RIM and Microsoft: Dance of the zombies

Their 'partnership' will change nothing in the mobile market, which is following the path of the iPod instead of Windows

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Apple came into the market late, but it outmaneuvered every other player. Key points in its dominance were vertical integration that included content, towering mind share (all other products were compared to the iPod), and -- most relevant -- decreasing the use of common standards, including a proprietary file system and connectors.

Doesn't all of that sound strikingly similar to the tablet market? It also resembles the smartphone market, although the issue of carriers complicates the mobile market a bit.

Oracle makes a telling move
We here at InfoWorld.com have talked a lot about the consumerization of IT, and if you needed more proof of the way that wind is blowing, note Oracle's announcement on Tuesday that it has introduced support for Apple's iPad and iPhone as part of a slew of enhancements to its business intelligence software. Say what you will about Oracle, but there aren't many software companies more firmly rooted in the enterprise.

Sure, RIM's BlackBerry is an iconic business-oriented product, but in many ways it's so, well, 1990s. "CIOs who are staying with RIM think that email is the killer app," says analyst Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research. It isn't, of course. (And isn't it ironic that RIM's PlayBook tablet doesn't even have email unless it's tethered to a BlackBerry?)

Apps and enterprise connectivity are where forward-looking CIOs are placing their bets. Oracle's move, says Chowdhry, shows the need for a broad platform, most likely Apple's iOS. "Android is still a work in progress. With Apple, there's one throat to choke, and it's seen as a safer bet." Don't underestimate that "single throat to choke" impulse in IT: As the role of IT grew in the 1990s and 2000s, companies were overwhelmed with integration hassles from the initial "best of breed" strategy and soon started shifting to using as few sources as possible, becoming Microsoft shops, IBM shops, SAP shops, Oracle shops, and the like. For mobile, it makes sense for them to become -- despite how that sounds to most IT people -- Apple shops.

Then there's the app market. Apple is poised to own three-quarters of the $3.8 billion mobile application market this year, according to research company IHS Screen Digest, and it will continue to own as much as 60 percent of that sumptuous pie through 2014.

Note that market share number. Over the years, the only software company that controlled a share like that of the PC market was ... Microsoft. That's yet another reason why the prospects of Apple's rival in the mobile arena seem so bleak.

Chowdhry won't go as far as some of my colleagues in predicting the death of RIM, but in our conversation he damned it with very faint praise, comparing it to the mainframe. I think that's fair: Mainframes still pull in revenue, but they are far from the cutting edge of technology. RIM will stagger around like a zombie for some time, but its real importance is a relic of the past. Teaming up with the relic that Microsoft itself is fast becoming won't change that.

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. 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, "RIM and Microsoft: Dance of the zombies," 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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