories. Let me ask you: What are the big questions I should ask them now? What do you want to know about RIM?

What's Next for RIM?

My Pick of the Week is DISH TV now being sold in C Spire Wireless stores, letting you watch television on your TV or wireless device.

Took Too Much for Granted

When it comes to RIM, the big question I want to start with is, how will it turn the ship around?

Everyone is wondering whether it will recover. Will Research In Motion become a hot and growing company once again? Will BlackBerry become the smartphone on everyone's mind and clipped to everyone's belt once again? Or are those glory days only seen in the rear view mirror?

Four years ago when RIM was at it's peak, I issued a warning in several speeches, columns and press releases. I said at the time that Apple and Google had painted a cross on RIM's back. A marketing battle was about to begin that would leave RIM bloody or worse.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what has happened.

RIM's pushback to me, limited as it was, simply amounted to disbelief. The company was convinced it was fine.

RIM and others didn't believe that the king of all things smartphone was about to be pushed out of the leadership position it had enjoyed for more than a decade. RIM took too much for granted. It had always been quiet, but now it was getting soft and old, as Apple and Google were changing the space.

RIM suffered. To make matters worse, it didn't realize it for much too long.

Its manageament didn't have cutting-edge thinking any longer. The company had never created the right kind of relationships with the analyst and media community. Of course, it didn't need to early on, or so it thought. But then the space changed quickly.

Now RIM is in a battle for its very life. Will it recover?

It can. And it can recover quickly IF it understands the challenges it faces today -- and if it can meet them.

RIM has to focus on two areas: One is to upgrade the technology to make it as hot and desirable as Apple's iPhone and the top-of-the-line smartphones running Google's Android. Among other things, BlackBerry needs a much better browser that syncs with favorites on the computer browser.

Two is to upgrade the brand. BlackBerry is a well-known and trusted brand of yesterday. It is like dear old grandpa. It needs to be updated and youth-en-ized. There I go again creating my own words. But you get the point.

Gearing Up for Action

Today, RIM is shifting its thinking. It is getting in position to make the attempt. That is good. Whether it will work is the question.

It has a new CEO, Thorsten Heins. It also just brought in Kristain Tear as COO and Frank Boublen, from LightSquared, as chief marketing officer. Jean Philippe Bouchard is its director of product marketing.

It seems to be gearing up for a big coming-out party later this year. It will have a new version of BlackBerry software. But will it have tons of new apps so users who want them will consider RIM in the mix of choices? Will it explain the benefits to its secure email system?

RIM is a large, global company, so it is not going away soon. However, it is at a precarious point in its history. During the last 10 years, it was on the growth side of the Wave I often discuss. Now it is on the falling side of the same Wave.

Can it create the next Wave to ride up on?

Going forward, this new product launch will either be remembered as the moment of RIM's successful rebirth or another nail in the coffin.

Let's hope for the best. Customers, investors, partners and workers all hope for success. The rest is up to RIM. Can it succeed?

Email me the key questions you want me to ask. Who knows... maybe I'll get some answers.
Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

My Pick of the Week is DISH TV now being sold in C Spire Wireless stores. C Spire will be promoting DISH TV Everywhere products and DVR technologies.

Joseph Clayton, CEO of DISH, says this is about the convergence of wireless and television.

Hu Meena, President and CEO of C Spire Wireless, says three-screen convergence is an important element of its personalized services, and DISH will help it deliver.

Imagine watching live TV anywhere, inside and outside the home, on television or on your mobile device. This is a win-win-win for DISH, C Spire and their customers.

This is in addition to selling the Apple iPhone in its stores. C Spire is punching its way onto the map.

The world sure is changing, isn't it? Remember when we used to be tied to the wall with our kitchen phone just to have a conversation?

Today, it's wireless, and it blends television with wireless phones, and much more is coming.

Yes, the world sure is changing.

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a tech analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at

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