What RIM Must Do With Blackberry To Survive & Prosper

Anyone with even a passing interest in the mobile industry is aware that RIM has been struggling. From accusations of being an irresponsible conduit for enabling the London riots to flourish* to it’s CEO losing the plot while being interviewed, to it’s ever diminishing market share and reports of delayed handsets, RIM is in trouble.

A phone store smashed in London during the riots. Taken from the Guardian's article - click to read.

(* a ridiculous idea btw, if it wasn’t BBM it would be something else)

Unlike many though, my view of RIM and moreover Blackberry, is not as negative.

If RIM had the right leadership (and perhaps embraced just x1 CEO rather than x2 ?!), it could take this opportunity in turbulent times to change, evolve and grow.

The problem is that, in the same way Microsoft missed the boat with the web and lost the search market (through Bill Gates uninformed leadership at the time) the same way Nokia has (still in my view) not changed radically enough as a business to yet flourish, RIM is not making the gut-wrenchingly tough and transformational decisions it needs to, to fight in this new game, on a new playing field, which has some new rules.

Blackberry/RIM could still recover. They just need a radical strategy and of course one which works.

In short they need to focus on their strengths and get someone capable to sort out their product roadmap and new O/S.

Blackberry's heritage is in efficient, keyboard driven long battery life devices many of which are often used abroad

Three things have kept me using a Blackberry and it is these top three things which RIM should focus on in the short term:

3) Battery life. Traditionally I am used to still having a working phone long after my friends batteries have died a death. They must focus and innovate on maintaining this lead in the battery-life stakes – as there is a big contingent of people out there who dont want to have to charge their phone twice in one day a la Apple iPhone.

Battery technology will eventually improve, but meanwhile, this is a key differentiator.

2) The keyboard. I hate touch screens for typing. The keyboard on the new Blackberry 9000 Bold is possibly their best ever.

They must find ever more innovative ways to integrate this keyboard into devices which will tempt users from switching to touch screen only.

1)  Bundled foreign data ..and this is the most disruptive. This is something no one is fixing soon because its a Golden Goose for the MNO’s.
I do have unlimited bundled international data on my Blackberry. It’s a tarriff I got with the UK’s O2 3 years ago. Sadly, they no longer seem to do this tarriff (which means I have to ignore my VIP upgrade rights and buy my own new handsets).

Why did O2 do this? Why did they stop?

I don’t have answers to the second question, only the first.

My understanding is that the RIM network (which was originally built for international email and push messaging, long before most mobile users even knew what a “data plan” was) is used with data routing (after hitting the cell tower) via Blackberry’s own international network of servers and APN’s (those more technical than me, can probably confirm this as right or wrong).

Assuming this analysis is not entirely wrong, RIM could force a deal with carriers to provide bundled international data on ALL their handsets. This would steal a march against all the other phone providers who don’t benefit from RIMs existing data infrastructure.

Bonus number 4) Run Android Apps. I understood the new version of the O/S should be able to run Android Apps. If it can, this should without question be included as standard, especially giving Blackberrys existing rather woeful collection of applications.

Other than finding a leadership team who can implement these things, at least to recover RIM in the next 12 months, to me these seem awfully simple things to be focusing on.

So many people travel these days, the data plan is the scourge of the traveller. What clearer message to market than “Buy a Blackberry: Get international bundled data. No more data charges”. Add in a fair-use policy and watch your sales rise.

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