Jun 172011

It was widely reported in the New York Times and elsewhere today that Blackberry maker RIM‘s earnings report for the most recent quarter and earnings forecast going forward, were lower than expectations. I have to wonder, who is surprised by this?

When was the last time you heard someone excited about a Blackberry? Do you know anyone who owns a RIM Playbook tablet?

So what happened to this once strong pillar of the smartphone provider family?

The short answer is, as with so many struggling or failed enterprises before it: hubris. Or, defined, “1. pride or arrogance, or, 2. (in Greek tragedy) an excess of ambition, pride, etc, ultimately causing the transgressor’s ruin.” In this case, it was a reliance that its BBM secure servers and wonderful keyboard layouts would remove the need to have apps options or large smooth touchscreens.

Fatal Turning Point: The iphone debuted in the US in June, 2007, and the Android a bit over a year later in Obtober 2008. And then came the first Blackberry touchscreen, the Storm, about a month later. This was RIM’s big chance, and, in short, they blew it. The software and screen were buggy, and according to many, kept freezing up and were difficult to type on. And without the staple Blackberry strengths, the speedy keypad and stable software, it seemed technologically obsolete by comparison to the iphone and Android, and offered nothing unique except for BBM.

I owned a Blackberry at the time, the Bold, and enjoyed it as a sturdy and capable emailing and texting tool, but I knew then that the game was likely over for RIM. My sofware seemed glacial by comparison to the other two systems (the creeping white bar and the eternal wait for bootup, still haunts my inner eye, I spent so much time looking at it)

What caused this problem? According to what I’ve gathered from developer friends of mine, the problem was RIM’s failure to adapt to the changing tides of software and app development. With the development realm buzzing with open source development, Android was open to developers, and Apple, while less open, still offered a payoff by having a large customer base and a resonably easy OS.

But Blackberry was the odd OS out. It was more difficult to develop for on a technical level, they had a more difficult approval process than Apple, and finally, with fewer users, there was less of a financial return on offer. So while all my friends were talking about games and apps, I was unable to get any of them for my Bold. 

I waited in vain for news of a new development, of a significantly thinner Blackberry with a slideout classic blackberry keyboard, a smooth touchscreen, and a platform that was open to all the apps my friends were talking about.That’s what it would have taken to save RIM, but it never happened. Heck, I hadn’t even had a software update in forever. My friends were surfing the web with ease, flicking photos and apps back and forth across their screens, making noise, light, color, connectivity, and I had BBM.

I now own an Android. The evidence in today’s news suggests that I have a lot of company.