Product Challenge of the Week: Saving RIMM

A few days ago, I was at an i-banking presentation on the technology industry.  There was a bit of the usual debate – is AAPL over/under valued, how will GOOG monetize mobile, is NFLX going to rule TV, etc.  One thing there was no debate about – RIM is the walking dead.  (Nokia got an honorable mention).  The best prospects proffered was selling off the assets or being acquired for a balance sheet and customer list after some painful downsizing.  Pretty bleak.

Which is the perfect scenario for a favorite product manager exercise – in 20 minutes or less come up with a product road map to turn around RIM.  No fire sales or government auctions allowed.  Let’s start with a mini-SWOT:

Strengths – BB is still one of the best mobile phones in the smart phone category.  It’s battery life beats the pants off all the competitors.  Call quality and speak phone are hard to beat.  Corporate security people love it.  BBM is a great backup for e-mail/network outages.  Their install base is awesome, even if it shrinking.  It’s the best e-mail device on the market in regards to MS Exchange.  On a company level, RIM’s got a lot of tech talent, especially in wireless design.

Weaknesses – Consumers hate their devices.  Mainly b/c their apps suck.  Their desktop software is even worse.  The OS is very non-intuitive, especially compared to Android and iOS.   As a company, consumer product design is not a strength.  This maybe a lack of  talent, or guessing here, organizationally the consumer talent beholden to some other group.

Opportunities – Well, this is the tricky part.  First and foremost, it’s their install base.  The issue is that the “prosumers” are moving away from BB to other platforms, not the other way around.  This needs to be reversed – devise a strategy where this prosumer install base is advocating RIM products.  Then there’s the wireless spectrum they have.  Obviously secure communications products are currently a strong point, but this could be expanded for unique product offerings.

Threats – Obviously Apple and Android.  They have better UI’s, much better apps and consumer features.  The security features (which consumers don’t give a damn about) are being developed for other platforms by software vendors.  MS Exchange integrations, while they are still behind, are slowly catching up.  Hardware vendors like HTC and Samsung are rapidly evolving handsets at a much faster rate than RIM.

Given this, what would the best product course be to save RIM?

  1. Remember who we are.  We are not a consumer electronics company.  We are not a consumer software company.  We are a fantastic wireless communication and messaging company.
  2. Focus BB OS on running “utility” mobile devices – i.e. corporate phone/messaging/e-mail.  Good, fast, reliable and cheap.  Not feature rich.  Be unbeatable here.  No expensive re-designs.
  3. Re-org consumer unit to be a true consumer unit.  Unshackle or recruit talent.  All new software starts with this group.
  4. Make iOS and Android our friends.  Build the best corporate secure messaging software possible for these platforms.  Prosumers will love you as they only need one device now.
  5. Goes without saying, Android BB.  Bundle your secure messaging platform on it.
  6. Spin out hardware group to get other vendors to produce #5…say Nokia and save them too.
  7. BB Cloud.  Corporate docs are all over dropbox, box.net, slideshare and a bunch of other places because users want mobile and sharable services that their IT groups are too slow to deploy.  If this could bundle into the BB install and provide this with security and auditing it would be a godsend to corp infosec.
  8. Let’s think about this wireless network.  Is there a way to offer services to app developers?  Come up with some wireless dev tools that no one else can offer ISVs?
  9. I’m sure there’s a universal messaging idea in here somewhere, but I’m hitting the time limit.
  10. Global Address book.  Consumers have multiple account, devices, social, etc.  There is no good solution to managing and keeping these separate.  Given Exchange integrations, RIM might have a shot at doing this.

Well, that’s my very-uninformed, 20 minute plan to save RIM.  Don’t know how or fit it’s possible, but it’s better than “dead for sure”.

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About Jason Lynn

Product guy in NYC, enjoying the digital revolution.
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