John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Not Much Riding on BlackBerry World — Just RIM’s Future

For Research In Motion, the past year has been about as ugly as they come. Marked by market-share erosion, product delays, a management shakeup and a precipitous 75 percent decline in its stock price, the last 12 months have seen the company on a relentless and unforgiving downward trajectory. Where RIM once made headlines for dominating the nascent mobile device market, these days it’s for lousy financial results, global network outages and its ongoing search for an adviser to help evaluate its strategic options.

So RIM’s BlackBerry World conference, which kicks off later today with a keynote address from CEO Thorsten Heins, is sure to be closely watched — both for the harbingers of a turnaround and the telltale cracks and missteps indicative of further deterioration. This is a very important event for the company, one of its last opportunities to restore the faith of the thousands of partners, clients and developers who attend it and rally them behind RIM’s forthcoming new operating system, BlackBerry 10.

As one developer told me, “This is RIM’s big chance to tell the BlackBerry 10 story. And if they tell it well and persuade us to support it, maybe they’ll be able to keep their head above water.”

But that’s no easy task. BlackBerry 10 is vastly different from RIM’s current OS, with which developers are already well acquainted. Developing for it requires learning a new set of application development tools, and having faith enough in the OS to launch them on unproven hardware.

Patience for the former and a prevalence for the latter may be in short supply, given the year RIM has had to date, and developers’ tendency to gravitate toward the larger, more well-established smartphone platforms on which they can actually make money.

So with today’s keynote, Heins faces both a key challenge and an opportunity: To convince developers that RIM is worth backing, and to begin charting that bold new course that he keeps mentioning.

If he pulls it off, maybe we’ll find that RIM really is capable of its long-promised turnaround.

And if not? Well, the future looks pretty grim, as this BlackBerry World scene-setter note from RBC Capital’s Mark Sue demonstrates:

“With iPhone dominating North America and Android rapidly spreading throughout the rest of the world, sell-through of legacy BlackBerry is facing significant headwinds. We believe even RIM’s core enterprise market is at risk to rising Bring Your Own Device pressures and switching to iPhone and Android. RIM is resorting to price cuts to boost sell-through, but that may not be enough to stem the tide, in our view.”

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work