Does RIM still have a chance of turning things around?

Published: November 2, 2011

To put it lightly, RIM's past year has not been the greatest. They've been hit from every angle by upset shareholders and investors, faced some rather ominous quarter earnings reports and more recently, have endured one of the largest BlackBerry Internet Service outages in history. The fate of the company rests on the co-CEOs' performance over the next three months, and their unlikely ability to bring forth modern, up to date devices.

Since the beginning of 2011, RIM's stock prices have been plummeting, along with their US market share. Both are currently at low points for the company's history. Stock prices are currently sitting at $18.69 per share, as opposed to $56.22 a year ago and $144.56 in June of 2008. This is the first time their shares have dipped below $20 since August of 2004.

The daunting news for RIM doesn't end there. The latest report from Canalys reveals that RIM's current US market share resides in the single digits at nine percent, compared to last year's 24 percent. Apple has also dropped, albeit not nearly as drastically, from 26 to 20 percent. And Android scoops up much of the rest with 70 percent of the US market share pie – HTC and Samsung have 24 percent and 21 percent, respectively. Other platforms are thriving on the demise of what used to be the smartphone giant.

With that in mind, not all news for the Waterloo-based company has been bad. RIM has been playing a different game for the past two years and it has paid off, to some extent. Their biggest gamble has been gobbling up every possible bit of the wide open international smartphone market. According to Canalys, RIM has grown 59 and 56 percent in EMEA and APAC regions, respectively. It's certainly promising, but can they do anything with it?

It's easy to forget that a whole world exists outside of the United States. In those areas, RIM is thriving. And it's this that gives them some padding. But that padding is wearing extremely thin. Android still controls 57 percent of the worldwide market share, too. As Android OEMs begin (and continue, in some areas) to flood different countries with a variety of devices with different form factors and price points, RIM will certainly face yet another hurdle. If they fail to produce competitive devices and launch them internationally, simultaneously, BlackBerrys may become a thing of the past. (And that would be a shame.)

RIM does have a chance at turning things around, though. They're on the verge of releasing their newest platform, BBX, which co-CEO Jim Balsillie believes will "leapfrog the competition." With strong mobile players like QNX, Torch Mobile, The Astonishing Tribe and the slew of other acquisitions in RIM's current playbook (no pun intended, I promise), they certainly have enough collective power to produce a superb product. But their main problem at this point is execution, delivery and consumer support.

I highly doubt BBX devices will leapfrog anything, except maybe their current lineup. Even if they do leapfrog say ... iOS and Android, and they manage to produce superphones in line with the latest from Google partners and Apple, RIM will still have a mountain to climb. They have lost a great deal of customer loyalty as of late, and getting people to reconsider their jump to another platform will be harder than convincing them to stay for as long as they did in the first place.

I know I will give RIM the benefit of a doubt and will likely have to try a BBX phone for myself. That said, I'm a long-time fan and one of the few who still has that lingering hope they can pull through. As it stands and from what I've seen of BBX thus far, however, I'm not impressed, irrespective of hardware. What about you, ladies and gents? Will BBX be enough to save RIM? Or does single digit market share and record low stock prices mark the beginning of the end of the BlackBerry era?

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