Research In Motion, after rounds of promises and delays, will introduce the BlackBerry 10 mobile platform and new smartphones at a New York City event Jan. 30. RIM has said that this new, modern platform will see it through the next decade, that its new handsets will be as compelling to consumers as to business users, and that the combination of the two will help it to regain some of its former glory.
The success of what RIM introduces Jan. 30, it's well understood, will in large part determine RIM's fate.
The company's falling market share—20 percent in 2009, 16 percent in 2010, 10 percent in 2011 and nearly 5 percent in 2012, according to IDC—has in recent quarters prompted talk of a RIM acquisition. Executives have acknowledged that, with the help of third-party advisors, they're considering all their options, which have been said to include a full buyout, the licensing of RIM software and the sale of RIM's hardware division.
RIM CEO Thorsten Heins has made clear, however, that first RIM wants to launch BlackBerry 10 and see how the world responds.
This rather begs the question: What will a BlackBerry 10 success story look like? What will have to happen—what numbers hit, what shifts occur—for RIM and the majority of the industry to nod and agree: That worked out.
eWEEK asked seven analysts what they thought.
Neil Mawston, executive director, Strategy Analytics:
"RIM needs to wow in at least six main areas for BB10 to be considered a success this year. First, the new hardware designs must look attractive and sleek. Second, the new displays for high-end smartphones must be large, crisp and bright, with screen sizes of least 4 inches, ideally somewhere around 5. Third, the usability of the new BB10 software must be slick and bug-free. There should be no Apple Maps-like debacle. Fourth, RIM will need to demonstrate that its available services and apps for BB10 are growing fast, not just for business users, but also for consumers. RIM must not over-focus on the enterprise segment. Fifth, RIM must demonstrate that BB10 phones have at least basic multi-screen capabilities, able to link mobile hardware and services with the office, home living room and car. And sixth, RIM must have multiple tier-one operators on board worldwide and they must be actively subsidizing the new BB10 models.
"The more of those six boxes RIM ticks, the more likely it is to succeed. First-generation BB10 models are unlikely to set the world on fire because stage one is just about catching up with rivals like Apple. But stage-two models in the second half of 2013 will need to be significantly more competitive, and that period is arguably more important for RIM than the immediate launch this week."
Ken Hyers, senior analyst, Technology Business Research:
"If RIM can hit three major milestones—sign their biggest enterprise customers to the new platform; continue to engage developers and have at least 100,000 apps available at launch, and then steadily grow the portfolio of apps; and convince a large number of its current customers to upgrade the new platform—then its new platform will be considered a success, at least in the short term.
"Longer term, RIM's success must be measured by how well it does in attracting new customers. Most of the efforts we've seen to date have been to make the new platform appealing to existing BlackBerry users. This makes sense, because this is the low-hanging fruit. But RIM needs to show it can win back users that deserted RIM for iPhones and Android devices—and I think this will be a much harder task for it."