If you've been reading this site for a long time, you know that it began with the single-minded objective of covering Microsoft's late 1990's merging of its consumer (9x) and business (NT) versions of Windows into a product that eventually became Windows 2000. Almost immediately, however, my coverage expanded, first to other versions of Windows (like Millennium), then to other related Microsoft platforms and products (Office, Windows Live, and so on), and then eventually to include products that compete with and/or complement Windows, including Apple devices, Google services, and the like.
This makes sense to me because Windows doesn't exist on its own. No one buys a PC to use Windows, they buy a PC because of the ubiquitous and pervasive nature of its interoperability and compatibility with applications and games, hardware devices and add-ons, online services, and so on. And in that sense, Windows doesn't stand alone. It's the center of most people's computing experiences, and while that may or may not change as our world evolves, that's certainly still the case today.
Looking at mobile devices in general, most people have so far had two types of interactions with this kind of hardware. They've used the devices out in the world, by themselves, and they've used them in tandem with Windows, to sync contacts, calendars, and other data, to copy music and other content, to download photos, and the like. This, too, is changing, and the most recent devices from Apple, Google, and even Microsoft depend on the PC less and less. In extreme cases--iOS 5, for example--a Windows-based PC isn't required at all. Things evolve.
So what does any of this have to do with the subject of this post? Well, it's sort of a long way of describing how I view my own site, and how I view how I determine which products to review and cover. And one product I've routinely ignored over the years, aside from the occasional news story, is the Blackberry family of mobile handsets. And while I've questioned whether this was the right move from time to time, every time I've explored Blackberry and the company that makes these products, I've been repelled. I've just never liked any of it, and even when they were successful I never understood the hold they had over governments, businesses, and even some users.
And now RIM is dead. I think it's time for us all to simply recognize this fact and move on.
RIM didn't declare bankruptcy or exit the market for smart phones or anything. What they did announce, however, was that their next generation mobile OS, now called Blackberry 10, won't ship until the end of 2012, a full year from now. This comes on the heels of one of the worst years I've ever seen any tech company experience, and I'd remind you that this happened during a time in which both Yahoo and HP were stumbling around blindly, looking generally foolish and without aim. RIM makes both of those companies look like huge successes by comparison.
How pathetic is RIM?
Two years ago, the Blackberry accounted for almost 50 percent of the US market for smart phones. Today, it controls just 9 percent.
This past year, RIM introduced a tablet device that didn't even have an email application. It's sold so poorly that the company took a $485 million write-down to account for a $300 price reduction this quarter. Oh, and they still haven't updated it to add an email application. Seriously.
This year, RIM was going to consolidate its future OS strategy around QNX. Which it renamed to BBX ... without even checking to find out whether that name was being used. Which it was. By a smart phone software development company. Which immediately sued them. And won.
RIM has introduced almost 40 new smart phone models since Apple released the first iPhone about 4 years ago, and even Blackberry experts have a hard time figuring out the differences, since the model numbers are ridiculous (quick: What's the difference between a BlackBerry Torch 9850 and 9860?) and there are too many kinds of phones (touch screens, hardware keyboard, touch screens and hardware keyboard, sliders, and more, oh my).
(A RIM executive actually said this week that the company didn't know how many Blackberry models it currently sells. Good stuff.)
Heading into 2011, Blackberry had two remaining core differentiators: Security and its proprietary network. With other devices gaining EAS [Exchange ActiveSync] capabilities, the former is no longer a big deal and even governments are switching to Android phones and iPhones. And with the latter suffering a catastrophic failure back in October, well, you get the idea. So RIM is modifying its unnecessary and expensive BES software to manage other devices types, like Android phones and iPhones. Another waste of time.
RIM stands as a warning for any tech industry Goliath that once owned a market only to watch it get snatched away by smaller, faster moving rivals with better products and better strategies. This is a fate that could befall any company--Microsoft, Apple, Google, whatever. Though I have a hard time imagining any of them being as poorly run as is RIM.
RIM is dead. I'm glad I never wasted time covering this junk.