RIM to try to pull in punters with low-cost BlackBerrys
Consumer exit denied
RIM has denied it is pulling away from the consumer market.
Despite comments made yesterday by the BlackBerry firm's new CEO, Thorsten Heins, that RIM will be tightening its focus on its core corporate offerings and customer base - widely seen as a plan to move away from the consumer sphere - the company told us it will pursue "targeted consumer segments" too.
As we noted earlier, getting out of the consumer space could harm RIM's recovery. Even big businesses are now allowing employees to make use of their own smartphones, which workers are keen to do because they not only want to be seen with the latest, snazziest tech but also don't want be forced to carry two phones around, one for business, one for personal.
RIM reckons that to succeed in this 'bring your own mobile' environment, it needs what a company spokeswoman called "a compelling consumer offering".
The snag: on the basis of what it has produced thus far, RIM doesn't have one. All those many punters moving away from BlackBerry to Android and the iPhone shows they don't think it has either.
Can RIM compete? It seems to think so, but on price more than anything. Comments from the company today strongly emphasise fighting on price - "we plan to aggressively incentivise sales", "reinvigorate our position in the key entry-level smartphone segment" and "attract feature phone customers" - to get users to first upgrade to BlackBerry 7 devices and then to BlackBerry 10, its next-gen OS, in due course. ®
RIM has failed to attract consumers in significant numbers largely to their lack of innovation. Before you even get to the problems with available apps, versus iOS and Android, they are still pretty much selling hardware that looks like what the competition shipped two years ago.
And sure, not everyone is buying a top of the line device, iPhone 4S or Gala y Nexus etc. But the mid to low end is even more crowded: along with value priced Android and the older iPhone models, you have all of the new Windows Phones, including several decent offerings from Nokia. These don't compete yet in the iPhone 4S arena, they're not yet designed for gaming like the Apple devices and some better Androids, but they seem to be more advanced than anything from RIM.
Though I think both lines, RIM and Win7Phone, are lagging the others for a simple reason: they're still thinking in 2005 business phone language, even as they pursue consumers. These guys thought the hardware didn't matter back then, and they were eaten alive because of it. As a consumer, you may only buy an iPhone 4 or 3GS today, but you know there's a top of the line model if you want one. But Nokia's top of line only goes halfway to the top, while RIM seems to get off at the second floor. Every phone does email. If that's all you're building for today, you should fail at it.