BlackBerry Barely Hanging On: Can BBX Save RIM?

On Tuesday, Research In Motion co-CEO, Mike Laziridis, announced BBX, the future BlackBerry operating system, at the Blackberry Developer Conference in San Francisco, CA. This new operating system is a combination of the current BlackBerry OS with an operating system it purchased last year (QNX). The operating system is said to have a greater focus on multi-media, apps, and is expected to serve as a better competitor to Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. One of the primary benefits to BBX is that it will be backwards compatible with current HTML5 apps, will have Adobe Flash and SDK built-in. It sounds like a worthy competitor in the mobile playing field, but is it too late?

Although RIM released some flattering statistics (one billion app downloads, 40% increase in users from 50 to 70 million active users over the past year), the popularity and growth of both Android and iOS significantly overachieve that of BlackBerry. Since the release iOS and Android, both have reduced BlackBerry’s commanding market share down to 3rd best. As of this month, of the approximately 33% of smart phone owners in America, Android takes the cake at 43.7% market share, with iOS coming in second with 27.3% market share, and BlackBerry trailing with only 19.7% market share. Android increasing its market share nearly 6%, since July 2011, at the expense of BlackBerry, as iOS has remained consistent at 27%. [Source: BGR]. These unsettling statistics for RIM are just the tip of the iceberg of recent issues.

RIM dubiously made the news with their infamous worldwide outage last week. They made even more news by offering customers a refund in apps instead of cash. Unfortunately for RIM, bad press is just the start. This outage coincided with the highly anticipated iPhone 4S release. What is a more convincing reason for you to switch to your phone’s highly anticipated competitor than your current phone ceasing functionality? The successful launch of the iPhone 4S is an indirect indicator of the implications of the bad press for RIM. Additionally, with the release of Android 4.0 (also known as Ice Cream Sandwich) coinciding with the BBX announcement, the likelihood of BBX buzz diminishing rapidly is high. BBX is the product RIM should have released when they announced their App Store (2009). Its two years too late. With market share at an all time low, and the heavy press coverage of the outage, RIM has an uphill battle ahead of them. BBX may be their chance at redemption, but all signs point to ‘no’.

BlackBerry may have buried itself too deep to catch a final breath of fresh air. And while I admire their persistance, Laziridis and the rest of the RIM gang have an extraordinary task ahead of them. Pulling a company out from under this level of debris is rare and nothing short of a miracle. No offense RIM, but I’ve already moved onto Android, so I’m just a spectator, and from my perspective, you’re putting on a great show.


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