I have been a mobile developer for a long time and while I have no inside knowledge of the inner workings of the company, from a technology and consumer’s perspective, I do think that my observations have some weight.
RIM has taken the first necessary step to shore up it’s rapidly flagging business. I think that the upper management change was long overdue, but in my opinion, RIM has a long way to go and some difficult decisions to make before it can come anywhere near the market position and valuation it once had, if it even can.
I think that it’s single largest point of failure market-wise was the Playbook. They made some real stupid mistakes and basically handed their position off on what could have been a spectacular win in the tablet market. They had the business buy-in that could have propelled their tablet initiative into the consumer exactly as their Smartphone strategy had. Instead they shipped out an expensive, crippled, nearly useless device that, for all intents and purposes, needed life support from the day it was released to the public.
From what I know now, they are hard at working making sure that this platform never actually recovers. I think at this point, they have two choices:
- Accept the fact that you screwed up, add the appropriate messaging functionality, release a version that has the ability to have it’s own SIM for wireless access outside of WiFi networks, release better development tools, support the developer community and move on.
- Drop the device, take the loss and move on focusing on your core handset business.
You will notice that Android did not come up in either of those options. That is because the idea of cobbling the Android apps to the Playbook through an emulator or, even worse, at the OS level is a huge and horrible technical and business strategy mistake.
Adding support for Android apps will do two things and neither of them are good:
- Business will remove access for Playbooks from their networks just on the perceived security weaknesses introduced by the administrators of many companies. All the administrators I know have already stated that Blackberry devices will not be allowed to be used on their networks once the 2.0 update is released. Whether this is correct or not, it is a fact of the perception of Android apps and devices as not being as secure as say iPads, iPhones, Blackberrys, and yes even Windows computers.
- All development for native Blackberry apps will stop. Not at first, but increasingly, you will see that developers will not start new projects for the device when they can get two platforms for the price of one by developing for the Android platform. You will see increased demand to allow more and more access to resources for the Android apps until the Playbook is no more than an over-priced Android tablet.
Don’t think for a second that the addition of Android app support on the Playbook will result in a huge jump in sales. It won’t. You may see a trickle, but that will dry out soon. There is no way that consumers will buy a Playbook to run Android apps when they can spend less money and get a more advanced, more up-to-date Android tablet.
It may sound like I hate the Playbook, that I do not believe in the platform. Nothing could be further from the truth, I think that it’s a great device and could have the same business niche (that’s not being filled very well at all right now) that the Blackberry Smartphone’s have enjoyed for years. Apparently, I believe in it more than the management at RIM does. I hope that they find a little faith and avert themselves the disaster that they seem to be determined to drive headlong into.