December 7, 2010


crystal ball
If you've used apps on your smartphone, you probably love them.

An app lets you do something simple fast and very well. For example, access your calendar, read email, view contacts, take notes, get LinkedIn, check the weather, calculate, store passwords and read ebooks.

An app is an extreme form of specialization and a path to success. Not everyone agrees. RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie expects the era of smartphone apps to "pass real quick".


Outlandish statements wipe away credibility and reek of desperation. Would RIM bash apps if they had 300,000 apps downloaded 6.5 billion times like Apple does? An app is a vote of approval by the developers who built them and the clients who downloaded them. Today RIM started accepting apps for the forthcoming PlayBook tablet.

The Challenges At RIM

The Blackberry Torch hasn't set sales records and is already heavily discounted. The PlayBook tablet is the next big hope for RIM but it's hardly a breakthrough in the world of the iPad and now Android devices.
To date, RIM has been less than forthcoming about the PlayBook. That's a bad sign. Here are 10 random observations.
  1. no pricing at the time of the announcement in September 2010 (now estimated to be under $500)
  2. no mention of battery life, an iPad strength (here's the press release)
  3. unable to launch before Christmas 2010
  4. unproven 7" screen when the iPad has proven there's demand for a 10" display (Android devices also chose 7")
  5. supports Flash which is good … but crashes my Chrome and FireFox browsers despite continual updates
  6. not clear whether the Playbook can be used without a Blackberry
  7. new operating system may have growing pains (QNX Neutrino)
  8. lack of apps (the Blackberry is built for business but the LinkedIn app was built for iOS first and Android second)
  9. Android competitors are already on the market
  10. iPad 2 will soon follow the PlayBook launch and set new standards

The Winner

How are you competing? If your value proposition is innovation, you face hurdles when competitors take the lead and gather momentum.

In app popularity, Neilsen shows that RIM is the laggard. That's a bad sign. For years, the Blackberry was the highend smartphone. Now the iPhone and Android are strong while RIM is falling. I wish RIM success with the PlayBook.


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