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 They seem rather outdated in their thinking and unwilling to take the chances that Jobs would.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?
Focus on Quality, Innovation
5. Obsolescence is a death sentence
When one looks at RIM’s BlackBerry devices, it’s hard to not feel that they’re a bit obsolete. Not only do many of them come with small displays, but for the most part, they offer physical keyboards. The software they’re running is not nearly as easy to use as iOS. Just taking the BlackBerry’s browser for a spin proves that quite quickly. Obsolescence in the tech space is a death sentence. Apple knows that, and that’s why its products push boundaries. It’s time for RIM to follow suit.
6. Quality means everything
If RIM can learn anything from Apple, it’s that the quality of a respective product means the difference between success and failure. That’s why the recent recall of 1,000 BlackBerry PlayBook tablets is bad news for RIM. Right now, RIM needs to do everything well. Being forced to recall an important new product doesn’t project an image of quality, confidence or competence. Apple demonstrates every day that product quality is integral to its success. It’s time for RIM to make that reality a key component in its strategy going forward.
7. Keep the focus on what it’s best at
Apple doesn’t get bogged down in products or services that it doesn’t necessarily understand. It also doesn’t waste time in markets where it can’t be successful. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company simply sticks to what it’s best at. RIM should do the same. As mentioned, it needs to ditch ideas of cornering the consumer market. It should also double down on its software platforms for enterprise customers. RIM has proved that it’s best at delivering worthwhile solutions to the enterprise. Just look at BlackBerry Enterprise Server. It needs to keep focusing its efforts in the enterprise space.
8. Coax developers to its side
In order for RIM to have a future in the mobile space, it needs to do a better job of appealing to developers who want to bring applications to its tablet and smartphones. Future success in the mobile market will rely upon getting developers to continue to build applications for the devices RIM makes. Apple’s App Store is arguably a key reason for the iPhone’s and iPad’s success. The BlackBerry App World must be a key component in the success of RIM’s own products.
9. It’s fine to take a chance
RIM likes to play it safe. It continues to announce smartphones that feature the same outdated design. From a financial perspective, the strategy seems to be working. RIM continues to generate more revenue and profits each year. But over the long term, the company will need to start taking some chances. Its importance and influence in the mobile space is on the decline. And that might eventually come back to haunt RIM. If it can take a few chances, just as Apple has in the past, the company can go a long way in re-establishing itself in the mobile market.
10. Think twice about tablet plans
RIM’s tablet strategy is off. The company’s BlackBerry PlayBook features a small, 7-inch display. When it launched, it lacked key built-in applications, like an emailing platform. Early adopters needed to connect a BlackBerry smartphone just to have access to those important apps. RIM is promising a 4G version later this year, but the option currently on store shelves lacks that connectivity. RIM’s tablet plans seem to be wrong on many levels. The time has come for the company to look at Apple’s iPad and learn a thing or two.