Saving RIM in Three Easy Steps

Since RIM’s disastrous “earnings” report last week, and their CEO’s insane (either that or completely out of context) comments, a lot of people have been dancing on their soon-to-be grave. And even more people who have never run a business bigger than a lemonade stand or managed anything beyond a WordPress account, have been offering their advice to RIM on how they could overcome their current troubles. I will now join the latter group with some advice on how to save Canada’s tech crown jewel. Seriously, look at my three point plan at re-imagining RIM’s business and tell me this couldn’t (maybe) work.

When BlackBerry was teh sex

Step 1 – Ditch the OS/Hardware game. Walk away.
There was a time when RIM made lustful gadgets better than anyone, with battery life measured in days, not hours. But that was in the days when QWERTYs ruled, and people had the expectation that their phones would last at least through a day of constant use. But it’s clear that the industry has moved on. We live in a touchscreen world and people are learning how to use virtual keyboards just as fast as QWERTYs (have you seen a teenager text on an iPhone??). And everyone complains about poor battery life, but now we have come to expect and accept these limitations on phones with big screens, fast processors and all the other spoils that come with increased power consumption. True, RIM could continue to develop BB10 and design handsets that more meet the new smartphone paradigm, but they’ve already lost this game (at least in the North American market). They couldn’t just make a “good enough” BB10 device, it has to be miles better than Android/iOS phones. I don’t see that happening. Oh, and no one will shed a tear over the PlayBook going missing, either.

 

Step 2 – Retrench in the enterprise.
Now that RIM is no longer in the hardware business, they need to focus on a market they once dominated (enterprise), rather than a market they could never crack (consumer). RIM’s NOC based enterprise email setup is so much more secure than a Microsoft Exchange setup that you get with the iPhone or an Android device. For some companies, Exchange is enough. But many verticals need the dual level data encryption (network/device) that RIM provides, such as the medical (who need to be HIPPA compliant), financial, legal, or public sector (government) verticals. The only other company that provides this level of security at this scale, is Good Technology (see disclosure below). Good has thousands of customers in all the above verticals who use their RIM-like security services to allow their employees to use their own Android and iOS devices instead of company-issued BlackBerry devices. RIM, who settled various patent fights with Good Technology (and Visto, the company that bought and subsequently took on the Good brand) by paying them hundreds of millions of dollars, should acquire Good Technology and completely dominate the enterprise once more. RIM may not have enough cash on hand to afford Good outright, but if they sell their near complete BB10 OS to someone who wants a mobile operating system (ahem, Facebook), and with the money they save by cutting all the RIM jobs devoted to hardware, Good might be attainable.

 

Step 3 – Focus on B2B services (and make BBM cross platform for chrissakes!)
Now we are looking at RIM, the software company, which owns mobile enterprise security. Next, they need to pull a full IBM. IBM famously reinvented itself by becoming a consulting company. Just imagine how fertile the ground would be for RIM, bolstered by its existing knowledge and patents, to come in and consult about mobile technology. I know it’s somewhat counterintuitive to suggest that RIM, which has made pretty much every mis-step it possibly could in the last five years, become a consultant, but I’m talking about consulting on the specifics of technology, not corporate or marketing strategy. For all the grief it gets, RIM still has top notch employees and technical know how, especially when it comes to mobile security and managing data traffic efficiently.

 

Lastly, RIM needs to make BBM cross-platform so they can own IP messaging. If they choose not to have a consumer app that distracts from their new consulting business, they can open source BBM or open up the API and let third party devs take care of the clients.

 

So that’s my advice to RIM, take it or leave it. The only way for them to survive is to recognize that it’s not 2008 anymore. They can’t compete as a consumer company, or even as a hardware maker. It’s better to be a smaller specialist than a dead behemoth.

 

Disclosure: Good Technology is a former client of mine, and I still have friends in that organization. But any acquisition speculation is just that, I have no inside knowledge of Good’s inner-workings or even if an acquisition is possible/desired.
  • http://GW.CXOVIP.org/ garethwong

    I would agree totally with 2 and 3 as previously tweeted before

    however, I would change number 1 to something different, which will enable 2 & 3 and more, which is:

    1.) Take RIM private by a ‘strong business leader’ (as a second option with present CEO & board with some strong visionary to support and lead them strategically)

    this will:

    a.) give them time to sort itself out without the demand of public market shareholders, lets be frank, share price and market cap does not necessary equates to viability of company, but mostly short term ‘sentiments’ of it..

    b.) as it is a cash flow rich company, with good IP, good contracts and revenue streams directly with MNOs/MVNOs and enterprise distributors, after cost cutting, and bringing it private, it should have enough time to review.. yes, focus on 2. & 3. but review the proposed 1. maybe getting rid of H/W but there are many ways to skin a cat..

    I have been saying a long while (yes, I emailed unsolicited advice to Thorsten).. Sadly appointing bankers would only do one thing, which is advising how to break up the company and sell as it is obvious and easy thing to do (& profitable for all, except the real stake holders of RIM, namely devoted users like myself!).. they would not have advised him to keep his nerves, take on the responsibility, risking personal reputation and future jobs and take the company private and try to rescue it.

    It is very stupid to fight the fight of APPLE in the game it created called the iPlayground.. RIM should stick to what it does best, does it 10x and 100x better and let others emulate them. it will take a year or so but being private, it can have enough time to do so!

    Definitely do:

    I.) looking at productising AND improving reliability of BBM which some might argue it is RIM’s crown jewel..

    II.) definitely emulate the success of app store, but focus on security, quality and efficiency of the apps, as I see the size of the apps typically goes up exponentially which is stupid (may have technical reason and it could be RIM’s platform’s fault!? or lack of good application developers!?)

    III.) marketing need to be much more savvy.. like in UK, BlackBerry sponsored the whole Sky Atlantic channel.. great, but hey the sky mobile app does not work on blackberry!! surely they could have used deals like this to ensure that there is a coherent marketing strategy..

    IV.) or maybe it is really time to cut all marketing and focus 100% on products and services, learn from likes of Zappos & others, Thorsten & Frank should ask Jeff to watch the to be launched movie http://thenakedbrandfilm.com/ it might fire them up.

    but all the above is meaningless however, if they are taking the easy way out to break the company and sell them..

    It would be a tragedy.. akin to during the dot.com boom when PCCW bought HKTelecoms, no doubt in this case whoever might buy RIM’s asset would not be paying as much as PCCW did for HK telecom in 2000.

    RIM breaking up and selling is good for the short term, shareholders and easy for the management but from stake holders (like me, loyal BlackBerry users) and also in fact the telecom operators’ point of view, RIM keeping faith, sorting itself out, and helping the telecom world to fight the upstarts of likes of iParty is key.. RIM’s management might find they may have more friends in telecoms world (esp. MNOs/MVNOs) if they can help maintain a viable and equitable revenue sharing with the operators and rest of value chain.. maybe a pan industry open-standard app-store?

    some leadership from RIM could in fact save not only themselves but also loyal customers and in fact the telecom tribe (who is more into capital intensive and highly regulated business). Google/Android/Apple will NOT be sharing & paying for data.. just that point will get the MNOs thinking!

    I am telecom guy through and through, this should maybe form a warning for other telecom firms.

    Happy to hold Thorsten’s hand if needed, call me.

    Good luck!

    @GarethWong

  • Talisman

    I think BB might have a better chance if they jump on the android band wagon

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  • Stoli89

    Do you think RIM could outbid MSFT or Google for Good?

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    I think they could, yes. Whether that would be the right move though..

  • http://twitter.com/selviano Michael Selvidge

    If there were to be a bidding war, I don’t think they could compete with MSFT or GOOG, who essentially have no limits in what they could afford

  • http://twitter.com/selviano Michael Selvidge

    Disagree! I think they would be just “another” hardware manufacturer that makes shitty margins. Like HTC. This is what Elop wanted to avoid with Nokia’s move to WP7. Now whether or not that was a good move is the topic of another blog post…

  • http://twitter.com/selviano Michael Selvidge

    Great comment, Gareth! thanks for sharing.

    I like the idea of going private, too.

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