Commentary
9/29/2011
10:38 AM
John McGreavy
John McGreavy
Commentary

Secret CIO: RIM, What's Going On?

My company has a significant investment in your BlackBerry platform, but my return is starting to erode. Time to step up.



Research in Motion has had a rough ride this last year, the subject of many disparaging blogs and articles. We work in a trendy industry. We set trends, we follow trends, and we jump on and off the bandwagons. We thrive on "I have it and you don't" emotions and we relish those "I heard it first" moments. I admit it: I hate to be seen as hanging on to yesterday's lifestyle choices. But it's not just a hipster attitude at work. Consumer trends are having a profound influence on enterprise technology. And consumers appear to be leaving RIM behind.

I have a lot of respect for the little Canadian company that did. It created a reliable mobile communications platform that dramatically increased the speed of business. Remember Windows CE? Redmond couldn't get it right.

I read recently that if the data volume now handled by BlackBerry devices were to be processed by Android/iOS/other devices, networks would be crushed with the increased load. I don't know if that statement is true or not, but I do know that I value the cost management tools and capabilities inherent in the BlackBerry platform. I value the policy control. I value the ease with which it lets our organization manage company data. I value the commonality among devices, the ease of swaps and replacements, the battery life, and the stability.

[ RIM engineers just issued a troubling warning regarding the PlayBook's Android capabilities. See PlayBook Tablet: Retailers Cut Prices, RIM Cuts Hope. ]

I can't recall, however, when another product has fallen so far so fast. At least when the Sony Walkman was displaced by MP3 players, the new kids on the block offered a far superior technical product. And Sony chose not to compete but rather fight the emergence of the new technology. If you fight, you either win or lose. Sony lost. I get it.

But I don't get what's going on with RIM. What have you been doing with your cash? Based on your recent financial results, I suppose I won't need to ask this question for long.

I recently attended the InformationWeek 500 Conference in Dana Point, Calif. This conference attracts senior IT leaders from across the country. I saw many iPads, notebooks, iPhones, Android devices--and still many BlackBerrys--in use. But not one RIM tablet. Isn't the BlackBerry Playbook the first professional-grade tablet? So shouldn't some of us professionals be carrying one?

I have a Playbook, but it was given to me. And I didn't take it with me to the conference. I'd be too embarrassed to pull it out of its case. I'd know the glances that would come my way. I'd hear, "You really use that thing?" I shouldn't care what people think. And I don't really, if I thought the device was just the right thing to use. But no one carries a Playbook, and I bet most feel as I do.

RIM's tablet has its problems. The bridge connection to a BlackBerry handheld doesn't make much sense. It's a bit flaky. It does have some terrific design features--why can't every device have HDMI output? But it doesn't seem to matter.

At least not to developers, who continue to produce great apps for Apple and Android devices, but not for the Playbook. A tablet without applications is ultimately just an interesting bit of history. RIM made many promises in May of things to come. It needs to deliver.

I don't get it, RIM. What's going on? You've launched some new smartphones--is that it? My company has a significant investment in your platform, and I make decisions based on ROI. I've made the investment, and my return is starting to erode. Before long, my friends (and colleagues) will be laughing at me. (I hate it when people laugh at me.)

Hello? RIM? Hello?

The author, the real-life CIO of a billion-dollar-plus company, shares his experiences under the pseudonym John McGreavy. Got a Secret CIO story of your own to share? Contact [email protected].

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