It's no secret that RIM hasn't been doing well lately. Okay, that's an understatement. RIM has been on a downward spiral for the last couple years, but that slope got a bit more slippery this year. Stock prices have been tumbling since January, and investors and shareholders are fed up and many have entirely lost hope. The shocking three-day BIS outage was the last straw for many.
RIM's unorthodox co-CEOs, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, have proven time and time again that they are not capable of bringing the company up to speed and competing on the same level as their counterparts. After a call from investors and shareholders for the CEOs to resign, the Balsillie and Lazaridis have miraculously been given one more shot to get things right. They have until the beginning of next year, which is when QNX BBX devices are supposed to launch.
With some of the more recent things we've seen from RIM, many remain skeptical that the pair of CEOs can pull it off – myself included. (A PorscheBerry? Really?)
That said, Research In Motion may still have a few tricks up its sleeve yet. A saving grace, if you will. Over the past year, RIM has acquired some fairly major mobile companies, like Torch Mobile for their WebKit browser, QNX for their new mobile platform and The Astonishing Tribe (TAT) for their graphical user interface redesign. We have already seen plenty of the new Torch browser and QNX, both of which are huge improvements over prior RIM software. But what we haven't seen a lot of yet – to our knowledge, at least – is the work of TAT in newer BlackBerrys.
Many of you probably don't even really know what TAT is. Sure, they make pretty UIs. But they're not just any company. Until RIM took them under their wing in December, you could find TAT's work in 470+ million devices worldwide and in 200 unique models. Their work was used in 20 percent of all touch-based devices shipped in 2010 and 15 percent of all mobile phones. It's safe to say that TAT has been around the block, and they know interfaces. In fact, they were the ones responsible for the legendary G1 (Android 1.0) interface, which at the time, was pretty impressive.
My point? BlackBerry is stale – inside and out. BBX will certainly spice up RIM's next-gen handsets, especially with the addition of Android apps. And we've seen lately that RIM is open to new designs and are finally willing to put a little more power in their devices. Finally, RIM is slowly beginning to change. And if they can help TAT do what they do best, RIM could easily have one of the best looking platforms around.
Don't believe me? Yesterday evening, Chris Velazco of TechCrunch wrote about two of RIM's latest videos of the BlackBerrys of tomorrow. If you've ever watched any of TAT's concept videos on YouTube, you will instantly recognize that this pair of videos is the work of none other than The Astonishing Tribe. People in the video are seamlessly exchanging data and processes between two devices, inductive contact charging, and sharing like we only wish we could. And the boundaries of the smartphone are lost in the video on smart surfaces that interact with your smartphone, giving you more display area and even a full-size, virtual keyboard simply by laying your phone on the designated area.
TAT's main problem, though, is that they have all of these absolutely fantastic ideas but never seem to act on them. They're a design firm – that's what they do. And now they have both the brilliant minds of QNX and RIM on their side, who are fully capable of executing on TAT's ideas. Here's to hoping RIM's Balsillie and Lazaridis can be open-minded enough to accept TAT's futuristic designs and bring some of these amazing user interfaces that I've been watching videos of for years to fruition.
Balsillie did say that he believes BBX will leapfrog the competition and the guys over at CrackBerry feel that RIM may have been holding out on us at DevCon and have some bigger features in the pipeline. Let's hope they're right and RIM has a curve ball for us. Otherwise, a miss with the initial BBX handsets may be the last chance for RIM to turn things around.
If you watched the videos – or any videos from TAT, really – what do you think? Could software like this pull RIM out of their rut? Or are they beyond saving now? Are you looking forward to BBX phones?
Image via Vimeo