| | 01-26-13, 10:44 AM Thread Author #1
RIM and how the West was lost
When Research In Motion Ltd. in 2011 announced the first delay in the launch of its next-generation mobile operating system, then-co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said the platform when it finally emerged would be worth the wait.
On Wednesday, with RIM set to unveil the BlackBerry 10 OS and two handsets, likely touch screen and tactile keyboard versions in a multi-city launch event, consumers will get a sense about whether he was right.
Many specifics of the software and hardware upgrade have already been revealed in RIM demos and with the release of thousands of so- called Alpha devices for application developers.
And RIM has passed a key hurdle in that reviews from analysts, tech bloggers and journalists of the OS and hardware, a radical departure from BlackBerries of the past, have been almost uniformly positive.
Writing in techradar.com, for example, John McCann and Mary Branscombe said the BB10 interface resembles Android and Apple’s iOS, but includes several compelling and innovative distinctions.
“RIM has merged homescreens, widgets, app lists and a unified inbox into one slick interface, offering up an easy-to-navigate user experience,” they wrote.
Controlled by gestures, users can tap an app, slide down to open other options such as phone and messages in the integrated BlackBerry Hub, then slide up from the bottom to leave the application without actually closing it.
“Nobody should have to worry about opening apps,” RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said at the company’s annual developer conference in September.
“They should just be there.”
Features that allow users to toggle between personal and encrypted business apps, along with a virtual keyboard that anticipates keystrokes in multiple languages have also drawn praise.
Some analysts believe RIM engineers have succeeded in building an operating system from the ground up strong enough to challenge Microsoft’s Windows 8 — a platform being adopted by a growing list of hardware vendors — for third spot in global sales.
But RIM has paid dearly for its commitment to getting BB10 just right as its U.S. market share plunged to 1.6 per cent in November, according to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, from more than 40 per cent in 2010.
Many analysts say product refresh delays and other setbacks including a three-day BlackBerry outage in the fall of 2011 and release of a tablet PC without native email opened the door for Apple and Samsung.
“Wow, what a disaster,” Edward Snyder of Charter Equity Research said after RIM announced a delay in the BB10 launch to the first quarter of 2013, past the critical back to school and holiday shopping season. The first BB10 device based on QNX software was initially slated to launch in early 2012.
RIM is in “a handset death spiral,” he said about a company that dominated the U.S. market in 2008, when its stock peaked at $148 (U.S.).
With BlackBerry relying on an aging lineup of devices and lagging Apple and Android in the adoption of apps that allow users to personalize their smarthphones, rivals rushed into its territory.
Apple declared a new focus on enterprise customers and rivals emerged in markets that had been RIM strongholds, such as secure e-mail and text.
Vendors such as Symantec and IBM launched new offerings in the mobile device management sector RIM is counting on to bolster service fees — revenue that is under pressure with the BlackBerry’s declining market share.
And Samsung rode the Android software platform to surpass Apple as number one in global smartphone shipments in the final quarter of 2012, according to research from IDC.
Manufacturers in Asia have churned out low-end handsets, with Huawei taking third spot in global smartphone shipments in the fourth quarter, posting year-over year growth of more than 85 per cent, IDC added.
RIM went from relentless growth to it first sales decline in 2011 and in its most recent quarter reported a drop in its global user base to 79 million from 80 million.
It said BlackBerry sales fell in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. while its growth was largely derived from developing markets where lower cost, legacy BlackBerry handsets predominate.
The company will have posted several consecutive quarters of operating losses before impacts from the BB10 rollout are felt on its balance sheet, with some analyst forecasting red ink into 2014.
The upshot is that RIM needs a game-changer in BB10 if has any hope of winning customers from Apple and Android in the U.S., which may be required for the company to return to profitability and avoid a break up or hostile takeover.
Shares in RIM have surged since September on optimism that the BB10 launch will drive short term share value, but some analyst think the run up overestimates demand for the new OS and hardware.
Citigroup’s Jim Suva, with a sell rating on the stock, said in a note this week that shareholders have been given false hope.
“We remind investors that actual sell through matters to determine the true financial impact . . . on the company’s financials, especially in an increasingly competitive environment.”
BB10 — What we know
While questions around pricing, sales dates, even the names of new devices remain, a good deal is already understood about Research In Motion's BlackBerry 10 operating system and smartphones to be officially released Wednesday.
The Waterloo-based company has been offering teasers and has revealed a 4.2 inch, pitch black touch screen device with a virtual keyboard.
A QWERTY version would be launched soon thereafter and RIM has reserved the right to makes changes before final products are unveiled.
• RIM’s messaging strength has been given a lift. BlackBerry Messenger texts, e-mails, voice and social media are managed through the Hub.
• Formerly BlackBerry App World, BlackBerry World will have more apps than any other app store at launch, RIM says, and will offer music and movies.
• RIM’s Web browser is expected to have similarities to Android’s Chrome and iPhone’s Safari.
• Called Cascades, RIM’s version allows users to swipe apps from view while leaving them open in the background.
• Users can toggle between personal modes to secured work-related apps
• Boosted screen resolution and improved camera.
RIM and how the West was lost - thestar.com