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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
She used to work in a diner / never saw a woman look finer / I used to order just to watch her float across the floor
— Neil Young, Unknown Legend
June 17, 2011
RIM’s Beginning of the End

Research in Motion (RIM,) the inventor of the BlackBerry, is one of the Canadian tech industry’s favourite success stories. For years they’ve been held up by government and the media as an example of things done right.

This week, things aren’t quite as good at RIM. In fact, things are very very bad.

For the past couple of years I’ve been telling people that there would be no RIM in ten years. That ten years is a ballpark, really: I’m not picking an exact day. I’ve been fairly confident that RIM has been on a downward slide for those two years though.

I have an iPhone and people always assume that I think Apple’s going to kill RIM. Not so though: the iPhone’s impact on the BlackBerry was huge, to be sure, but the mistake was actually RIMs. The iPhone rewrote the expectations people had for their smartphones, and not in a small way. The landscape changed, seemingly overnight.

What did RIM do? Nothing. Well, that’s not fair: they did make derisive comments about the iPhone’s non-physical keyboard. I had a work supplied Blackberry Bold a couple of years ago when it was supposed to be RIMs iPhone killer. Naturally, I bought an iPod touch to go with it. Guess which one was more useful, despite the fact that it couldn’t connect to a cellular network. (Well, in fairness, the Blackberry seemed to have quite a bit of trouble connecting to cellular networks too, but that’s another story.)

Good plan RIM. Leave the technology behind, keep building the same thing you’ve been building, virtually ignore touch screens and cling to your legacy installed based.

No, it won’t be Apple who kills RIM. It will be Microsoft. RIMs ace in the hole for the last two years has been the BlackBerry Enterprise Server—the BES. BES is the software that companies install to create private BlackBerry networks. The iPhone has no comparison and shows no signs of getting one. It might happen, but it would be very non-Apple to do so. They just don’t have a history of building proprietary server software.

Microsoft, on the other hand, loves building user installable communications software. Windows Phone is getting a fairly decent response, and from a corporate perspective it’s “good enough” for most CIO and CTO types. Their clients—the managers and staff they give phones too—no longer care about carrying a BlackBerry as a status symbol, they just want to carry a phone.

So it’s Microsoft that’s going to put the final nail in the RIM coffin, by building a server that’s easier to configure and work with than the BES. If it’s easier to support, cheaper to operate, crashes less and offers essentially the same level of security, IT will switch to it eventually. RIM is a one note company with no diversity of products to help maintain it through tough times, and these are tough times indeed.

Sorry RIM. It’s been a great run, but you’ve rested on your laurels too long now. It was a good run for a while, but it’s coming to and end.

A shame Jim Balsille didn’t get that hockey team when he tried.

Posted by skooter at 6:35 AM This entry is filed under Technology.
This entry is tagged: BES, Blackberry, Globe and Mail, iPhone, RIM

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