Next Steps for RIM Beyond Torch, BlackBerry 6

RIM is prepping for a long, grueling fight to protect and win market share for its popular BlackBerry smartphones, which face stiff competition from Nokia's Symbian-powered phones, Apple's iPhones, and Android mobile devices. That's the short version of a new study done on RIM and BlackBerry by analyst Jack Gold, principal of J. Gold Associates, a technology research firm.

Overall, Gold is pretty gung-ho on RIM transforming itself as a strong competitor in the smartphone sector due to a series of strategic acquisitions, while maintaining its reputation for security and manageability -- all key to its acceptance in the enterprise market.

In "BlackBerry's JAM and RIM Transformation," Gold predicts that the first phase of RIM's transformation will coincide with the upcoming release of the BlackBerry OS 6 and complimentary devices such as the Torch 9800, with a second phase coming in about 12 to 18 months.

"While RIM has not been as vocal or marketing-driven as some of its competitors, it has worked hard to acquire new technologies and strengthen technologies it already owns," says Gold.

RIM's recent acquisitions shore up position

Torch Mobile: Gold thinks this is probably the preeminent acquisition RIM has made recently, and the one with the most immediately visible payback as the company gives RIM a WebKit-based rendering engine.

"When integrated into a new BlackBerry browser, it will significantly increase performance compared to BlackBerry's not very well regarded current browser," Gold says.

But perhaps more importantly it will give BlackBerry an industry standard HTML5 capability, enabling Flash and potentially Silverlight support for a full browser experience.

"The challenge for RIM will be to make the WebKit engine secure enough to not undo BlackBerry's compelling security advantage," says Gold.

Viigo: This gives RIM new programming tools to aid the upgrading of its programming environment (IDE), and a platform to deploy real-time content to BlackBerry.

Alt-N Technologies: This provides RIM with an easy-to-deploy and -manage email server running under Windows, (but could be ported to Linux as well), says Gold.

Dash Navigation: provides GGPS navigation systems. Gold believes this expertise can be applied to the BlackBerry Maps app to enable full navigation and further extend its capabilities to a location based services paradigm.

QNX: provides RIM with a substantial portfolio of Real Time Operating System (RTOS) experience and intellectual property.

By leveraging QNX, RIM will be able re-architect the BlackBerry OS from the ground up, says Gold.

"QNX has been in the RTOS business for a long time and has deep expertise in building responsive and trimmed-down systems for embedded apps," he adds.

RTOS also enables a high degree of fault tolerance and security, as an RTOS just can't fail. QNX has expertise with creating development tools and has deep custom design expertise. Moreover, it has a close alliance with auto makers and many other embedded machine vendors. QNX gives RIM an expansive opportunity to address new markets.

What RIM needs to do to complete its transformation

Gold believes the newly invigorated BlackBerry ecosystem will need to add the following key capabilities to its core strengths of enterprise apps and mobile management:

A Monetization Engine (similar to Apple iAd or Google AdMob) - RIM is partly there with Viigo, notes Gold.

"Given that this market is emerging, there are a number of companies RIM could partner with," he says. "However, the company would likely be better off if it could control its own destiny in this important service offering."

Gaming - BlackBerry needs to be a more appealing gaming Platform, Gold adds.

"WebKit and HTML5 will provide BlackBerry with a streaming/on-line gaming capability it lacks now," he says.

Social Networking - BlackBerry Messenger is gaining traction as a secure and reliable BlackBerry-to-BlackBerry private messaging service, particularly in many developing countries where social networking is not as mature or readily available, Gold notes.

E-Wallet - Eventually, Gold says, RIM will need a "money exchange", an e-wallet or billing solution (similar to Ovi Payments), particularly as the company expands into the developing world.

Challenges RIM must address

Marketing - RIM needs to figure out what its brand means going forward, says Gold.

"While RIM built its reputation on messaging, it must now focus on much more functionality and be seen as the leader in innovating the new user experiences in modern mobility," he adds.

Overall Efficiency/TCO Optimization - "Like miles-per-gallon ratings for cars, RIM should pursue a comparison of typical user actions such as doing email and opening a Web page, and compare it with other platforms.

With new acquisitions under its belt, RIM will be able to expand beyond smartphones and into tablets and other Internet capable devices, says Gold.

"Such a move is inevitable," he says. "It would both strengthen the brand and allow RIM's enterprise clients to create compelling solutions for mobile workers who may need more than a smart phone device."

To get a complete copy of the report, contact Jack Gold at jack.gold@jgoldassociates.com.


Blackberry, RIM, Research In Motion, BlackBerry OS, Torch