RIM: A ship heading for the rocks? We have a bulb for the lighthouse

Thorsten Heins, head of RIM (and the man whom no one envies), announced on Tuesday that the company would be making its second quarterly loss in a row.

We may have mentioned it before but things are looking pretty bleak for the manufacturers of the BlackBerry – new customers are a rare sight (90% of handsets go to customers who already have one), the PlayBook is still not selling as expected and worst of all; while the smartphone market grows by 50% annually, their business is shrinking. Bit of a kick in the teeth when you think this is the very market they helped define.

This week the Guardian was certainly not backward in coming forward about their views on the topic – to put in bluntly as far as they are concerned it’s time to start clearing a space in the business junkyard for the mobile giants. Give up now before it becomes embarrassing.

The reason? RIM have not taken time to innovate and Apple is simply too good and too big to compete with.

But come on Guardian. Let’s be optimistic about this.

Firstly – despite having a cash reserve larger than the US federal government, what goes up must come down. And the same can be said for Apple and the iPhone.

As Clayton Christensen says “The iPhone is a sustaining technology relative to Nokia. In other words, Apple is leaping ahead on the sustaining curve by building a better phone. But the prediction of the theory would be that Apple won’t succeed with the iPhone. They’ve launched an innovation that the existing players in the industry are heavily motivated to beat: it’s not truly disruptive. History speaks loudly on that, their probability of success is going to be limited.”

Secondly – in our opinion, all RIM really need to do is stick to what they know. And they know business ruddy well. Business men and women across the country have used BlackBerries for years. They were specialised and built with them in mind. Not your average consumer.

Apple then came along and offered the same functionality but in a device that looked nicer and was better to use. What’s more they added millions of fantastic apps.

But with it there was, and never has been, any specialism for business. I love angry birds, but it does absolutely nothing for my productivity at work.

So what’s the solution?

Before Thorsten Heins took up his role as the CEO of RIM he discussed in length his ambitions to improve the BlackBerry app store in order to retain and entice new customers into the world of BlackBerry.

But, as we said, he missed the boat. The shiny new iPhone coupled with the rise of consumerisation and the growing trend of ‘bring your own device’ means that employees no longer have one device for home and one for the workplace; they want the same, good looking, easy to use technology wherever they are for whatever they are doing. So trying to offer one phone for work and one for home simply won’t work.

The beauty is that Thorsten was right all along; apps have been the fuel that have propelled the rise of the smart phone and concentrating on developing a valuable, useful and easy to use app store is key.

But why compete with Apple who dominates the market with consumer apps? RIM should use their business roots and expertise of the market to build a world class business app store that sells apps specifically designed for the everyday employee – helping make their life easier and making them more productive.

Think agenda setting tools

Think sales playbooks

Think mobile time sheets

Think sales education apps

Think mobile video conferencing

Not only would this carve a path for specialist business app developers who know exactly what organizations want but are currently lost in a world of free games and take away finders, but it would change the value of the BlackBerry and more importantly the Playbook – overnight.

Our advice for RIM: Keep up with changing trends, don’t try to compete in a saturated market, spot the gaps and stick to what you know.

And most importantly, ‘drink your own champagne’: Don’t think different. Do different.  And do it brilliantly.

If you are listening out there – we will do it for you.

By earnestagency 1 June 2012
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