If you have read the smartphone news the last couple of days you will likely have come across various discussions regarding RIM’s dire situation in the smartphone arena. But when you follow a market long enough you begin to see patterns and trends, and I have already in two occasions seen the fall of two large, even dominant companies that you simply did not think could happen before it was a fact.
The pattern goes something like this:
1) The company is not keeping up with the latest trends, in software and/or hardware.
2) The company denies that there is any trouble and instead simply talks about how great they are doing and that they still have a large market share and are an important player.
3) The company is slipping financially, both in shares and sales.
Both Palm and Nokia fit this pattern. Palm stubbornly refused to come out with better hardware while, on top of that, they were trying to dictate what the users wanted, for example when their CEO stated that Palm’s users did not want to listen to music on their devices, they simply wanted a simple organizer. Add to that an outdated platform, Palm OS, and you can easily see how Palm’s demise was inevitable. And Nokia of course followed a similar pattern, though the big difference is that Nokia never restricted the features they offered in their phones (on the contrary), it was rather a question of implementation and execution, though the ideas were right.
So how is RIM doing if we compare it to that pattern? 2) and 3) certainly fits. And to some extent 1) could also be applied: up until now they have certainly trailed behind the rest, but their upcoming devices are not bad by any means hardware wise and are certainly competitive in today’s market, so they seem to be aware of that they need to come out with more competitive hardware. But I also think that the one thing that they have in their favor is that they know that they need a new and modern platform, hence their purchase of QNX. And as we know they are hard at work adapting QNX for their phones; without a doubt they would have benefited greatly if QNX was running on their BlackBerries already but I get the impression that they are very aware of that and are doing everything they possibly can to get it out as soon as possible (the Playbook, though incomplete feature wise, was developed and launched in an impressively short time). And that sense of urgency was something that I never saw in either Palm or Nokia.
So, in conclusion, I think RIM still has a good chance to remain one of the dominant players in mobile computing if they manage to get QNX on their smartphones relatively quickly, say H1 2012. At the same time, I would not be surprised if they offer their new QNX-based phones without the BIS/BES lock in; remember, you read it here first….