RIM BlackBerry poised to go the way of Palm OS

The delayed release of BlackBerry 10 is another nail in the coffin for a company that could not or would not evolve

RIM's venerable BlackBerry platform appears to be heading in direction similar to that of its ill-fated, onetime rival Palm OS and its successor WebOS. The company yesterday announced that an already-overdue major update to its mobile platform will be delayed until late 2012, rather than the middle of next year. Couple that news with RIM's forecast that it will sell as many as 3.1 million fewer smartphones than it did last holiday season, and the company's fortunes look all the more dismal.

RIM's path to the eventual release of its QNX-based BlackBerry 10 (formerly known as BBX) has been slow and precarious, as the company in recent years has either been unwilling or unable to innovate and evolve so as to stay competitive against upstarts iOS and Android.

Cut back to the middle of 2010 when RIM released BlackBerry 6.0. The platform held some promise, though the company was still clearly adhering to its dusty playbook, rather than coming up with something compelling enough to draw the spotlight from iOS.

What followed in August 2011 was far less impressive: RIM released what it generously dubbed BlackBerry 7.0 instead of BlackBerry 6.1, a moniker that would have been more appropriate given the platform's limited enhancements. (BlackBerry 6.1 was supposed to be released in February 2011, but didn't. To mask the delay, RIM renamed 6.1 to 7.0.) Adding insult to injury, the revised OS would not run on previous BlackBerry 6.0 devices. The move was not understandably not well received by users or developers.

Unfortunately, the management at RIM seemed to have ignored any lessons it might have gleaned from the folly of adhering to its staid strategy of recycling old code while treating each iteration of its platform as new and separate one-off product: Last October, the company laid out the road map for BlackBerry 10, which was more of the same. As observed by InfoWorld's Mobile Edge blogger Galen Gruman, the platform will be "a unified tablet/smartphone OS based on its BlackBerry Tablet OS QNX, the very platform RIM used on its failed BlackBerry PlayBook tablet" -- and it too won't run on current or past BlackBerry smartphones.

RIM's track record with BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) hasn't been much better, a shame given that the enterprise market has been RIM's to lose. RIM announced BES 5.03 in September 2010 as a must-have complement to BlackBerry 6.0 for managing personal data and services separately from corporate data and services. BES 5.3 didn't materialize until April 2011, however. RIM has said that the next version of BES will support Android and iOS, but it's anyone's guess when that code will arrive or if it will work as advertised -- or perhaps most important, whether anyone will even care at that point.

After all, what incentive does anyone really have for waiting as long as a year for the next version of BlackBerry to arrive? RIM has repeatedly failed to deliver what consumers and corporate users want -- and iOS and Android devices are filling the vacuum, thanks in part to the consumerization-of-IT trend. Developers, meanwhile, are understandably moving to iOS and Android, not only because RIM has been a font of disappointment for them as well, but also because they're following the money to Apple's and Google's respective mobile app stores.

This story, "RIM BlackBerry poised to go the way of Palm OS," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.