For RIM it should be about quality, not quantity

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: July 13, 2011

Research In Motion can’t seem to get out from under the magnifying glass. The company’s every (public) action is under heavy scrutiny; and the general populace is waiting for the company to do something great. Something bold. Today isn’t any different, unfortunately. Indeed, even the results are the same. At a recent shareholder’s meeting, it was revealed that instead of focusing on QNX Software, RIM is still going forward with BlackBerry 7, and to bring it to the people’s attention the company says that there are seven new BlackBerry devices heading to market “soon.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean there are seven brand new, never-before-seen devices coming to market. It just means that there are seven phones coming – which probably means that we’ve seen some of them already.

Not surprisingly, RIM is staying quiet on the exact details regarding the handsets in question. But, considering that at the same shareholder’s meeting the focus was on BlackBerry 7, we can probably safely assume that we’ve already seen some of the new handsets in question. Specifically, the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930 will be on tap, and the Torch 9850/9860. As I said above, we’ve already seen these phones, and these aren’t the phones that are going to bring Research In Motion into the New Year or even into the current year against their competitors. These aren’t the devices that are going to make new customers go “Wow, that’s a BlackBerry? I’ve got to have it.” No, these are just more BlackBerry devices, staying the path rather than forging new ones.

RIM still has fans out there. There are still people out there that are expecting great things from the Waterloo-based company, and who still have their fingers crossed that something takes a quick turn for the better, and all of that talk about the company’s inexorable demise disappear entirely. But, that talk of RIM’s gloomy future isn’t going away, even with this latest bit of news. Even as you tread across the Internet now, the stories don’t paint a pretty picture about RIM’s future, even in light of these seven new handsets. And that’s because none of them, even the ones that we don’t know about, are going to rock the socks off new (or existing) customers. Despite not knowing the full details about the remaining handsets, it’s suggested (by RIM) that BlackBerry 7 is going to power those other devices, too. And that is simply not good enough.

BlackBerry 7 is an incremental upgrade from BlackBerry OS 6, and one that may bring some new features to the table, but not enough that warrants a second look from the consumer base. Furthermore, BlackBerry 7 separates itself from previous OS versions due to the fact that it isn’t backwards compatible – so development for the new OS will have to start fresh, and those with handsets currently on the market won’t be getting the new OS goodness. But, obviously that isn’t important to RIM at this point. They simply want people to buy the new handsets, so forgetting those who already own a BlackBerry makes the most sense.

For RIM, this shouldn’t be about quantity, but it should be about quality. Instead of launching seven new handsets, maybe launch three new handsets, and make them as high-end as any one of the smartphones out there from your competition. Even if RIM wants to continue to skip over dual-core platforms, they can still pump out 1.2GHz-powered handsets, and stick QNX to run the show, and suddenly RIM has a fighting chance again. Quit cutting corners with these handsets, and provide a smartphone that people actually want. You don’t need to push out 7 bland, run-of-the-mill BlackBerry devices in hope that some of them sell. Instead, build three stand-out handsets that people actually drool over, and suddenly you’ll notice that you’ve got a hit on your hands and people aren’t talking about RIM’s death knoll anymore.

Hearing that RIM is launching 7 new handsets sometime “soon” doesn’t sound like a move that will win the company any new love from the market. What it sounds like to me, is a diversionary tactic. It’s a bid for time, which would line up with the other report that the co-CEOs at RIM only have six months to show their ability to run the company. However, this tactic won’t work. Because unless these seven new phones are going to launch within the next six months, and somewhere in there RIM’s got one device that’s going to literally make the public’s jaw drop, there’s not going to be a change. These devices aren’t the way for RIM to force them back into the limelight, and it won’t get people talking about how RIM is finally competing against the likes of Apple and Google.

Let me just reiterate here that we don’t know all of the devices RIM plans on launching “soon.” And, we don’t know when those devices are actually going to find their way to store shelves. With that said, there is some room for BlackBerry fans (or hopefuls) to believe that the company has a high-end, stand-out device waiting in the wings, ready to be shown off sooner than later. There is that hope, and until RIM proves us wrong, there’s no reason not to wish for the best.

Where do you stand in this? Do you think these 7 new handsets are going to be anything special for RIM, or do you think it’s just going to be more of the same, and the conversation surrounding RIM won’t change at all? Let me know in the comments what you think.

Products mentioned