Pardon the pessimism, but any BlackBerry fan likely feels the same way after hearing yesterday’s grim announcement. CEO Thorsten Heins had prepared everyone for a poor earnings report. So when a friend IMed me yesterday opining that RIM might not even survive to release its new handsets, I wondered why. What had changed since Heins had forecast drastically lower earnings reports? And that’s when I checked in on the news and realized that RIM had yet again delayed an important product. Like my friend, I was left to wonder whether RIM would survive long enough to even release BlackBerry 10 handsets. Already rumors have started circulating of sweeping changes to come. The linked Reuters report points to a partnership with, or perhaps sale to, Microsoft. With Windows 8 looming, Microsoft could use additional hardware partners, and RIM’s hardware division could serve Microsoft well. The Reuters report also points to Microsoft’s interest in RIM’s patents, which surely represents a valuable portfolio. If RIM were to spin off its handset division, it could continue operating its network business. That would mean opening it up to other platforms, such as Android and iOS. Both entities could be interested, because RIM’s network provides security that enterprise craves. Combined with a lack of competition from BlackBerry itself, both iOS and Android could make a bigger push into the corporate world. While there might be pressure on RIM to make a company changing move, the Reuters report suggests that the board would prefer to stick this out. That’s what Heins iterated during the earnings call. He spoke of RIM’s focus on the top end of the market, as well as the availability of both QWERTY and full-touchscreen models. Of course, seeing this through means weathering a few more periods of falling revenues. Investors could decide they’ve had enough between now and the BlackBerry 10 launch. Even if RIM does make it to the first quarter 2013 and does release BlackBerry 10 handsets, there is still an uphill battle to fight. Yes, there remains an opportunity to sell someone his first smartphone, and that opportunity will remain in 2013. But it’s slowly dwindling. That might be RIM’s biggest opportunity, though. Otherwise they’ll have to focus on dissatisfied Android and iOS (and to a lesser extent Windows Phone) users. Those just aren’t huge markets. Their biggest opportunities might be dissatisfied Android and iOS users who were previously BlackBerry users. A whole new product might woo them back. Chances are, however, that they won’t convince satisfied iOS and Android users to give them another try. Last month I wrote a post wondering if people would wait until BlackBerry 10 to upgrade their smartphones. That question becomes more complicated now. Instead of a four-month wait, we’re looking at a seven- to nine-month wait. That’s a long time in this attention-starved world. People’s answers will change. Perhaps some will choose BlackBerry 7 devices. Yet many will opt for Android, iPhone, or Windows Phone. That could have an even greater effect this fall when Apple releases an iPhone and Microsoft moves further along its new Windows Phone path. The obstacles are building. It’s tough to be a RIM optimist right now. That is, it’s tough to be optimistic about the company’s future. BlackBerry 10 still looks like a high-quality mobile platform. But with so much standing between RIM and a successful launch, the only logical view is that of skepticism. Sure, BlackBerry geeks aren’t necessarily logical in their love for the product, but sometimes even the most loyal users get spurned once too many times.
Will RIM remain in tact to release BlackBerry 10?
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