Fast on The Way to Nowhere: RIM

This year should be a big year for RIM. By big, I don’t mean in a good way. In order to elucidate, I’m basing my thoughts on some announcements made in Q4 2011, but also the general trend the company is headed on while we’re just a couple weeks into 2012.

RIM unveiled some of the work they have been doing on OS 2.0 for their PlayBook tablet. I had a look at some of the screenshots, and my initial reaction to them was positive. While I must reserve final judgement until I have tried the finished product, I must say some of the design seems modern and thoughtful. These are all good things, but it’s just not enough. RIM can’t seem to catch a break. 2011 was an abysmal year for Playbook sales. They were so abysmal that RIM slashed the price of all models to just $299, just so they could unload the mass stockpile of unsold product in their warehouse.

Perhaps you could make a valid argument that upper management is to blame. I certainly would not argue with anyone on this, although their problems are a culmination of that and not being proactive enough when identifying upcoming trends in the mobile space. Up until last week, I had zero confidence that RIM was capable of a single iota of good design. I truly wanted to believe they had some talent in the company. It seems this is the case after having a look at the upcoming Playbook OS v2.0. Here’s the issue though: it’s too little too late. The design and development teams at the company are not stupid. They probably are well aware that the Playbook should have shipped on day one with native email, calendar and contact support. I do not portend to know the inner workings of the company, so I have no idea what the barriers were to not being able to ship a finished product. Was it that they didn’t have the right people at the beginning when development started? Or perhaps did they just not have enough people working on it at the start? Whatever the problems were, I have this gut feeling that everyone involved with the project knows this device is going to get canned in the next six months. I would not at all be surprised if we start seeing a lot of RIM’s current talent jump ship, either heading over to Google or Apple, and I’m sure both companies would love to have them.

So what happened to their BBX (now named BB 10) operating system? It was supposed to be available with a slew of new devices in the first half of 2011. Now RIM is back-pedalling and can’t commit to an earlier release date than the tail end of 2012. As I said earlier on, RIM can’t seem to catch a break. Screwup after screwup. Not only is this causing RIM’s share value to take a nose dive, their most important investment — their customers — are quickly losing faith, to wit, if they haven’t already.

So what’s on the horizon for a sinking ship? Well, their shares are are plummeting, their hardware sucks, their software sucks and there doesn’t appear to be any signs that they’re going to be able to pull off anything spectacular anytime soon. I have spoken friends of mine who have been long-time Blackberry fans, and they aren’t holding their breath for any miraculous event where the company will suddenly bounce back. It isn’t going to happen. The sooner everyone comes to this realization, the better.