Talking tech since 2003

The last few years have brought amazing developments and innovations in the mobile industry.  Think about it.  Just a number of years ago, “smartphones” such as the BlackBerry were only justifiable and reasonable for those involved in business and hard-core productivity.  Now such devices have become commonplace in our society, and the innovations have made powerful mobile phones affordable and useful for millions of people; from teenagers, to soccer moms, to business people alike.  This consumer-focused change of direction has helped to bring great success and fortune to companies such as Apple and Microsoft who have taken center stage in the growing mobile industry.  However, this new direction hasn’t been as beneficial for all players in the industry.  Research in Motion, for example, has taken many blows to their public image and bottom line as new innovation on the part of other entities has managed to overtake RIM‘s previous strong-arm on the industry.

For a few months now RIM has, however, gained quite a bit of attention with the surfacing of the BlackBerry PlayBook; a tablet computer that many (myself included) though had the potential to help bridge RIM into the modern consumer-focused market and ultimately aid the company in re-gaining relevance in the mobile industry.  And although the device did indeed seem promising, we ended up seeing a lack of interest for the product not only on the part of end-users but more importantly with developers who have yet to show any intentions on developing for the PlayBook any time soon.  As if the lack of market traction with the PlayBook wasn’t bad enough, RIM recently took a major blow after they were forced to recall nearly one-thousand units this month.

What has all of this done for the once infamous RIM?  This time last year, the going price for a stock of RIM was just over $68.  As of market closing on 16 May, RIM’s stock was valued at $41.72; more than 38% lower than where the company was a year ago.  Compare this to Apple’s stock which is up nearly 30% in the same timeframe, and it is quite obvious that RIM has made a wrong turn somewhere.  So what does RIM need to do in order to remain relevance in the mobile industry?

As it stands now, mobile software – commonly refereed to as “apps” – composes a huge industry for after-market mobile enhancements.  Apps are, after all, the key component that I think is preventing RIM and Microsoft from taking off.  For RIM, it would make a great deal of sense to begin developing applications for the iOS and Android mobile platforms.

You see, even though RIM is pretty much sitting with its tail between its legs right now, anyone who has followed or looked into the mobile industry a bit further back knows that RIM has definitely seen better days.  The company has always been well-known for its great business-focused platform and the wide variety of professional communications tools that they offered.  A lot of higher-ups at large businesses, for example, still hold their BlackBerry handhelds dear as RIM has developed outstanding mobile software.

Having said this, the company still has a moderate following.  And even though the company hasn’t necessary gained enough traction to make it big with consumer applications, I honestly feel that there are a lot of business people who would use RIM’s applications because of their good standing brand name.

If RIM were to begin rolling out business software for modern-day mobile platforms, they would be able to regain their importance and would be able to at very least hold on to and gain new users by expanding their ventures and holding onto users that they would otherwise be out of their reach.  Sure, it wouldn’t exactly be ideal for RIM, but this type of venture would at least allow the company to grow even as users abandoned their own mobile devices and platform.

Such a move would even better the company’s image by allowing them to regain their relevance, and indirectly would allow them to gradually gain trust on the part of consumers who previously wouldn’t have given RIM or BlackBerry the light of day.  If all were to go really well, RIM would be in a better position to make their devices attractive to consumers again.

But as great as all of this sounds, such a move would almost definitely have negative consequences as well.  This is because RIM would more or less be folding on their current ventures and admitting their irrelevance and lack of importance and influence in the mobile industry.  You think their public image is lacking now?  It would only get worse.

Whatever RIM chooses to do, there is no denying that they need to do something soon.  Regardless of the potential downsides to a new venture, RIM’s failure to enter mobile development on iOS and Android platforms soon only will diminish their future potential, as each passing day opens the doors for new innovations to come and RIM to be left behind yet again.

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