“RIM is dead”
“RIM isn’t cool”
“Blackberry is for old people”
Yeah, we’ve heard all those quotes over and over the past years. Unfortunately it’s all true – RIM isn’t doing too hot because they’ve made some major mistakes since Apple launched the iPhone back in 2007. It’s all part of the circle of (business) life, however. First you start the company, then you get a hot product, the product takes over the market, then someone else comes along and makes a new company or an existing company creates a *better* product, and you become irrelevant. There’s a few exceptions to that – but it’s a good generalization. Nothing lasts forever.
Every time a major company starts to sink I can’t help but look at their situation and find some valuable business lessons. RIM is no exception – here are 3 valuable lessons that we can learn from RIM’s current financial situation:
The Status Quo
While many business scholars believe it is a mistake to change a successful product – I truly believe it is a mistake to not change. There is a thing in this world called evolution. Time shifts, people change, and markets move. It just happens and there’s no way to stop it. To put it simply: RIM has not changed in the past many years.
A blackberry today is hardly different from a blackberry of five years ago. Sure they have a simple (bs) app store, better email support, slightly better design, etc – but for all intents and purposes they haven’t changed much. This, unfortunately, is RIM’s #1 mistake: believing the status quo is good.
Being Afraid To Embrace New Technology
Could you imagine what the market would look like these days if RIM stopped all internal software development for mobile devices and simply switched to Android when it first came out all those years ago? They would have instantly gone from creating the “old man’s phone” to creating a hip phone that everyone wanted. The fact is companies who ignore perfectly good 3rd party technologies are the ones who fail. Always. Even Apple and Google utilize 3rd party technology in their most successful products (or nowadays they just buy out the 3rd party, but that’s another story).
I truly believe RIM was afraid to make such a drastic move for one big reason: alienating their existing market. However, they were too stupid to realize by following the status quo (see above) they were already alienating their users. It’s becoming increasingly rare these days to see a business person carry a blackberry – most of them use iPhones or Androids.
Why? Because that’s the world we live in nowadays – and it will be that way until some other company comes along with the next hot mobile device.
Know When To Change
It took RIM a good 4 years after the iPhone launch to finally start competing on a more head-to-head basis. I cannot imagine it took them that long to develop the products they have been releasing lately. Their leadership over the past half decade simply hasn’t had a good feel for when to change – and that has led them to their current situation. They waited too long and missed the boat.
The sad part is I bet if you asked their old CEO about their financial woes he would make up some lame-ass excuse about the economy. The real excuse is “we fucked up” – not “oh well the economy is bad”. If that were true please explain to me how apple is now one of the most valuable companies in the world and still growing. They are in the same market these days – if Apple (and Google, actually) could achieve such success in the mobile space then why couldn’t RIM.
It’s because they had no idea they needed to change. Plain and simple.