Is RIM the Next Palm?
Research In Motion gave developers and partners the hard sell on its upcoming BlackBerry 10 platform at the annual BlackBerry World conference in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday morning. And while the OS certainly looked promising, it wasn’t enough to appease investors and analysts who worry that the company’s struggle to recapture its lost momentum with consumers and developers is becoming a losing one. RIM’s shares slipped more than 5 percent Tuesday afternoon, following CEO Thorsten Heins’s BlackBerry World keynote address.
Evidently, Heins’s enthusiastic pronouncements served more as a reminder of the daunting task RIM faces than as reassurance that the company is headed for turnaround. Though BlackBerry 10 is an improvement over RIM’s legacy OS, and reportedly is easy to develop for, the concern now seems to be that it might simply be too late. By the time BB10 and the hardware it is to run on ships this fall, it will be competing with operating systems and devices even more advanced than the ones currently responsible for BlackBerry’s market-share erosion. And those operating systems all have far more well-established application ecosystems.
Which means RIM has a lot of work to do to convince developers to build apps for BB10. Indeed, a recent IDC survey showed that only around 16 percent of developers were “very interested” in writing apps for BlackBerry, compared with 90 percent for Apple’s iOS, and 80 percent for Google’s Android. Perhaps the $10,000 the company is promising to developers who write quality apps for BB10 will improve that.
Otherwise, this game of catch-up RIM has been playing may end up a losing one.
As Pacific Crest Securities analyst James Faucette observed in a note reflecting on the first day of BlackBerry World, RIM in 2012 seems to be even further behind its competitors than Palm was in 2009.
“Based on the little that RIM showed during its keynote at BB World 2012, we believe that it may be further behind iOS and Android in terms of product development to help catalyze ecosystem development than what Palm was when it launched webOS at CES 2009,” he said. “We all know the sad outcome of that journey.”
Of course, as Faucette admits, RIM has substantially more resources at its disposal than Palm ever did. A much bigger user base, too. But that analogy isn’t entirely off. RIM has badly lagged behind its rivals. And for far too long.
Could RIM be headed for a fate similar to Palm’s? If its losing streak continues for the rest of the year, it just might.