Jean-Louis Gasséwrote a very interesting piece this weekend where he suggested that RIM’s co-CEOs are inmates that have taken over the asylum. His point is that RIM’s biggest weakness is its lack of apps, and their strategy of allowing Android phone apps on the PlayBook won’t solve that.
It’s an interesting piece, and frankly if RIM want to sell a lot of tablets into this consumer led market, Jean-Louis is entirely right. RIM’s strategy is poor for consumers and has thrown up barriers for developers. Moreover, it’s as though they’ve learnt nothing from Apple, the user experience has to be great. Android phone apps running on an emulator on a tablet is not going to be a great experience.
What if, however, RIM’s outcome is different, what if the PlayBook is not destined to be a consumer device? RIM has obviously been speaking to a lot of CIOs, so it’s perfectly tenable that these CIOs will want to buy RIM products. CIOs don’t think like the rest of us. They don’t buy what’s best for employees or their company, they buy what they know to be safe and cheap. CIOs know RIM and know their stuff is safe. Can RIM build a niche for the PlayBook amongst CIOs who refuse to buy Apple? Android remains still far from enterprise ready so the only credible alternate to RIM is hp if you’re against Apple.
Another thing about the PlayBook is that it has a 7inch screen, when competitors have either largely derided that size or such as Samsung are effectively abandoning it. If I’m thinking like a consumer, it makes the PlayBook feel like yesterday’s product. What if this size though, is great for some niche applications, such as warehouse staff, mobile technicians, restaurant menus? These uses require custom applications and therefore do not rely on the need for a large app store to drive purchase decisions. Instead, CIO comfort and security, which are RIM’s strengths, are key decision factors.
RIM is going to have a tough job with the PlayBook in the consumer led space, but may be able to make a more limited success in niche applications. If this does become the case, the time of RIM as an industry leader is clearly over.