RIM has struggled to maintain the confidence of investors and praise of consumers for a long time. Saturday’s Globe and Mail featured an excellent article by Omar El Akkad entitled, RIM makes a play for its future. In the article El Akkad explains the history of RIM and where they plan on going. He elaborates on RIM’s recent adversity:
One Wall Street analyst calls the BlackBerry “a broken brand,” left in the dust by the design wizards at Apple Inc. and losing market share to hungry foreign competitors – and many investors buy this gloomy line of thinking. RIM’s stock, which is down by two-thirds since mid-2008, is priced as though they believe the company’s profits are about to decline – even though RIM has posted a series of record quarters, is adding millions of new users, and is prospering in fast-growing overseas markets.
I can understand why Co-CEO’s, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie would be frustrated. What more does RIM have to do to prove that they are a viable, innovative company with a bright future? How about jump into the increasingly overcrowded arena that is today’s tablet market! That’s exactly what they decided to do only one year ago. The PlayBook was conceived and built in a year. Considering the short time frame and pressure to get to market, I am impressed with the result.
RIM started out thinking about simply making a larger, “souped up BlackBerry.” This would be a tablet that would run the same software and do the same things existing BlackBerry devices did. Thankfully, they were forced to set their sights much higher after the announcement of the iPad. To release a bigger BlackBerry that ran the same software and applications would have been a total disaster.
Enter QNX: makers of some of the most stable, dependable operating systems in the world. To give you an idea, versions of QNX software run (among many others): France’s high speed train system, nuclear power plants, and the Canadarm. An undeniably impressive resume.
In RIM’s smartest move ever, and easily the smartest tech acquisition of 2010, they acquired QNX and immediately put them to work in developing what is now known as BlackBerry Tablet OS; a version of the bullet-proof QNX Neutrino RTOS (Real Time Operating System) developed especially for the BlackBerry PlayBook.
Todd Wood, RIM’s head of industrial design was put in charge of the form factor of the PlayBook. The decision to go with the 7” size was not arrived at arbitrarily.
Mr. Wood sent his people out into the real world to look for inspiration. They came back with a theme. Many of the things people carried around with them – paperbacks, Moleskin notebooks, DVD cases – seemed to conform to a certain size.
If the PlayBook was to be truly mobile, Mr. Wood believed, it would have to be roughly the same size, something a person could hold with just one hand, unlike the iPad. The designers and the engineers agreed a seven-inch screen would meet that goal and still be able to fit the PlayBook’s brains – a high-powered circuit board sandwiched between two batteries – inside.
There are many who argue that 7” is not big enough. Mike Lazaridis responds that if you want to display content on a bigger screen, it is as simple as connecting the PlayBook via an HDMI cable to a projector or TV of any size. “What matters is how well it works,” he says. Personally, I think 7” is the perfect size for something that I want to have with me as much as possible. When I am looking to demonstrate or present something to a group, there is no shortage of output devices with standard HDMI connections.
The initial reviews of the PlayBook have tended to focus on things that will be remedied in coming months. Native email is coming in 60 days. The app experience will be boosted by full Android app compatibility this summer. 4G enabled versions are also slated to be released this summer.
As far as hardware goes, the PlayBook is positioned nicely. With its dual core 1Ghz processor, 1GB of RAM, full HD cameras and more, the only issue is software which can be easily upgraded without the assistance of a separate computer.
When people realize the potential of the QNX RTOS coupled with the power of the hardware running it, I see Wall Street finally giving RIM the respect they deserve. In fact, this might happen sooner rather than later. We learned today that analysts at Oppenheimer have given RIMM shares a “market perform” rating. Go get your RIMM stock now!
RIM is not a company that is struggling financially. They are debt free and “flush with more than $2-billion in cash.” If the PlayBook totally flops (which I am very confident it will not), RIM will not cease to exist. RIM is not a small company and have an established presence in worldwide markets that will not soon be relinquished. They have put a lot of eggs into their QNX basket by having the PlayBook and their future smartphones run their software. But QNX has also been around a long time (30 years) and their software is rock solid.
With the public release of the PlayBook mere hours away, we will soon see how RIM’s latest play for its future fares. I like their chances.