Apple and IBM get it, so why can't RIM?

IBM and Apple give customers what they want, whether it's a mainframe or a tablet -- but RIM gives customers what they used to want

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Contrast that failure with the success of Apple and IBM. Both companies listen to customers and are nimble enough to respond to a changing market. In the case of IBM, responding to the market meant making a move that would have seemed unthinkable not so long ago: exiting the PC market. The company realized that its future lay elsewhere, and its culture was flexible enough to break with the past. When it saw that its customers wanted new and better mainframes, a technology that other manufactures disdained, it poured resources into that product and is now reaping the benefits.

RIM, on the other hand, can't get it through its corporate head that the smartphone market is radically different than it was just a few years ago, says Trip Chowdhry, managing director of Global Equities Research.

The shifting smartphone market
Because RIM is still a favorite of enterprise IT, the company has failed to adapt to three basic shifts in the market, says Chowdhry:

  • Carriers are no longer in charge of the mobile experience, and you can't gain share by being friendly with them.
  • App stores and ISVs create the vibrant ecosystem needed to succeed.
  • A menu-driven interface, a legacy of the desktop, is simply not what smartphone users want.

What's more, RIM couldn't even leverage its strength in the enterprise when it introduced the BlackBerry PlayBook and shockingly didn't include email and other basic business functions. My InfoWorld colleagues rightly called it "unfinished and unusable."

Chowdhry isn't very optimistic about the company's chances to recover, though he does note that its strong cash position gives it some time to right itself. Carlton sees a bit of hope for change as well.

As for me, I don't think the company is quite DOA, but RIM's plight reminds me of an incident early on in my journalism career. I was then a cop reporter for a Bay Area daily and was talking to an EMT about the condition of an accident victim. The ambulance driver wasn't allowed to be specific, but he said to me: "Well, I wouldn't buy him a long-playing record."

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Post them here (post them here) so that all our readers can share them, or reach me at bill.snyder@sbcglobal.net. Follow me on Twitter at BSnyderSF.

This article, "Apple and IBM get it, so why can't RIM?," was originally published by InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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