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Research In Motion is dead (bgr.com)
66 points by kemper 2032 days ago | hide | past | web | 72 comments | favorite

I really hope they survive, in some way.

There is really a market for enterprise grade devices with great keyboards, worldwide roaming (flat-rate, <60$ for everywhere mobile internet with most carriers), hardened security and real time push services.

They just have to get their sh*t right. For example: I got my first Blackberry 3 years ago and they had all the promises for threaded emails and two-way syncing (marking mails as read when I read them on other devices). And… no news over there after so much time.

It's just a shame that years and years after they can't even figure the simplest things, like a better user experience and better user experience (most users don't ever get to know about how to get most of their phone, with keyboard shortcuts and real multitasking because of how hard is everything to figure out).

Of course they will have to lay off people, open their platform a lot more and work hard, but I don't think they even have a clue of where they should hit.

The sad thing is that even their users know… It's probably their stupid corporative system that will sink them.

>better user experience

This is exactly what you won't get from a company that insists on pandering to the enterprise. The bean counters and IT departments that make purchasing decisions don't care about UX. you need to take a consumer-first product and upgrade it to work in the enterprise networks if you want UX. and that's exactly why android and iOS have been outpacing BB lately - they built their devices into something that people want, not just something that corporations want.

> the simplest things, like a better user experience

A better user experience is simple for users but requires non-trivial levels of design expertise, direction and buy-in from leadership. It's not at all surprising to me that in a heavily corporate environment with two CEOs, this would be an impossible needle to thread.

I keep hearing about user experience. I have a blackberry 9860 and for the life of me I can't figure out what it so horrible about using it. Is there a direct comparison checklist somewhere that breaks down the joy of iPhone vs the horror of Blackberry?

There is a lot of issues. Maybe not so much UI related, but a lot of menus, workflows, etc., are just too complicated. The BlackBerry key is essential to the UX and so are shortcuts for powerusers. But for the average end user consumer, this is a poor UX. I don't have any problem with using BlackBerry, but there are definitely some issues. And even if you don't think the BlackBerry UX is horrible, the iPhone in many people's minds is superior - and that's all that matters.

UX is actually an interesting story at RIM. They made some interesting strides and had a nice empirically based approach towards improving the UX. Upon the acquisition of TaT, though, it appears they've ditched that approach and are giving the designers free reigns - very similar to what Google did with their recent redesign IMO.

I think Apple did a really great job innovating (or at least popularizing) the touch interface. There is some clever use of multi-finger gestures that really works - once you get to know them. But I find it similar to any other UX. You have to learn it to really enjoy it. The first time I had a program open on an iPad I had to ask a friend how to close the program - five finger crumple motion. And how to bring up the list of open programs - four finger swipe up from bottom. Great. Once you learn it.

But I still don't see a vast chasm of improvement over blackberry UX. I suppose I'd have to watch people using the two devices. I'm sure others have studied this to death but I've never seen a well conducted UX contrast study available online.

You're describing recently introduced optional multi-finger gestures. The standard way to get to the iOS home screen is to press the hardware home screen button.

It has a screen lock and a device password. It has an entire physical button to unlock the device, in an awkward-to-reach-one-handed place, and all that does is let me type in a password. It's a bothersome redundant thing every time I go to use it.

It doesn't remember open websites for more than 10 minutes after the browser is closed, and after using Mobile Safari, it's like using a device with alzheimers.

The default menu/home screen is just dreadful, filled with pointless sliding panels going up and down, left and right, by default with lots of redundant icons, but not adding anything useful, just triggering often and accidentally.

There is an extremely fine distinction between pressing the back button (which does one thing), and pressing and holding it (which does another thing). It's way too easy to accidentally press for too long.

The much vaunted messaging abilities are a mess - email is empty because I have no POP accounts, messages doesn't contain my messages, Text Messages does, and my email is in "Desktop". I set it up this way to stop it being even worse and pushing all kinds of mixed message types into one list (who wants that?!), and that (by default) puts the top item in the list as the message I've just sent. On a screen which shows 5 things, the least important is the one I've just finished dealing with.

The web browser is poor compared to mobile safari. I always have to fight what I want (click on a link) with what it wants (needlessly zoom in more and more and more). Resizing with gestures is finnicky - it will often resize as I want, then undo to suit itself.

The trackpad replacement to the thumb-ball is horrible. It is awfully sensitive in one sense (jumping long distances when I'm not meaning to touch it) and awfully insensitive in another sense (often have to move my thumb over it several times before it registers at all).

The 'convenience' key is in such an inconvenient place I've had to disable it because I kept pressing it by accident.

It often says things like "this charging source cannot charge your blackberry" when it definitely can because I have before, or it's the proper adapter and cable.

The menu system is a nested mess - the difference between 'device setup' and 'options', the reliance on the Blackberry button to bring up a long scrollable list of 10-20 things.

This one has a touchscreen, but the icons don't have text under them and touching to select them doesn't change the "what you've selected text" so it is mystery meat navigation for the less commonly used ones.

It took five hours to install an updgrade. And that's normal.

Nothing about it is as bad as a phone from 10 years ago, but many, many things about it grate as unpolished, clunky, as if designed-to-annoy.

I wouldn't worry, if there really is a market for those things you listed somebody else will step up to fill the gap. Especially with enterprise customers who rarely go un-served for very long.

There is really a market for enterprise grade devices with great keyboards, worldwide roaming..., hardened security and real time push services.

In a way, I was wrong and I was right. When people were predicting the death of RIM a year or more ago, I noted all the above. RIM and Blackberry won't die from lack of features or from an inadequacy of the basic product. Their own internal pathologies which keep them from executing will kill them off.

" And… no news over there after so much time."

No news over where? About what?

I've worked in finance for years and seen the Blackberry go from Crackberry to junk. I bought one with my own money while still in college because it was such a must-have device. Nine months ago our whole team got brand new ones when we walked onto the job and they sit useless in our drawers. Just yesterday two teammates mentioned that their kids actually laughed when they saw the blackberries. The fact is, their product is awful because their user interface is nothing short of terrible and its features can't compare with what the iPhone had three years ago. The only reason it's still around is because businesses are terribly slow to make decisions (even about their corporate phones) but we are approaching a popular revolt right now to switch to the iPhone, security issues be damned.

RIM is mercy to the fatal inability to self-reflect and be self-critical. As an iPhone user, just looking at a Blackberry is cringe-inducing. I'm not a Blackberry fan, so I don't know what the latest, greatest is, but I've tried a Bold and a Torch and they are both terrible. By terrible, I mean relative to 2012. And by terrible I don't mean non-iPhone terrible, because, unlike using a Blackberry, I can use an Android phone and not get pissed off after 30 seconds.

In 2006 these devices would have been great. So it takes roughly 4 years (taking R&D, production, etc into account) for them to admit they are wrong and adhere to, or create new features. "What can we possibly innovate on?"

I think companies like RIM get stuck because they see themselves as innovators – and they were – when we were all using flip phone Nokias. In that relative time period, a Blackberry was today's iPhone/Android. So you get self-righteous. People are calling you an industry titan. "Now don't change anything because this is working great!". First mistake.

RIM would have done well by suffering from Imposter's Syndrome. In this mentality, being told you're an industry titan stays in your head as a compliment for about a day.

I think companies like RIM get stuck because they see themselves as innovators – and they were – when we were all using flip phone Nokias. In that relative time period, a Blackberry was today's iPhone/Android. So you get self-righteous. People are calling you an industry titan. "Now don't change anything because this is working great!". First mistake.

This is an instructive roadmap. Apple might well follow it one day.

I agree. I'm no allegiant. In fact, I think we're already starting to see a bit of that unfolding.

A country in South East Asia with 200 millions people and probably 10 millions of them are BB users would probably disagree with you.


I think if RIM was an Asian-based company, that might hold true. RIM's culture is tied to North America. Developers for their platform are mostly in North America/Europe. When there's no apps, there's no users - eventually.

You may be right when it comes to the lack of apps.

But let me share a story about that particular topic:

In Indonesia, people aren't rushing to iPhone or Android because they don't care apps. They'll use whatever that comes with the phone and most local distributors are smart enough to package them with common apps such as Twitter and Facebook.

Most websites in Indonesia support BB and develop apps for BB because they know BB is king there.

Once BB is done, they'll move to a generic Android based smartphone that will definitely have a few common apps:

1) Mail Reader

2) Browser

3) Facebook

4) Twitter

5) Whatsapp


The people who installed other apps are the very very very tiny minority.

"so I don't know what the latest, greatest is ... By terrible, I mean relative to 2012"

Might want to tweak that statement

Nope. An iPhone 3GS isn't terrible...even in 2012.

RIM isn't dead until it does what all dead companies seem to do these day: get a new CEO and explode in one final conflagration of litigation when it digs around and finds a patent on the letter E.

That being said, their trajectory seems to be downward and I have trouble imagining how they will survive long term. It's simply becoming uneconomical to have your own mobile OS without significant market share. The future here seems to belong to iOS and Android, at least for the foreseeable future.

Windows Phone 7 only survives because it's being pumped up by the great cash engine of Windows/Office. Perhaps MS will plant a poison pill into RIM and eventually buy them out to buy marketshare, much as they've done and are doing to Nokia.

I just had a thought. You just described the strategy they used to grow Xbox to what it is today.

Er, no.

I've been puzzling as to why I was downvoted on this. I finally came across some numbers.

Microsoft dropped more than $10 billion on the Xbox before it ever turned a dime in profit (that's operating loss -- not including acquisitions. It's still about $4 billion in the hole, lifetime.)


I'm really failing to see how what I said about Xbox was wrong, given these numbers. But I suppose it's old news now.

I'm suspicious that these stories are an attempt to drive down RIM's share price for a takeover.

12-15 months just doesn't seem realistic. RIM is profitable with cash reserves plus strong corporate and Asian markets. They can transition into a company that is profitable but not innovative or a world leader.

RIM announced a significant loss of $125M last quarter, along with a 29% drop in smartphone revenue and 26% drop in units shipped from the same quarter last year. They've got $2B in cash, and their phone business, while still profitable, is only making about a 5% margin (profits which were wiped out by the losses in tablets). With what could be considered a substantial technical deficit relative to their competitors, with their touch-screen interface products failing to gain traction, it's difficult to imagine RIM being able to make the investments needed to compete effectively as their current crop of phones continue to lose favor.

12 months might be a bit short, but if their revenue continues in this free-fall, it's not out of the question that their stock will be below the value of their assets by that point, simply out of expectation of future collapse.


To me RIM was never actually alive. I heard the raves and saw the devices and from the start it seemed like they aimed squarely at a transitional niche and haven't been able to move their company focus away from that. This is not to say that there haven't been and/or aren't things to like about their product, rather it's the focus of the whole that's short sighted.

Edit: I should add that there's nothing wrong with transitional technologies, as there's real value there. And lots of money to be made. But if that's what you're doing then you should realize it, and plan for a graceful demise or a transition to something else.

I think this is not an opinion shared by many, although I find it to be spot on.

It's very similar to what happened with notebooks or netbooks or whatever they are called - small laptops that are more portable than a 17' laptop. Yes, people wanted portability, but no, the PC is not portable. That is why the iPad is such a success - it's not a PC. It's something else.

Premature much? Apple was dead once too.

Apple actually did die. Think about what happened: They spent 400M to buy NeXT, and after a transition period, they started selling things called Macintoshes that were actually NeXT machines.

In reality, Apple was acquired by NeXT in a reverse-takeover, and NeXT decided to maintain the Apple and Mac-related brands. It’s more nuänced than that, but effectively that’s what happened.

Apple is the exception to the rule. Very, very few companies recover from such a downward spiral.

Apple is an interesting case because they effectively threw away everything and started fresh with their newly acquired technology and people.

There are some parallels with RIM's QNX acquisition, but RIM seems to be afraid to throw away the old. You can't milk the cow and have it on the barbecue too.

>but RIM seems to be afraid to throw away the old.

They aren't going to say that they're abandoning the current platform, they'd Osborne themselves if they did. That doesn't mean that the company isn't throwing all of it's efforts into next year's phone.

Apple sold a lot of bondi blue iMacs before OS X was ready, they wouldn't have survived to ship OSX if they hadn't.

> Apple sold a lot of bondi blue iMacs before OS X was ready, they wouldn't have survived to ship OSX if they hadn't.

Hardware that provides an upgrade path to new systems is one thing, but RIM released a major revision to BBOS more than a year after the QNX acquisition. I believe the previous CEOs even stated they have no plans to abandon BBOS. Which means that many bright minds are going to be working on it, instead of putting focus on the QNX system.

Imagine if Apple had continued to work on OS9 into OS10 for the iMac line and had another team working on OSX for PowerMacs. That is essentially what RIM has been doing.

You're forgetting your history. Apple bought NeXT in early 97, the iMac came out in early 98, OS 9 came out in late 99 and OS X didn't ship in beta until 2000.

Obviously Apple was working on Pink/Copland all through the 90's, then Rhapsody/OS X since early 97. They didn't ship OS X for _3 whole years_, all the while losing market and mindshare to Wintel.

RIM stating that they aren't abandoning the current form of BB OS is to me equivalent to Apple shipping bug fixes for OS 8 (i.e. OS 9) and Carbon support in OS X (blue box), except in RIM's case they are declaring software/service support for BB OS because they understand that smartphone buyers are on a 3 year cycle imposed by the carriers.

I'm not trying to defend RIM's failure to execute, but it's a difficult, multi-year process to ship a new platform without nuking the company. In my mind their biggest failure is that they should have bought QNX in 2007, not 2010.

You can't milk the cow and have it on the barbecue too.

Nice image. You might have a future in writing horror novels.

IBM also recovered.

I've been supporting Blackberries since Models 950/957... (second gen) and I've seen this Train wreck in slow motion for the past few years. My blackberry users have felt left behind since the launch of the iPhone...and later Android. They've each suffered with several faulty devices... screws that back out on their own.. antennas that disconnect. OS updates that wipe out all their third party apps... phone reboots that take 5 minutes. All the while, RIM touting their superiority without trying to keep pace with Apple or Google.

BBM integration with Windows phone sounds compelling for both companies.

BBM is the only reason I am still using my BB. If BBM was available on WP7 then I will go out tomorrow and buy one of the Nokia phones!

What happens to QNX? Please Open Source it!

This would be way more interesting than WebOS.

QNX was open sourced, the day RIM bought it they close sourced it again.

Edit: correction, the licensing was only changed, but the source is still accessible. QNX source Access policy faq:


Not really, you could look at the source but not fork it.


"Q. As a hobbyist, what benefits do I continue enjoy on Foundry27?

You can download proprietary QNX open source from projects such as BSPs and Drivers,"

What is proprietary open source?

I'd be shocked if that happens. QNX has a pretty good business outside of Blackberry, their auto products are pretty sweet. I suspect if RIM does go the Windows Phone route (which I think makes perfect sense) that QNX will get spun out or sold again.

You are right, but an open sourced QNX would be a great thing. The best outcome i can think of: BB sells QNX SS to Google and they develop it in the open with an improved license. They could use it for all their Google X stuff.

All the robotic Startups in the future could profit from a mature open sourced real time OS.

It saddens me to see RIM's declines, having watched it grow out of the single building just off the University of Waterloo campus while I was an undergraduate there.

I remember in 1998, before their Mobitex device was publicly available, a friend let me send an email from his production prototype - it seemed like the coolest thing in the world to have this little wireless device that could send email. There was nothing like it at the time, as far as I know. They were really pioneers.

Geller's source seems like some kind of Windows Phone astroturfer: "The source went on to say, “Take on Windows Phone and negotiate with Microsoft. You need BBM on Windows Phone"

Wut? Windows phone is a non starter that Microsoft needed Nokia to save at all, and even that hasn't panned out positively yet for either of them.

RIM should have rallied around Android years ago, and still should today. Build the Blackberry ecosystem on top of Android and you'd be getting somewhere awesome.

I don't claim to be an expert on Blackberry, but for me the real sell for Blackberry has always been BBM. Kids today all have mobile phones, and most of them in the UK have Blackberry's solely for contacting each other through BBM.

I feel that Blackberry could save themselves by targeting both those who love BBM, and those who want a simple, cheap phone. I think parents and kids would love to have a basic phone with a physical keyboard, BBM and a great new UI.

There was a significant BBM push that I recall last year[1]. I'd always heard great things about BBM, but it requires everyone to have a blackberry, no? That won't work in a diverse ecosystem; iPhone's Facetime is another example. These are standard features, not "killer" nor innovative features. Text messaging is the standard. Anything else can be had in an app (e.g. Kik Messenger [2]) that is at least cross platform.

[1] https://www.google.ca/search?q=blackberry+bbm+ads

[2] http://kik.com/

I've never understood why people like BBM. It's almost no different from texting except you need to have another number and both people need blackberries.

It's because you don't have to pay per-message, and there's groups.

i.e. cheap and fast.

Like iMessages (iPhone) and Google Voice/GroupMe (Android)?

but don't you have to pay the blackberry monthly fee or something?

Groups are convenient I guess.

As someone who has written apps for blackberry devices: they brought it on themselves.

Their platform is a nightmare to code for, and they are unwilling or unable to fix it.

It is Palm all over again.

Pioneer -> Innovator -> Market leader -> Complacent -> Sit on your ass too long -> Competition overtakes -> Sell off , Go Home.

I think RIM will still be around in some form for years to come. Simply for one reason: heavy usage in government work and with government contractors due to the security encryption.

I could see some kind of corporate white knight come in and swoop in for the rescue. Probably a company with huge cash reserves that will be heavily "encouraged" to do so by the US government.

I haven't really followed the mobile market closely, but from what I understand, RIM's strongest advantage was data security. (Is this correct?) It would be interesting to see what hardened mobile implementation fills this gap.

yes, the advantage is RIM's software establishes a private/public key encryption channel directly between your internal exchange servers and the BlackBerry devices, meaning nobody, be it the carrier or government can eavesdrop on the transferred data. Phones also store the data encrypted and can be remotely wiped, in case a device is lost.

The thing is, that is kinda paranoid and normal businesses don't really need that kind of security. But when BlackBerry's were one of the coolest devices out there and also the most "secure" ones, RIM's sales-reps had an easy time selling them to a lot of companies. Again, not that they needed that kind of security, but more security is always good, and the device is cool, so why not, right? :)

Nowadays, this doesn't work that well anymore, because the people working at companies are just like normal people and just want to use the coolest devices. CEOs and managers are usually the first ones to demand that their iPhone works on the internal network, and suddenly the whole BlackBerry advantage isn't all that important any more.

I think the market of business who really need the kind of security RIM provides is a very small one.

Some people argue that their keyboard is also one of the advantages.

For those who carries BB around and "on-call" would probably agree: productivity boost.

it's definitely an advantage, and many people (like myself) prefer it. A lot people who suggest it's an advantage definitely over estimate it. It's not a make or break feature.

I have always wondered why they did not open up bbm and allow users to use bbm without the phone, eg Jabber client...

Really? BBM's locked-in environment sells phones. It's a pretty obvious strategy.

Why does allowing me to access my bbm account on my computer go against this strategy? Its just another reason for me to value bbm.

Rim's ECC patent portfolio (from certicom) has to be worth a decent amount of cash.

I wonder if RIM was a victim of its own success: wild expansion leading to everyone wanting to join the company and partake of the golden goose, an accelerated version of the usual tech company slide from competence.

Is it not time for MS to buy another mobile OS company?

MSQNX coming to a phone near you...

MSQNX, no. "Windows Phone with Blackberry Security"? Maybe.

MS could actually do a lot worse than pick up some Blackberry stuff to improve their enterprise offering with WP. If it means getting Blackberry Messenger too, then all the better.

Totally agree - buy RIM, ditch the Blackberry phones, take BBM onto WP7, and use the infrastructure RIM has developed as an enterprise backbone for WP7 with MS-exchange. They'd need to decentralize it a bit, as the network architecture is a bit vulnerable at the moment, but it could be done.

My guess is that if MS is considering this they'll wait until RIM hits rock bottom.

RIM are major contributors to the WebKit project. If they switched to Windows Phone, it would likely be a major initiative to build a WebKit browser on that platform (would likely require a special build of the OS to bake it completely in. Or they could get rid of some of their most talented people. Neither seems very likely to me.

RIM is still known for making attractive hardware. Their best bet is trying to accelerate the Web as the application platform. Joining in with Mozilla's WebAPI initiative would be wise.

You could (and people did) say the same thing about Nokia, though. If RIM was involved in some sort of sale to MS, staff cuts would absolutely be on the table- so actually, ditching WebKit could be convenient.

I don't think that would be a good move for Microsoft. RIM would cost them probably $10B at least. What do they get out of it? They can't really back-port WP7 to the existing BB devices for a quick market-share grab. They don't want QNX. They don't need RIMs enterprise software. They would be spending $10B or more to layoff 90% of the company and throw away most of their existing software & hardware. Microsoft would be better off just doing another Nokia style deal with RIM.

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