Canadian smartphone manufacturer Research In Motion faces a tough future: the firm’s losing customers and stock value in a very concerning downward spiral, only made worse by the growing popularity of devices like the iPhone and phones powered by Android. That said, the company’s determination in avoiding what looks to some as an unavoidable fate is impressive and deserves recognition. Its new CEO, Thorsten Heins, seems prepared for almost anything – even if that includes selling the company or disseminating its assets.
On the development side of things, they’re certainly living up to the “research” aspect of their name. Their R&D department is stepping up the game; while competitors are now offering phones that can record video and take photos at the same time, RIM are advertising a phone that uses burst-fire to facilitate users “rewinding” time by a fraction of a second to capture a smile or avoid a blink. Recent leaks also show what looks could be the most innovative use of gestures in the industry, and indicate the inclusion of real-time screen sharing, a useful function for business environments.
Their move towards “modernising” the BlackBerry 10 series of smartphones started with the acquisition of QNX, and the resulting software made its way to market as BlackBerry Tablet OS on the BlackBerry PlayBook, a tablet that received a bad rap primarily for its limited app ecosystem and missing functionality for users without BlackBerry smartphones. The OS 2.0 update that changed everything was delayed several times, but its release in February this year still had a major impact on the quality of the tablet’s user interface – and it gives strong hopes for BlackBerry 10.
Speaking to the Associated Press earlier this week, Heins said “we are prudent because we know the situation is somewhat challenging”. He may not have the charm that Apple found in Steve Jobs, but he seems a smart businessman and by far a better chief executive officer than his predecessors. He’s leading the offensive with BlackBerry 10, while still retaining other avenues. “We are just looking at everything that could be an option. That doesn’t mean we are pulling on those options. But we need to understand … what is our field of action that we could take in case we need to?”
Not everything is looking bad, either: despite being forced to change their next-generation operating system’s name from BBX to BlackBerry 10 due to trademark infringement, the firm have walked away from court retaining their iconic BBM brand, which was under threat from an alleged trademark holder called BBM Canada. The real story this week is not that the BlackBerry manufacturer is in a bad place, but that they may be the only technology firm with the drive to recover from its disappointing downturn. Things may be going downhill right now, but RIM have some kick in them yet.