RIM Could Benefit from a Mind Meld with Apple: 10 Key Lessons to Learn

News Analysis: Research In Motion has some things to learn from Apple, the biggest and most influential tech firm in the world, before the BlackBerry mobile phone maker sinks into irrelevance.

Research In Motion finds itself in a somewhat difficult position. The company was once the most important firm in the mobile market. But when the iPhone launched and Google's Android platform followed closely behind, RIM lost its influence in the space, and much of its market share in the consumer market was given up to its competitors.

However, RIM is still an important player in the enterprise. In fact, the majority of companies around the globe believe RIM's BlackBerry devices are the top options for their employees. That has helped the mobile firm secure even greater revenue and profit figures over the last couple years, even though it has faced stiff competition from Apple and Google.

But even with that financial success, RIM's future is in doubt. Its market share continues to decline in the mobile space, and its devices look awfully "old school" compared with the new, often innovative alternatives reaching the market. Even with its huge profits, the chances of RIM becoming irrelevant today are greater than ever.

That's why the mobile firm should take some pages out of Apple's book. After all, if there is any company in the industry right now that knows how to stay relevant, it's Steve Jobs' firm.

Read on to find out what RIM can learn from Apple to ensure it doesn't become irrelevant.

1. Remember Apple's past

First and foremost, RIM needs to keep in mind that Apple was in a somewhat similar position in the 1990s. The company was losing its way, competitors were offering far better products, and questions were starting to surface over the firm's ability to compete in the new decade. But then Jobs stepped in, took the company in a new direction, and everything changed. RIM should look back at how Jobs fixed Apple and adapt that strategy to its own operation. It might do wonders for its operation.

2. Think about a dynamic leader

One of the key reasons Apple was able to change its luck in the technology industry and cement itself as the most important firm in the space was Jobs. The Apple co-founder is one of the most dynamic, intelligent and employee-inspiring CEOs in the market. But RIM co-CEOS Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie are not. They seem rather outdated in their thinking and unwilling to take the chances that Jobs would. Perhaps finding a new leader with more forward-thinking ideas on where the firm should go would do wonders for RIM.

3. The physical keyboard is a liability for consumers

RIM undoubtedly needs to keep the physical keyboard in place on its smartphones for enterprise customers. But the company shouldn't try marketing those devices to consumers. Apple's iPhone has ensured that the touch screen and a virtual keyboard become the norm in the consumer market. All other devices offering physical keyboards look obsolete in comparison.

4. Stick to the core market

Although it has been panned for doing so in the past, Apple doesn't deliberately focus on appealing to the enterprise. The reason for that is simple: It's a consumer company and Jobs wants to keep it that way. On the contrary, for RIM, becoming a consumer-focused company would be a mistake. The firm has been designing devices for enterprise customers for years, and that won't change. So perhaps RIM should forget about consumers entirely and design its devices and platforms with enterprise users in mind. If consumers want to join the fun, great. If not, RIM can be the enterprise provider. After all, it worked for Apple in the consumer market; why wouldn't it work for RIM in the enterprise space?

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...