RIM Product Line More FrankenBerry Than CrackBerry

Published on June 26, 2009
by John Paczkowski

frankenberryWith the Palm Pre and iPhone 3GS in stores and the myTouch 3G, T-Mobile’s second Google (GOOG) Android phone, headed to market, is the Research in Motion (RIMM) product lineup beginning to look a bit dated? Which leads to another question: Has RIM’s success made it too complacent?

GC Research analyst Tero Kuittinen believes it has. In a research note Friday, Kuittinen described the company’s Blackberry product range as “shopworn,” noting that even the new Blackberry Tour is quite close to the aging Curve in look and feel.

“We are concerned about the autumn and winter Blackberry product range–RIM seems to have made a deliberate decision to rely on incremental improvements in mid-range and low-end models instead of bringing advanced features aggressively to cheaper devices,” Kuittinen writes. “Considering how competitive the smartphone market is getting, we believe this cautious approach may begin backfiring in the autumn and particularly during the Christmas season.”

Kuittinen goes on to question the logic of the company’s new flip phone initiative, wondering why the company is rolling out its 8230 clamshell at a time when consumers are so enamored with large display devices like Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone and the new Palm (PALM) Pre. And that’s a great question because, well, the contract phone bestseller lists at most carriers aren’t exactly overrun with clamshells these days, are they?

“Overall, RIMM’s expansion to flip phones is ill-timed, and the Tour line lacks kick and the low-end improvements are minor at best,” Kuittinen concludes. “It is the combination of these three simultaneous factors that leads us to believe RIMM may have become lulled into complacency by the stellar success of the Blackberry devices over the past couple of years. The year 2009 is a tough period to let your product development program spin its wheels.”

Hard to disagree with that assessment given the handset launches we’ve seen so far this year. But perhaps the Storm 2 will prove Kuittinen wrong on that account. Perhaps it will even raise the bar a little. But even if it does, will that be enough to invigorate the entire product line? Kuittinen doubts it. “One major big-display phone launch, in our opinion, may not fully offset the slight malaise afflicting the rest of the Blackberry range in the autumn,” he concludes.

Below, our D7 Interview with RIM CEO Mike Lazaridis.

Return to: RIM Product Line More FrankenBerry Than CrackBerry