RIM Plays Catch-Up, but Can It Cut the Mustard?
At a New York event Tuesday morning, Research in Motion (RIMM) Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis called the launch of the Blackberry Torch one of the most important in the company’s history. And it certainly is that. As the smartphone has evolved into the standard for the broader consumer market, RIM has begun to lose some of its momentum to Apple’s iPhone and a parade of new handsets running Google’s Android OS. And it’s losing mindshare even more quickly. A Nielsen survey released yesterday shows that 57 percent of current BlackBerry users in the United States say their next handset will NOT be BlackBerry. And, predictably, most Android and iPhone users say the same thing.
So, yes the Blackberry Torch launch is one of the most important in RIM’s history. But is the device a buzz-worthy breakthrough or just another BlackBerry?
Really, it looks to be the latter, though as Ralph de la Vega, head of AT&T’s (T) mobility and consumer divisions, it also looks to be the best one ever. But it’s clearly not the triple axel revolutionary leap RIM proclaims, but more a reactionary Lutz that catches it up with the rest of the market. Universal search, universal in-box, Web-kit browser — these are all commonplace smartphone features, not transformative ones. They do address the shortcomings that undermined previous devices and little else.
And in the end, perhaps that’s all that RIM really needs. The company says “fresh, but familiar” is the goal to which it aspires. The Torch is that and it will likely be a hit with die-hard Blackberry users. But is it really “ a quantum leap over anything that’s out there” as RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie claims? And more importantly is it the device that Lazaridis says will make “anyone that looks at it…say ‘I want a BlackBerry’?
That’s for the market to decide, but at first glance it doesn’t look like it. But maybe it doesn’t need to. As Don Lindsay, RIM’s vice president for user experience said today, “It’s not about bringing something new to BlackBerry but improving what we do best.”