From introducing a smartphone so popular it was nicknamed the "Crackberry" to being taken over by the iPhone in market share and seeing their founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie being forced out of their own company.
What went wrong? No, RIM's products are not inferior. In fact, their platform has been recognized by the US government and a few others for its communication security. Adding to this is their easy to use patented keyboard which I personally find preferable over the touch screen keyboards, popular BBM messenger (which has been replicated - iMessage, KiK etc..) and strong battery life.
However, the reason the product has seen a collapse in American market share is the marketing campaign by Apple, and the openness of Google in the promotion of Android. The iPhone is neither a revolutionary product nor an amazing platform. It's appearance is - simply because the UI is so easy to use that my 8 year old brother is a magician on the iPad. When Steve Job's was leading the development of the iPod, he said it was essential that user's only had to click three buttons to play music. Anything more than that was simply too much. This principle has carried forward with Apple to this day, as their platform is an amazing user experience with easy to use features that often blow non technical minds away. It's the reason why the Mac and iPhone are the tools of choice for Starbuck's guppies and hipsters across the nation each feeling that their Mac makes them part of an elite crowd. The black silhouette dancing with the white signature iPod headphones was not only an amazing marketing campaign, but also a symbol that began the creation of the Apple cult.
Samsung perfectly captured this in their video with the comment " 'I could never get a Samsung - I'm creative' - 'Dude, you're a Barista' ". Frankly, iPhones are not an engineering marvel, but more of a design marvel that exemplifies the power of marketing and a clean user interphase to generate sales. However, if this video portrays the new iPhone 5 correctly, I will be first in line to get one.
Apple and Android both did something that RIM did not. They included developers. It is a widely known fact that Google and Apple both have far more applications ready for download than Blackberry. The reason is because both companies realized it was essential to keep developers in the loop to maintain innovation and also popularity. It's like Angry Birds - most likely would have never been dreamt up by Apple app creators, but created by Rovio Mobile. This one game has led to the attraction of the iPhone/iPod/iPad - and it occurred because Apple and Android both realized the necessity of involving outside talent in their product lines. Google has also done this with Android creating a community of developers. RIM, on the other hand, just recently has tried to appeal to developers - but like it is very difficult to steal a girl from a boyfriend who took her to Paris for her birthday - it's very difficult to bring a devoted developer over to another platform.
The last problem with RIM is it's organizational culture, which is an add on of their problem courting developers. Expressed by a RIM executive in an open letter calling for culture change, the corporate culture of suits, ties and bureaucracy is simply not a culture that creates successful Technology companies. RIM has need a culture change for a while now, a change that is attractive to the programming talent available.
So can RIM turn it around?
Financially they are not at rock bottom, book value for the company is around 14.5 a share, so they are definitely a buy around there. Internationally, the Blackberry is arguably one of the most popular phones in the world outside of North America. Also, their secure platform makes them popular for corporations and governments. The only place where they have been hit is by the North American consumer, which is a rather large hit as their decline suggests. Frankly, I think their new CEO will be able to to turn the company around and I am very happy with this statement he made:
"When Blackberry got positioned the way you experienced it, it was on a set of values: battery life, network efficiency, security and best typing experience," Mr. Heins said. "In the U.S. specifically, what we missed is a shift in those paradigms" to more consumer orientated features like Web-browsing and apps, Mr. Heins said.
Thorsten Heins comes from Siemens, a very technology successful company and I believe he has the vision to turn RIM and the Blackberry brand around. The stock price looks very attractive right now with an EPS of around 4.2, so I recommend this stock as a buy. Try to pick it up around 16, but don't be greedy. Already expectations are low by analysts, if RIM even moderately succeeds the stock price could shoot up dramatically.