RIM Aims to Build a Complete End-to-End Platform

 
 
By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2012-07-06
 
 
 

BlackBerry 10 Is 'Fantastic,' RIM to Emerge 'Stronger,' Says Executive


BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has a message to deliver.

RIM has delayed the release of BlackBerry 10, its save-the-company product; is poised to let go of 5,000 employees, reducing its staff by nearly a third; has hired advisers who may suggest the company split into two, if not sell off an important component of its brand; and on June 28 announced quarterly losses of $518 million. Still, the Ontario-based company firmly believes it will successfully emerge from this €œtough transition,€ said Peter Devenyi, RIM€™s senior vice president of enterprise software.

Devenyi spoke with eWEEK July 5, answering questions but above all insisting that morale was high and the company€™s outlook bright. Days earlier, CEO Thorsten Heins did the same on a Canadian radio program.

€œThe level of commitment that exists within this company, to see us through, is strong and truly inspiring,€ Devenyi told eWEEK. €œAs we see and talk to the employees €¦ there's tremendous confidence that exists within RIM that we will succeed in getting through this transition.€

Devenyi added that if one has to go through such a transition, it€™s nice to do so with $2 billion in cash, no debt and as the No. 1 smartphone brand in €œmany countries€ around the world.

Given the delay of BlackBerry 10€”which Devenyi and Heins have been quick to point out is not simply a new smartphone or operating system upgrade, but an entirely new platform€”Heins has said that RIM is encouraging enterprise customers, many of whom are still using BlackBerry 5 and 6 devices, to upgrade to BlackBerry 7€”though these devices will not be upgradeable to BlackBerry 10. Is such advice not sending them down a dead-end path?

Devenyi said that the Bold 9900 and other BlackBerry 7 devices are €œfantastic devices.€

€œThe capabilities we bring with BlackBerry 7€”including BlackBerry Balance in the BYOD [bring-your-own-device] market, including the liquid graphics capabilities, the speed, the new browser€”it is a remarkable advance over some of the older BlackBerry devices. ... As [enterprise customers] see them and use them, it doesn't take much to get them to upgrade,€ Devenyi added.

RIMs Devenyi Praises BlackBerry 7, BlackBerry 10


 

€œNo doubt, BlackBerry 10 will be a whole new level for the future, yet BlackBerry 7 is a tremendous advancement and a competitive device that's still viewed as far and away the No. 1 device out there for use within the enterprise.€

Analysts, to a degree, have been inclined to agree with such statements.

€œThe BlackBerry 7 devices still are among the best for those who want a touch-typeable keyboard and very granular control over email, combined with good security,€ said Ken Dulaney, an analyst with Gartner who looks at the mobile enterprise market.

Still, regarding RIM€™s push of the devices ahead of its BlackBerry 10 launch, Dulaney couched his remarks by saying that if one were planning on switching to a touch-screen device, €œthere would be no way to justify the purchase of a new BlackBerry 7 device today.€

In recent weeks, RIM CEO Heins has several times referred to RIM moving into €œmobile computing.€ What exactly does this refer to?

Devenyi explained that this refers to RIM's building a complete end-to-end platform€”not just a platform on which two people can communicate, but one that anticipates a future with new devices and new ways of communicating.

RIM Aims to Build a Complete End-to-End Platform


 

€œFor example, QNX, as a core OS, is found in at least 200 makes of vehicles that are out there,€ he said. €œThe way in which we communicate with our cars, the way in which we communicate with other embedded devices that are out there, will change dramatically. So when we talk about building a mobile computing platform, it goes beyond traditional device-to-device communications but is really an entire new ecosystem of connected machines.€

One of these, Devenyi added, €œwill be a mobile computing device that you carry around€”but it will extend well beyond that.€

During RIM€™s earnings call, Heins said that on top of a €œsolid mobile-device-management offering,€ RIM plans to €œbuild services that are value-added for our customers and generate incremental revenue for the company.€ Could Devenyi expand on this?

€œWe continue to invest extremely heavily in Mobile Fusion, so some of the capabilities that will be coming out from a Mobile Fusion perspective will include bringing Mobile Fusion to the cloud€”so that one does not need to deploy Mobile Fusion on premise, for certain corporations€”and adding a new level of security to non-BlackBerry devices, so that you can better manage those devices and secure the enterprise content on those devices,€ said Devenyi.

BYOD is another area on which RIM is heavily focused, he said. RIM€™s goal is to appeal to €œthe widest community possible,€ supporting both BYOD and corporate-owned devices in companies of all sizes. BlackBerry Mobile Fusion €œis all about providing that effective, easy-to-manage single pane of glass that can manage any device as securely as possible.€ That said, Devenyi added, €œWe firmly believe that there will always be some unique capabilities that differentiate BlackBerry devices from competitive devices.€

There have been rumors that RIM may be advised to split its handset business from its services business. Neil Mawston, executive director of the global wireless practice at Strategy Analytics, said that additional delays to the BlackBerry 10 platform have made it €œprobable that RIM will have to seek a white-knight partner.€

Mawston suggested that a merger with Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Google or even a private equity firm could save the company. However, he added that, with RIM still in a state of decline, many will be wary of €œtrying to catch a falling knife.€

With all the uncertainty, what message does RIM have for enterprise customers that may be understandably nervous?

€œWe have almost a quarter million BlackBerry enterprise servers in the world, and over 90 percent of the Fortune 500 are active BlackBerry customers. We are absolutely committed as an organization to supporting the continuing needs of what is a very important customer base to us,€ said Devenyi.

€œWe are very, very confident that we are going to get through this difficult transition a stronger company and offering a continued set of critical services to this loyal customer base that we have, and we intend to continue to serve them well and make sure the service they receive from us is top-notch and that we take them to a whole new level of capability as we introduce BlackBerry 10.€

At BlackBerry World 2012 in May, RIM showed off a very early version of a new device that will run BlackBerry 10€”the Alpha Dev€”which it gave to developers to work with. Immediately afterward, reports emerged that RIM was abandoning its physical keyboard. Will the first BlackBerry 10 smartphones be a mixture of devices with and without physical keyboards?

Indeed, said Devenyi, RIM will be releasing BlackBerry 10 devices that are €œboth pure touch-screen devices and BlackBerry keyboard devices, and both will be available in 2013. €¦ The keyboard devices will be available shortly after the touch-screen devices are available.€

Understanding that BlackBerry 10 is a complete platform, the smartphones that run on it will, no doubt, be critical to its success. RIM has, in the past, promised big but delivered devices that failed to truly intrigue consumers, as devices like Apple€™s iPhone and Samsung€™s Galaxy S III have. Is RIM€™s design team the same? Is the company confident it€™s going to release devices that will undoubtedly wow the world?

One Analyst Sees a Glass Half Full for RIM


 

€œBlackBerry 10 is fantastic,€ said Devenyi. RIM€™s design team has evolved with new acquisitions and new hires, he added. €œThe design team is world class that's working on this device.€

Analyst Ken Hyers, with Technology Business Research, said he expects someone of Devenyi€™s position to say nothing less. €œAnd I hope that it€™s all true,€ he added.

While Devenyi has certainly been tasked with putting a positive spin on RIM€™s current situation, neither is he off base, Hyers suggested.

€œThe company retains a base of customers across Fortune 500 companies, it has a not inconsiderable cash hoard, and it has made some hard decisions around layoffs which will reduce expenses and help it through this rough patch. Looking at the situation as a glass half full, I don€™t think this is necessarily the end for RIM,€ said Hyers.

€œIf they can get BlackBerry 10 devices to market in volume by 1Q13, they still have time to retain a portion of their enterprise customers,€ he added. €œThey can still remain the gold standard for secure mobile email. They will also be able to provide secure mobile application support at a level unmatched by Android products. But I don€™t expect them to regain their past level of success.€

Hyers added, however, that a false move could tip over the glass.

€œIf RIM misses another target for getting BlackBerry 10 to market, or if expenses run higher than they have projected, or if they see an acceleration in the rate of customer losses in the second half of 2012,€ he said, €œthen I expect they€™ll be forced to reconsider the hard decisions that they€™ve already explored and sell off the company and its assets.€

Devenyi, closing the conversation, repeated, €œI can tell you BlackBerry 10 is fantastic. €¦ We are so confident that we have something very different, very unique. We just are not willing to release this to market until it is ready and it has the level of quality that we know everyone expects and deserves.€

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