Here are my top 10 reasons why RIM (the company that makes BlackBerry cell phones) will go bankrupt:
1) It’s not Apple
2) The company is built on appearance and not substance
3) It’s not Apple
4) Its own people know that the ship is sinking as surely as the Titanic
5) It’s not Apple
6) It follows but never manages to lead anymore
7) It’s not Apple
8) It’s software makes Nokia’s soon-to-be-dead Symbian operating system look like a masterpiece
9) It’s not Apple
10) The only thing protecting it from extinction has been destroyed by Apple
If you want to see a company whose end is pretty much guaranteed, then look at Research In Motion (aka the company that used to rule the cell phone universe with BlackBerry).
I should note that I had a BlackBerry Curve (still one of the greatest phones ever invented), but when it broke, I bought a BlackBerry Bold eight months ago. Did I want to buy the Bold? Nooooooo. As soon as I held it and tried it, I hated it. Blackberry managed to take the best of the Curve and destroy it. Yet still I bought it, and that is why RIM really needs to listen to people like me.
Why? It’s not because I’m great or that I’m a genius.
Rather, it is because I was part of something called BlackBerry Customer Loyalty. This was not an organized group, but it was a large number of people who had used BlackBerry phones and realized what an amazing thing a smartphone was and is. I convinced almost everyone I knew to switch to a BlackBerry phone 3 years ago.
If BlackBerry had any chance of becoming a widely used cell phone, it needed to keep people like me, because it knew about something I’ll call the Customer Loyalty Strikeout Rule. 3 is one of those magical numbers. Yes, it’s odd, it’s prime, and it is part of the famous Fibonacci sequence. In baseball, a batter tries to hit a ball thrown towards him (hopefully not at him). If he is unsuccessful after
swinging the bat 3 times, he is out, and his turn is done.
Customers are kind of the same way. If we really love a place or a product, we will use it, and then if we have a bad experience, we will think that it’s an aberration. Why? Because humans are loyal. However, if we have a second bad experience, then we become like the baseball player with 2 strikes: we start to tense up. If the company or product fails us a third time, then we abandon that company.
One thing I have realized is that BlackBerry phones have managed to really screw everything up.
Strike 1. Instead of the perfectly spaced keys (and I have rather large fingers) of the Curve, the Bold has the left half of the keyboard slanted in one direction and the right half slanted in the opposite direction. This design makes sense if you are only going to use the fingers on your left hand for the left side of the keyboard and the fingers on your right for the right side of it. If you watch many people text with their phones, you’ll notice that people tend to cross-over a lot (i.e. they use a finger on the left hand to hold down the “alt” key while typing a number on the left side of the keyboard with their right fingers. In contrast, all the keys on my old Curve were flat.
Strike 2. Also, now that the space between keys has been eliminated on the Bold, it’s incredibly easy to press the wrong key when you are texting. In short, it’s terrible. The only thing that is worse is the iPhone/iTouch’s on-screen keyboard.
Strike 3. And replacing the trackball with the touchpad? Awful. The touchpad is too sensitive.
Strike 4. To make a bad situation worse, the problem with the keypad carried over to the desktop on the phone. The old operating system had each icon clearly separate from the next one. It was a pleasure to look at. But the operating system that came with the Bold put each icon incredibly close to the next one so that the screen always looked cluttered.
Fortunately, RIM has fixed this problem with its latest release. But it has replaced it with a new problem: a desktop that is just way too busy.
Strike 5. But the primary reason why RIM is heading towards bankruptcy is because its products seem to suffer from the same problem: all beauty and no brains. No joke. Their products look good but the software is horrible. This is the problem with the current BlackBerry smartphone operating system and by all reports, it continues to the new BlackBerry Playbook.
How did this happen? The problem is that BlackBerry is so busy trying to copy and catch up to Apple and Android that it forgot what got it to the top: making the user’s life easier. My feeling with BlackBerry now is that the phone is all about trying to use lots of colors and shapes to make the phone seem interesting. The problem is that this is fine if you’re 10 years old, but when you are busy running around, you want something that is simple and elegant.
Here are a few examples of bad software.
1) Oftentimes when I go to a website and have to put in my zip code, the old BlackBerry operating system “knew” that the field was a numbers field. Therefore, even though each number button also doubled as a certain letter of the alphabet, I just had to press the buttons corresponding to the correct numbers. There was no need to simultaneously press the “alt” key to select the number part of the key. With the latest operating system, the phone has become “dumber” and now I have to press the “alt” key while typing in my zip code. When a company manages to make a smartphone dumber, then you know the company has major problems.
2) When I go to websites, the text is sometimes huge and sometimes so tiny that no one can read it. Look at the iPhone. If you go to the same websites, you’ll notice that the fonts amongst websites are displayed at a uniform size. I suppose that the current version of the BlackBerry operating system is superior to the version just before it which made all text microscopic. But I wonder why BlackBerry couldn’t continue to use the same software that they had 3 years ago? That software worked great for reading pages.
3) Scrolling down when reading something on aBlackBerry is like watching a car running on cheap fuel: its very jerky. How can you make a phone with such a terrible system for reading websites?
Maybe many of you know people who have BlackBerry phones. Maybe some of you own stock in RIM. Here is a short history of why the company has been so popular.
Why has RIM been so popular? It depends who you ask. If you ask a terrorist organization, they love BlackBerry because governments (except now for Saudi Arabia) cannot monitor text messages sent on BlackBerry Messenger. If you think that Apple’s Steve Jobs is secretive, BlackBerry guards its servers because it has known that when the company was started and was primarily used by businesspeople, their customers (mostly corporations) wanted a secure way for their employees to communicate.
If you ask a foreign student from Latin America or the Middle East, BlackBerry Messenger is a free way to constantly stay in contact with their family and friends back home. In many ways, BlackBerry kind of paved the way for FaceBook.
If you ask corporate executives, they will give the same reasoning as the terrorists: BlackBerry Messenger is a great way to have private conversations that the government will not be monitoring.
But two things have neutralized this advantage. First, an app called Whatsapp provides a link between iPhones and BlackBerry phones. Translation? BlackBerry no longer has this unique function. Second, Apple is going to be rolling out their own version of free texting. Translation? Adios RIM.
Has RIM improved its BlackBerry phones? I hear that their latest phone is better, but the fact is that it still can’t compete with Apple.
Currently a BlackBerry phone has only two advantages over an iPhone: the removable battery and ability to add more memory.
However, all the negatives mentioned above combined PLUS a horrible BlackBerry App Store make RIM a losing proposition.
Historically, BlackBerry was a status symbol for investment people. Just to show you how low RIM has fallen, I went into a Fidelity Investment Center on Boylston Avenue in the heart of Boston, MA. I asked the Fidelity representative about problems I was having using Fidelity’s website on my BlackBerry Bold. What did she say? “Oh, that’s because we don’t have a dedicated app for BlackBerry. We only have those kinds of apps for Apple and Android.”
Huh? For a phone that was originally designed for the business world, how can it be so primitive for checking stock prices and positions? Answer: the company is completely out of touch with its customers.
I spend a lot of time talking with people and getting the pulse of the average person. Why? First, I enjoy talking with people. Second, it helps me better predict which companies to invest in. Third, it lets me compare my own thoughts with others about why something is great or horrible.
One question I always ask is the “all things being equal question”. It goes like this: If all things were equal, what would you want to be? Folks, if everyone were paid the same salary, do you really think that most people would want to be doctors or lawyers? No way. But understanding what is someone’s true desire is a fantastic way to understand what really drives them or could drive them.
So, I ask this question: If you could use any cell phone you want and that the monthly fee was the same for all of them, which cell phone would you use?
The overwhelming majority of people have the same response: Apple’s iPhone.
Of the people who did not choose the iPhone, I asked a second question: have you ever used an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad from Apple Corporation? Everyone except one person from that group confessed that they had never tried an Apple product.
There are a few key findings from this informal study.
1) BlackBerry’s only hope is great overseas sales.
2) The only reason BlackBerry has its current market share is because of all cell phone users in America, only those on the AT&T and Verizon Wireless networks have access to an Apple iPhone.
3) For a certain percentage of people who have not switched to the iPhone, it’s not because BlackBerry is better. Rather it’s because these people have never tried the iPhone.
4) Since this study was conducted in America, there will always be one or two people who always try to answer against common sense. Trying to be unique is part of the American ethos.
Quite honestly, RIM is so out of touch and behind the curve that the company has no hope of regaining its luster under its current leadership. It’s amazing that just two years ago, it seemed like everyone I knew had a BlackBerry. And what was amazing about it was that not only was BlackBerry the only real player in the market, but the company was producinggreat cell phones.
Those times are gone.
I can’t wait until the new iPhone comes out on Verizon Wireless, because I’ll be one of the first to get it. Bye RIM, it was nice knowing ya.