News Analysis: RIM is betting big on its upcoming BlackBerry BBX operating system. The question is, will the new OS be enough to save the company and fight off Apple's iOS and Google Android?
was a time not too long ago-in 2006-when just about everyone had a BlackBerry.
I know I did. It was the "gold standard" in enterprise mobility. Additionally,
Research In Motion was beginning to offer versions of BlackBerry for consumers
with special support for consumer email outside the company's normal focus
of enterprise through its BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) automatic sync
with Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes or Novell GroupWise.
after Apple announced the iPhone in early 2007 and began shipping it in June
that year, BlackBerry was still experiencing growth in sales. There was a
lot of momentum in the BlackBerry platform. I remember being at an analyst
meeting hosted by RIM that fall and asking management if they should be worried
about the iPhone. "That's a consumer device and won't affect our stronghold in
the enterprise," executives said.
2008, Google announced Android. Again, I asked RIM if they should consider
using Android as their next-generation OS, but they replied: "We know more
about mobile operating systems than Google."
in 2011, Google's Android has the largest market share in smartphones, Apple is
selling more than 100 million iPhones a year, and RIM is reporting declining
sales. There still isn't any "next generation" operating system for the
the past few weeks, RIM announced that its next-generation operating system will
be called BBX, named after a blend of BlackBerry (BB) and QNX, the company's full-featured
OS that it acquired about 18 months ago. BBX will include a new user
interface developed through technology RIM acquired by buying The Astonishing
Tribe (TAT). In addition, the new operating system will have an exciting
graphical user interface, multitasking, and full support for email,
synchronization and security.
going to take RIM about a year to implement BBX. Oh, by the way,
current BlackBerry apps will not run on BBX, although BBX is supposed to run
Android apps if they are recompiled under BBX. I wonder why RIM feels it's
important to support Android apps? Like I had suggested a couple of years
ago, why didn't RIM just adopt Android as its next-generation OS in the first
sure that BBX will be a great smartphone OS. It will likely be on par with
what Apple's iOS and Google Android offer today. However, RIM also now has to
deal with Microsoft and the software giant's latest version of Phone 7 (Mango)
that is being adopted by Nokia, Samsung and HTC.
is clearly a company "at risk," and the drop in the company's stock price
during the past year is a clear reflection of that. I feel as if RIM is
like someone who's holding a BlackBerry and walking backward to the edge of the
Grand Canyon saying, "Hey, we're the BlackBerry folks. Everyone will love what
we're doing. They just have to be patient a year, and we'll be every bit as
good as what those folks at Apple and Google are doing."
an analyst perspective, RIM has moved from being the "darling" of the mobile
market before the iPhone came out to a company that analysts like me are
hoping can pull out of its current funk and stay in business.
the picture is not looking good. Just about everyone I saw in line the morning
of Oct. 4 to buy a new Apple iPhone 4S was holding a BlackBerry.
has made some horrible miscues over the past couple of years. The company
didn't jump onboard with a new smartphone OS. RIM released
its PlayBook tablet without the ability to run email.
least now, company executives look like they have a better strategy in place.
think there are three scenarios that RIM is facing:
RIM gets acquired (50%). The stock price is low, but the company still has more
than 40 million users. It might represent a good acquisition by another firm
such as Microsoft, Nokia, Hewlett-Packard or even Google.
RIM successfully makes the transition to BBX and sees sales increase again
(30%). This is the best outcome company executives can hope to achieve.
RIM simply craters and files for bankruptcy (20%). This is the worst outcome,
and no one hopes for this, but it is a very real possibility if the
company has delays in the migration to BBX and users continue to
defect in large numbers to more attractive options.
rooting for RIM to make BlackBerry relevant again. Viable competitors make
everyone do better.
I were in charge of a large enterprise IT organization with thousands of
BlackBerrys deployed, I'd likely give RIM some time to see if the company can
successfully make the transition to BBX.
it can, then RIM gets to keep my business. But if it can't, I
suspect most IT administrators would have a backup plan to convert to
Apple iOS, Google Android or Microsoft Windows Phone 7.
luck RIM. Some of us are still rooting for you.
J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D., is Principal Analyst of Mobile & Wireless at MobileTrax LLC. Dr. Purdy has been covering mobile, wireless, cloud & enterprise for the past 20+ years. He writes analysis and recommendations each week in an easy-to-read manner that helps people better understand important technology issues and assist them in making better technology purchasing decisions.
Disclosure Statement: From time to time, I may have a direct or indirect equity position in a company that is mentioned in a column. If that situation happens, then I'll disclose it at that time.