Research In Motion is in an unenviable position. The company that delivers BlackBerry smartphones to enterprise customers around the world is being relegated to the also-ran in the mobile market when, in reality, it’s handily beating the two companies that get almost all of the attention: Google and Apple. For its part, RIM has stayed relatively tight-lipped on the matter, preferring instead to trudge on in the shadow of the competition.
But it should stop. RIM might not offer the most flashy products on the market and its chances of delivering a software solution that can match iPhone OS are slim. But it’s still a wildly successful company that adequately delivers what consumers and especially enterprise customers want in a smartphone.
Although it doesn’t get the kind of press it might wish that it did, one thing is certain, regardless of the amount of attention it gets: it has what it takes to beat Apple and Google in the mobile market.
1. It’s ahead
According to NPD’s first-quarter market share figures, RIM is far ahead of both Apple and Google in the smartphone market. The research company found that RIM currently controls about 36 percent of the smartphone space. Compare that to Google’s 28 percent and Apple’s 21 percent, and it quickly becomes clear that the BlackBerry maker really doesn’t have much to worry about right now. Yes, Apple and Google get the attention, but for now, RIM is getting the market share. And that’s all that matters.
2. Remember the enterprise
With Apple in a market, it’s easy for critics to focus their attention on consumers and forget about the impact the enterprise has. That’s a mistake. As Microsoft has shown throughout the years, the enterprise can be a company’s best friend. RIM has learned that lesson. The smartphone maker has catered to the corporate world for years, and that has almost single-handedly contributed to its success today.
3. The BlackBerry is a fine device
It’s easy to overlook the BlackBerry. The software RIM’s devices run isn’t as flashy as iPhone OS or Android. BlackBerry devices, for the most part, offer a physical keyboard and the same trackball that some view as obsolete. And RIM itself doesn’t have the appeal that Google or Apple have. But that shouldn’t matter. Just about any BlackBerry smartphone is a great product that offers an outstanding e-mail program and highly touted calling capabilities. It deserves to share the spotlight with its competition.
4. iPhone-Google cannibalization
Going forward, the battle between the iPhone and Android OS might help RIM. The problem with two similar mobile operating systems competing in the same market is that it splinters the space. Some consumers will opt for the iPhone because it’s made by Apple and offers more apps than any other platform. Other consumers might choose Android OS because it’s available on more carriers and offers similar functionality to iPhone OS. In the process, RIM is left as the only company offering an alternative to those who don’t want the newest generation of smartphones. A battle between Google and Apple might not be the worst thing for RIM.
10 Reasons Why RIM Beats Google, Apple at the Mobile Game
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5. BlackBerry Enterprise Server
BlackBerry Enterprise Server is arguably the biggest reason why RIM has been able to attract (and keep) enterprise customers. The service is widely considered the best in its class and delivers the kind of productivity and functionality that no other mobile operating system on the market can muster. Considering so many companies are so invested in BES, RIM has made it difficult for them to switch anytime soon.
6. It’s Windows all over again
There’s something rather interesting about the enterprise that most companies seem to forget: it hates change. As much as Steve Jobs wants companies to see Mac OS X as the more capable alternative to Windows, they don’t care. They are already productive with Windows. The same can be said for RIM. More often than not, companies are content to stick with the technology that they feel comfortable with. It makes sense. Switching software or hardware can reduce productivity. It can also wreak havoc on a company’s bottom line. The enterprise is typically scared to try something new, especially when the product it’s using works so well. That should help bolster RIM’s market share going forward.
7. Not everyone loves touch screens
It’s easy to get caught up in the allure of touch screens. Yes, they’re nice and they do something that’s totally unique in the mobile market. But not everyone believes that they’re all that necessary. For many, the iPhone’s virtual keyboard, widely regarded as the best of its kind in the mobile space, still can’t match a physical keyboard. And although it’s nice to “swipe” around a page, a trackball isn’t half bad either. If market share figures are any indication, touch screens just aren’t for everyone. And RIM is reaping the benefits of that.
8. Ubiquity is key
A key issue with the iPhone is that it’s only available to AT&T customers. Some have said that it’s not such a big deal considering the phone they are able to use, but that might not be true. RIM has shown time and again that the most coveted phone won’t always win the day. Enterprise customers and consumers are still buying BlackBerry smartphones because they are available on their preferred carrier. It’s important to not underestimate carrier preference.
9. Apps aren’t everything
There’s no debating that Apple offers the best selection of mobile applications out of any company in the market. Unfortunately for RIM, it currently delivers a relatively small selection of apps that, for the most part, don’t adequately compare to those available on the iPhone. But that might not be as important as some folks think. The native applications available in the BlackBerry are outstanding. They help keep employees productive. And for the average company, that means everything.
10. It doesn’t try to do too much
RIM should be commended for not trying to do too much with its platform. Even though it made a poor decision by trying to deliver an iPhone competitor with the Storm, RIM has mostly stuck with what it knows best with its Bold and Tour smartphones. RIM must stay the course. It will never be able to match the iPhone on specs and Google is too powerful for it to best Android OS. BlackBerry OS is fine the way it is. RIM must continue to remember that.