I have been a BlackBerry customer for the better part of a decade although that will probably change with my next phone purchase.
Research in Motion (RIM), the company that manufactures BlackBerry, has fallen woefully behind in the smart phone race. As you might expect, their stock price reflects the company’s poor performance, falling from a high of nearly $150 per share in 2008 to a dismal $15 per share today. Four years ago the company was a juggernaut and a market leader, today Research in Motion is bringing up the rear among major handset manufacturers.
RIM’s bread and butter was providing business professionals with cutting edge tools to use when they are away from the office. I remember making business trips circa 2000, leaving the house at5:00 AMto head to the airport, a full day of customer meetings followed by dinner with a client, and finally checking into my hotel at10:00 PM. The last thing I wanted to do when I finally reached my hotel was to spend hours returning emails. BlackBerry changed all of that.
Rather than build on their success by creating additional features for professionals, RIM simply ditched their hideous blue casing and repackaged their same basic operating system in shiny new black and silver cases. There has been little in the way of advancement since their original phones unless you count going from their track wheel, to a mouse ball, to a touch sensitive pad to navigate on the screen. To be fair, RIM now offers a touch screen but it does not compare to what their competitors offer.
As if Research in Motion’s pitiful lack of their namesake “research” and development weren’t bad enough, their marketing department has dropped the ball as well.
RIM’s latest effort features two young, supposedly hip DJ’s talking about their need to be connected and that BlackBerry allows them to use Twitter to update their fans about their upcoming shows. Evidently RIM has given up targeting business professionals which was the foundation of the company’s success and is making a desperate attempt to lure young users in the hope of maintaining what little market share they have left. The fact that RIM has to tout the fact that their handsets have Twitter is even more pathetic, at this point, what phone doesn’t? The ad closes with one of the worst taglines ever, “be bold, Blackberry bold.” Talk about pathetically redundant. Perhaps something along the lines of, “make a statement with the Blackberry Bold” would have been more appropriate. At least it makes sense.
If I were an executive at Research in Motion, I would do two things before your company becomes a footnote in the annals of business history. The first thing I would do is to fire my ad company, they are awful. If you’re marketing people defend them, I would get rid of them as well; they are part of the problem. The next thing I would do is to form a project team made up of the best people from the marketing department and the best from your research and development department with the goal of bringing a cutting edge phone on the market within two years.
If RIM does not take some serious steps to remain relevant their days as a company are numbered. Get back to your core competency and stop taking a shotgun approach to business. With Google’s purchase of Motorola, I guarantee they will start rolling out cutting edge handsets in the very near to compete with Apple, Samsung and HTC.
BlackBerry, your time is running out.