Thorsten Heins was appointed CEO of RIM earlier this year after cofounders (and subsequently, co-CEOs) Mike Lazardis and Jim Balsillie were thrown out by the company’s board of directors. In the time from then to now, RIM has faced numerous challenges, including disappointing financial periods, layoffs in the tens of thousands, and numerous delays of its brand-new BlackBerry 10 operating system.
And yet, after the seemingly insufferable turmoil that RIM has gone through this pat year, Heins is still confident that BlackBerry 10 will be the clear choice for many consumers come January 30 – the date that the company promises it will release BB10 to the public.
In an interview with the staff of The New York Times, Heins gave no signs of being worried that BlackBerry 10 will be a disaster – even going so far as to say “I don’t expect things to get much worse,” an obvious answer to the unasked question of how RIM is standing financially and in the minds of consumers.
Heins went on to explain that BlackBerry 10 will introduce a number of features that are “going to catch on with a lot of people,” highlighting the new operating system’s included apps which combine social media and productivity tasks to help people get things done while not being overwhelming. “It’s stress relief,” according to Heins.
Unfortunately, though, I’m not completely sure that anything about BlackBerry 10 is “stress relief,” or that any of it is actually “going to catch on with a lot of people.” Names are important to consumers, and BlackBerry has the horrible connotation of being a work phone – and only a work phone. Any improvements that RIM makes to the BlackBerry platform with BB10 might be for nought, as I can’t think of one person I know personally who is interested in buying a BlackBerry.
To them, and to every non-RIM fanboy consumer I can think of, it’s all about Androids and iPhones.
And that is the problem with BlackBerry 10. The improvements might not matter, as nobody will go out and buy the phones and learn about the improvements. And then developers – even with the free $10,000 that RIM is promising successful developers – won’t actively pursue developing for the platform since there is a small audience who will buy their apps. As you know, this leads to a vicious cycle: consumers won’t buy a phone without apps but developers won’t develop for a phone that is in nobody’s hands.
Apparently, RIM has worked with developers to bring great apps to launch – and honestly, I hope that’s true. Having three dominant players in the mobile market is boring at most times, and having a fourth with dramatically alter the landscape and give us even more choice and innovation, regardless of the platform we choose. And personally, I’ve always thought that RIM has had some amazingly-designed hardware. From what I’ve seen from BlackBerry 10, it’s got some amazingly-designed software, too, so hopefully the team in Waterloo can mend the two together to get the company back to its once-great roots.
RIM also has a couple more months to get more developers on board, but the question remains: can RIM actually bring all of what it’s doing together so it can once again be a leader in the mobile space? I have my doubts; however, RIM doesn’t.
And this is the one instance with which I hope to turn out to be wrong.