Mike Lazaridis, the co-CEO of RIM gave quite a shocking interview this week on the All Things D mobile conference. What’s totally astounding for the CEO of Canada’s largest company is that he couldn’t clearly explain their strategy.
The hosts of All things D asked the questions that I think many people watching RIM would like to have the answers too, such as can they remain competitive, what are they doing about improving their BlackBerry OS 6, when will the PlayBook’s QNX OS appear on BlackBerry phones and why was the Torch launched with out of date specifications.
RIM’s CEO simply didn’t have a good story to tell about any of this. Worse, in my eyes, he kept talking about the hardware requirements of QNX. He was fixated on the hardware. That speaks volumes to me about RIM’s focus. They are a hardware company.
Today, a mobile device platform is so much more than just great hardware, it’s an ecosystem built around software with the goal of providing an excellent user experience. Nowhere was this apparent in any of the answers given by Mike. It’s truly worrisome for RIM that they are unable to get their UI/UX up to a reasonable standard and hence their overall user experience. Today’s BlackBerries are difficult to use. RIM just doesn’t have a good story to tell about where it’s going.
All of that said, there does seem to be some positive news about the PlayBook. Most commentators are focusing on how rapid it seems to be, even when running Adobe Air, given that Flash runs awfully on Android devices. They do seem to have a good implementation of the Flash runtime.
There are many questions though surrounding the PlayBook, such as battery life when running all these Air apps, how smooth the overall experience will be, how good the key software managing email and web-browsing will be, how easy it will be to use and how consistent the interface will be.
Another issue for RIM is that many of their clients in the past have been corporate IT managers, who have requirements that are different from those of users, such as information management and controllability. However, in today’s market, users and purchasers are much broader and any solution has to appeal to consumers too.
Until RIM can prove that it is more than a hardware company, that it truly understands who its user base is, you will have to forgive it for shipping less than stellar devices. The company is too inward looking and not spending enough efforts on understanding the market it’s competing in if it wants to be a major player in the tablet space.
Mike Lazaridis at All Things D: