Is this the beginning of the end of RIM?

Published: June 21, 2011

RIM will deny it until the final nail is driven into their coffin. They have been on a downward spiral since the smartphone boom took off a few years ago. As other companies and platforms have grown and gained popularity, RIM has started to slip out of sight.

Just last Thursday, RIM's first-quarter earnings report was released and brought some ominous news about the Waterloo-based company. The report revealed that the company's net income was $695 million, down from $934 million the previous quarter. And even though they shipped 500,000 units of their highly-anticipated tablet, the PlayBook, there wasn't any word on how many have actually sold or how many have been returned. On the bright side, their international revenue grew 67 percent in comparison to the same quarter last year. The news wasn't all bad, but compared to what RIM is used to seeing, I think it's safe to say that this is not what they were hoping for or expecting.

As the saying goes, "When it rains, it pours." Not only did RIM face a tough quarter, their sixth-largest investor has thrown in the towel on the company and dumped its entire stake after learning of the bad quarter. The price of RIM's shares have also dropped nearly 50 percent since the beginning of this year. Shares did rise 10 percent today, but only after we learned that RIM has allegedly started laying off workers and heard talk of a potential takeover.

One thing that has undoubtedly attributed to their dip in popularity is the application support and the quality (or lack thereof) of the apps. RIM has done their best to push development for their platform, but BlackBerry App World faces tough competitors like Android Market and Apple's App Store. The size and popularity of the other application stores is enough to entice developers to create apps for the other platforms over RIM's. An example of this is Seesmic, a popular Twitter client for most mobile platforms and desktop. Just yesterday, the Seesmic team announced they would no longer be supporting the BlackBerry as of June 30th.

From a consumer standpoint, things are looking rather gloomy for RIM as well. Some of their most recent and upcoming devices have caused a little stir, but the hype around BlackBerry is nothing in comparison to what it once was. Take the PlayBook for example. The very first mention of a BlackBerry tablet surfaced years ago and the “CrackBerry Nation,” as the group of BlackBerry fanatics is often called, was rocked. The device finally came to fruition recently and the hype died out rather quickly upon release. Not to mention, it was the victim of some pretty harsh reviews, despite the quality of the product.

Even the new batch of RIM-made handsets that are headed our way are a bit lackluster. Mostly former BlackBerry users are excited over the long-rumored phones. Those who jumped straight into the smartphone world  with Android or iOS and those who defected from BlackBerry to a more modern platform aren't likely to turn back. Sure, the Bold Touch has caught my eye, but mainly because I'm a long time fan and have a small light of hope that the BlackBerry makers will one day make a comeback. The next generation of BlackBerry handsets could certainly be a make or break for the company as loyals are tired of waiting on RIM to catch up.

Just like RBC said, RIM does still have some left fight in them. They're obviously not giving up easily as they keep racking up acquisitions and pushing through the "turbulence," as John McCrank and Julie Gordon of Reuters called it. For the sake of the company, let's hope that this is only turbulence instead of a stalling engine.

What say you? Is this the final struggle for RIM? Or will they pull through the thick and make a comeback?

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