RIM’s Nonsensical Year

As 2011 winds to a close and 2012 begins, we do a little bit of Fast Company drumbeating. We predict a lot of stuff around here. Sometimes we’re wrong. But we also nailed a few things this year. Let’s talk about shoes and ships and sealing wax, cabbages and … RIM’s big failures…


“‘The time has come,’ The Walrus said, to talk of many things,” is a line you may recognize from a Lewis Carroll nonsense poem, one that continues with the fabulously apposite phrase, “and whether pigs have wings.”

Looking at the saga of RIM (once a champion of smartphone innovation) this year you’d be forgiven for thinking it ripe for a nonsense poem all of its own, and for pondering if pigs may fly before it recovers. We said as much in October, suggestingRIM Needs To Stop Researching And Get Its BBM, A** In Motion.” On the eve of its yearly developer conference, and in the immediate wake of a sequence of global service failures that lost it much consumer support–not least because of the odd way RIM’s PR effort handled the affair–we suggested, “Clearly RIM needs to get itself properly in motion and heading in the right direction. Otherwise, a Nokia-like fate awaits the company.”

Almost continuously since this article, Research In Motion has been in the headlines for one reason or another…most of them negative. In mid-December RIM reported pretty stable quarterly finances, but predicted a fourth quarter that was so soft that analysts and industry figures immediately worried–and shares slid further in value. Those shares have lost about 70% of their value since RIM debuted its disastrous PlayBook tablet in early 2011. But then the firm said it was delaying its next-gen phones, the ones with the purportedly iOS-rivaling QNX-based operating system until late 2012–a full five years and more after Apple’s iPhone launched. 

That operating system was to be called BBX, breaking with RIM tradition, but RIM even lost a lawsuit for the brand, and just recently the firm was hit with another trademark lawsuit over its popular BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) app. The firm is appealing, but it’s definitely not great PR.

Amid plummeting sales of its unfortunate tablet, RIM’s tried the desperation move of slashing its price to 50%, which doesn’t do much to promote it as a premium brand. And compared to the new Amazon Kindle Fire, which is a hot topic and selling by the millions, RIM’s device looks more and more like an also-ran. Rumors recently swirled that a group of firms had been considering buying RIM for its tech expertise–including Amazon–but that none had chosen to actually hand over the cash. Which means their analysts looked deep into RIM and didn’t like what they saw. 

Finally there have been ever-louder calls for RIM to dismiss its top executives, famously accused of holding back the firm’s innovative potential.


Now 2012 approaches, bringing with it fresh rumors of a still more impressive iPad redesign, hot rumors that a radical iPhone overhaul will happen in late 2012, a fresh batch of ever-better Android phones, rumors Samsung will try for 3-D display Android devices, and a suggestion that Google will be launching its own-branded top-range tablet PC. RIM’s really got to get moving. Though it may already be too late.

[Image: Flickr user Whitstable Oyster Festival]

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