RIM Doesn’t Have to Die

Flying high just months ago, RIM has fallen on hard times. Or has it?

The two-headed maker of the immensely popular Blackberry has actually chosen this awkward position. It has taken a cult following and instead of building that beachhead win in the enterprise space into a launching pad, it has found itself dazed and confused. RIM is not, and should not be, a consumer company. It should not be chasing iPhone. It should not be chasing iPad. The Blackberry maker should consider begging Lou Gerstner to come out of retirement and repeating his IBM magic. By eradicating the consumer bug from RIM, it would be able to realize its destiny as the mobility solution provider to the largest scale organizations on the planet. RIM should be the IBM of the mobile space. Consumer is not in its DNA. Lou was able to shake IBM to its senses and pull it back from the precipice. RIM is nearing the edge, today. And if it doesn’t find its LVG to focus it in the enterprise space, it will not survive. Sad, and totally unnecessary.

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Can Android Compete with iPad?

The Motorola Xoom failed? Shocker! It’s more expensive than the industry leader but lacks a killer app to justify its existence, not to mention the premium price.

All products, but especially mobile devices, have to offer a killer app or unique selling proposition that matters if they are to survive in the market. Blackberry provided email anywhere. iPhone offered web browsing anywhere. iPod does music. iPad does video. Kindle does books, Nook does books and your media. PC laptops offer knowledge workers productivity tools. Mac Laptops offer “creatives” their own productivity tools. Droid offered ‘web anywhere’ for people who didn’t want to join the AT&T network just to get an iPhone – not as defensible, but at least a temporary killer app nonetheless. What exactly does ANY Android tablet offer the masses that matters to them? Answer: Nothing! Why did Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color sell 3,000,000 units while Xoom sold 100,000? Answer: While Nook’s use is crystal clear, no one knows what to DO with a Xoom.

If Motorola or any other tablet maker wants to get regular (read: Non-techie) people to line up and buy a $600+ mobile device, they better come up with some benefit that is clear and obvious that iPad can’t or won’t do. And no, web browsing is NOT a killer app for a tablet. So the Xoom failure is not a surprise. Email is not a killer app for a tablet. As a result, the Blackberry Playbook is likely to fail, also. Being 50 bucks cheaper than iPad likely won’t prove to be effective for Acer, Asus, or the other “competitors” currently “selling” Android-based tablets. The successful price point for an off-brand iPad will probably end up being much, much lower than $450. Finally, having an ‘App Store’ and ‘Apps’ is also not a killer app. We’ll see if the near field syncing of HP’s WebOS proves viable. Without a killer productivity suite, I doubt it.

Sure it’s wild-west in Tabletland now, but it seems that it’s the ideal time to work on new business models. Why not produce a productivity device with stylus capability to replace clipboards? Why not produce a gaming tablet? How about a photography-centered tab? Build a device with functionality that requires a larger screen that lots of people will find useful in their lives.

The fact is, e-Readers are selling. They have a killer app – Reading materials (books, magazines, and newspapers). iPad is selling. It has a killer app – Media (iTunes music, movies, and TV shows). Interestingly, the only Android tablet to enjoy even moderate success head-to-head with iPad was Samsung. It was simple, easy to produce, pretty widely available, and fairly polished. And, the Galaxy Tab had a killer app – Portability. It was the 7 inch gadget for Apple-haters. That was effective in a two-horse race but, like Droid’s killer app, it’s a temporary advantage at best. As the tablet field gets more crowded, how will Samsung compete? Bottom line, no Android tablet to date has featured that easily identifiable ‘reason to buy’ for the masses. Until one does, expect many more of them to suffer the Xoom’s fate.

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