With Research in Motion falling dramatically in influence in the US, and even seeing signs of slowing in the UK, one of its crucial markets, it begs the questions of what the Canada based company will do next.
RIM certainly have a large number of assets, and these are things that could prove important in its future. It has been speculated by many that Microsoft may attempt to buy the large smartphone manufacturer, for they have a significant amount of money to spend, but I am not sure they would do this. I do not think Microsoft look to purchase competitors in order to gain marketshare, certainly not ones losing significance as fast as RIM are. However, I think it’s certainly plausible that RIM moves OS from BlackBerry 10 (whose release was set back a number of months to early 2013, further cause for concern for its future) to Windows Phone 8, when it comes out in Autumn. A company as large as RIM must have checked out all its competition, and it’s the case with most Windows Phone users that they don’t want to leave the platform. Even Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, has stated he thinks the Nokia Lumia 900 and Windows Phone 7 OS are beautiful – he’s not wrong. I think RIM are well aware of the potential of Windows Phone, certainly considering Windows 8’s pending release, and so may make the risky move to the platform. This would very much put RIM in the position Nokia is in, fighting for its life and heavily dependant on Microsoft. Having said that, with the added backing of another huge brand name, Windows Phone could benefit greatly and perhaps it would mean BlackBerry Messenger would become standard for Windows Phones as RIM and Microsoft become closer integrated. I certainly think the help of RIM would have a large effect, even though its marketshare is diminishing. I think the diminishing marketshare is more to do with the outdated OS than the hardware or company. RIM made an ambitious move into the tablet market with the BlackBerry Playbook, and I must admit, whenever I’ve played about with the device, I’ve been very impressed. But it’s just not caught on in the market. Windows 8 could change all that, and forming a partnership with Microsoft would be the first step towards this. Furthermore, Microsoft wish to establish a powerful business presence with Windows Phone, and BlackBerrys are traditionally the business phone of choice, so I really see many potential gains from this move. I do not personally like BlackBerry phones, due to the clunky interface and the outdated trackerball and keyboard. I would expect most WP8 BlackBerry phones to have no physical keyboard. Although this makes the phones less distinguishable, I think it’s the best tactic and that’s the way the world is moving – touchscreen, touchscreen, touchscreen. It would certainly be an interesting move on RIM’s part, but I honestly think it may pay off for both companies in their attempts to at least snatch some marketshare back from the abusing clutches of Apple and Google.
There is a case for RIM to switch to Android as well, and this would be cheaper for the company (as it is open source) and would allow more customisability and product differentiation, although I would be concerned that the Android space is already so heavily dominated by the titans that are Samsung and HTC. Windows Phone is still in relatively early development, and so any entrant will be able to have its unique effect. I do think Android would provide instant sales for BlackBerry, but Windows Phone would be a longer term effort. I think firms should always think long-term, especially if they’re in such a rapidly changing market as smartphones – that’s why I am of the opinion that they need to move away from their current BlackBerry OS, because consumer tastes have changed and they need to keep up with them or they’ll be out of contention completely.