Mark Rejhon's Top 7 Most Important BlackBerry Requests for RIM's Growth Success
Written June 2005
Blockbuster Growth: Research In Motion is in a bull run. The first million BlackBerry subscribers took many years for RIM to achieve, the second million took under 10 months, and the third million took under 6 months. The price of RIM stock is enjoying the rare dotcom-style hypervaluation levels. BlackBerries are increasingly commonly found in airports, government buildings, and throughout the business districts of downtown area. RIM recently cleared a few skeletons from the closet, including settling with NTP, Inc. at approximately a half-million dollars. This removed a threat of a network shutdown in the United States. There are still many countries in the world that BlackBerry will still sell like hotcakes.
The Storm Clouds: RIM cannot stay complacent. PalmOne has the TREO which is starting to sell like hotcakes. The 800 pound rich gorilla, Microsoft is ready to dip into its war chhest and add better "push email" capabilities to Exchange and ActiveSync. Competitors such as Good Technology is making inroads. BlackBerries are now finally reaching market saturation in certain industries. Some people are also far more interested in getting a TREO than a BlackBerry.
Countermeasures: RIM is already successfully executing certain measures, such as expanding to new carriers in new countries. RIM is going "beyond email", and last year RIM changed the corporate logo to remove the outdated email logo. RIM is branching into new markets by expanding the BlackBerry feature set. However, RIM cannot stay too complacent and there are hidden mousetraps and obstacles. Here are some measures that RIM can take to ensure that the 10 millionth subscriber is successfully reached.
The moral of the story is that the consumer market and the business market is much more closely intertwined than many people think. For example, the "word-of-mouth" factor listed in this document. It is my opinion that RIM should not have tunnel vision and focus only on business.
For more information about BlackBerry capabilities, see Mark Rejhon's BlacKBerry FAQ.
I really enjoyed your "Top 7" posting. I am a small business person who got my first BlackBerry (7250 w/ EarthLink) a few weeks ago after over a year of doubting that a BlackBerry would suit my needs. Am now at the height of newbie crackberry :} I agree with your commentary and it would be really interesting to see some hard numbers, or even soft ones on who bought the last million BlackBerries and why.
On a side note, there has got to be a better way to tote these puppies around. The belt clip thing may work for guys but it is a non-starter for me and the women I know. Most women do not carry or want to carry a purse all the time. The BlackBerry is too large & too valuable to stuff in my pocket like I do my cell phone. Women are a huge market. Find a better way to carry these things and they'll sell a gizillion. IMHO
By the way, thanks for all your great posts. I have learned much of what I know about BlackBerries, their use, and tricks from you.
Good comments. Keep it coming.
For those reading this thread. These items may not even be a big concern yet, with BlackBerry subscribers still growing fast. One important point to remember is that BlackBerry is doing extremely well now. A lot of this is regarding RIM's future - these are very legitimate concerns about RIM's future, especially as they grow beyond 5 or 10 million subscribers in the coming years.
Any other comments by others?
I couldn't agree more with your comment about the software catalog. I have a new 7250 and want a time tracking and mileage tracking program. It's painfully difficult to find something suited to an owner operated business. I searched for weeks before getting the BB and am searching still.
I'll agree with Doo Dad. Really the only thing that I have been bothered by is that, for a purported "business" device, there is not very much software to help with the kind of "business" a lot of people do, ie mileage tracking, time tracking, etc. As someone that does outside sales, this thing is a virtual office a lot of the time, yet I still find myself jotting things down on scraps of paper.
Other than that, two thumbs (one of them sore) up!
Love the comments, and agree with the majority of them. The concern I feel weighs in the most is point number 5, that they have MUCH quicker hardware innovation. Too often the LG's, Samsungs, and Treo's are viewed as sexier devices, and that keeps the RIM devices out of the number 3/4 users hands.
Just my $.02. Keep up the great work.
We should give RIM credit here. They did release the 7100 series, which are far sexier models of BlackBerries than previous models. They need to keep this up, releasing innovating new models, while at the same time improving the traditional models. Scaling up the rollout of new BlackBerry models is very likely daunting to RIM because they have a high standard of operating system stability, and keeping the operating system updated on dozens of models of BlackBerries is going to be a nightmare. Fortunately, OS Version 4.0 is the end of the line for most of the older models, and RIM can finally now concentrate more on newer models.
At a certain point where there are so many models, a consumer division spinoff just might make this easier, as they can have more strict operating system standards for the business BlackBerry division versus the theoretical consumer "BerryMedia" division (if RIM spins off a consumer-specific division, to permit more innovation such as cameras and memory card slots).
RIM has a history of being slow and conservative. This has helped them immensely in many industries, paying off with generally very stable devices that are more bulletproof than other smartphones and PDA's. But at 5 or 10 million subscribers in the future, challenges are going to be rather intense and there is the danger of massively slowing down as a company from the excessive inertia way too early. RIM still has a chance to quickly rocket past 10 million subscribers without yet hitting market saturation, if RIM plays their cards well as the Next Nokia.
A problem I observed was in a recent Popular Science article about smartphones. BlackBerry was not even included in this article, except in a sidebar. This relates to RIM's marketing difficulties in this particular arena and is not really Popular Science's fault. However, See My Letter to Popular Science Magazine which did chide them a little on this issue. This clearly shows one example of a marketing issue by RIM if BlackBerry is not being included in the same articles as TREO phones and iPaq phones.
A few simple things would help
Mark: I agree with all of your comments, but a few simple things would make the BB more viable long term, IMHO.
One is structural: put a Speakephone into *every* model. It's wonderful that they did it in the 71XX series, but why disciminate against the rest of us with 72's, 73's and 77's? The fact that they did in the 7520- it just baffles me that they wouldn't have done it on their standard form factor devices. We'd have thrown away our cell phones here long ago if they had. Bluetooth notwithstanding, there are lots of traditional cell phone users out there who want to carry one device but also one with all the "basic" necessities in the phone portion: omitting the speaker phone was a big mistake, IMHO. I know from talking with one of the carriers reps that there were better considerations, but I'll rest on my comments about the 7520.
The other is integral: I have been a RIM user since before the 850/950: the days of the giant clam shell. I can't even remember what that was called; however, over the years RIM has gotten, again IMO, less and less customer friendly. That's fine if their market is just going to be BES and they want to deal with Corporate IT types, but that would be to their detriment I believe.
Just scan this board to see the level of frustration that had grown as RIM has grown. The most common are the persistent issues with loading the DM software on various flavors of Windows, etc. Additionally, I have found over the last few years that RIM is downright condescending in reponding to help requests. I think this will not serve them in the long run.
another proprietary PLUS !!!
this instant delivery message function of BB with delivery verification is a Slam Dunk no brainer for big and small companies alike !
how about marketing that aspect ?????
At the next trade show Rim should have a dozen or so Hot Models with Tight tshits with the message "pin me" on the front and back...all the models could explain the benefits of pinning to interested "drooling" possible customers!
Hey Mike not all the answers are in the text book!
Couldn't agree with you more. Great reading! Thanks Mark!
Voice Dial, especially from a bluetooth handsfree, is a huge void in their abilities. So many business people who want access to their email while traveling also drive places, and thus don't want to fiddle with dialing the on the blackberry during this time.
I've spoken with at least one Blackberry developer, who said it's certainly being worked on, but they need to understand how much of a hinderence it is and get it out there for people.
I love my Blackberry because it works reliably and simply for email. Having said that, its not a great PIM yet. The address book, in particular, it very poor. The third-party applications are limited (yes, RIMRoad and others are inaccurate--but even an accurate list is still relatively unimpressive), but hopefully that will change with the speed of the 8700.
I think part of RIMs problem is marketing. Yes, they need to look at adding a consumer division (and make sure the BES can limit what those consumer models can do in a business environment). But they really need to start thinking about doing more than email--and do it well. Most of their new additions are sloppy, at best. The password manager is a joke (seriously--why not offer a desktop companion?). Blackberry Messenger is clunky. I hope with the new hardware and BES41, and the lawsuit (presumably) behind them, RIM decides to extend from dominating the email market to the smart phone market.
I've suspected this for a while, but this thread really underlines it. It's apparent to me the RIM doesn't care about the prosumer market. They are only concerned about the Gov't and Corp BES users. Their sales to prosumers seems incidental, and it gives the definite impression that the ONLY reason they're even selling to the prosumers is because it's putting more money in their pocket. They certainly aren't supporting the prosumer market, they're just including it. Big difference. If they were trying to be competitive, they would have basic got-to-have-'em business user features - like speaker phone and voice dial. I won't even get into RIM's security concerns about Bluetooth, cameras, and voice recorders. Do they realize they could offer models that are crippled (read secure - meaning no camera, limited Bluetooth, no voice recorder) AND fully functional models?
It wouldn't be a huge deal to have two board revisions - one that includes the camera and one that doesn't. Don't want to bother having two boards? OK, have two different cases - one with the hole for the camera, and one without the hole. Cameras are of no use if all they can see is the inside of the case.
The Bluetooth profiles could be controlled through the OS and backed up with control through BES. Different versions for the different models - crippled versus fully functional.
I know I've said this before, and it's my favorite rant. So I'll get off my soapbox now.
Happy 2nd Anniversary of this post.
In retrospect, this post was really prophetic:
- More consumer friendly BlackBerries
- BlackBerry cameras and memory card slots! Who would've thought.
- More People are now thinking of BlackBerry as yet another cool SmartPhone
- Most media is no longer using outdated BlackBerry email metaphors
- You can now play video, MP3, etc.. You name it!
- There is no more fear of BlackBerry shutdown; more people now think BlackBerry is here to stay.
BlackBerry Now Attractive as Generic Cellphones
BlackBerries are also now a viable option as generic cellphones too; and you can even can now use generic Internet software on a BlackBerry without needing a BlackBerry subscription (i.e. Opera Mini, IM+ works without a BlackBerry plan); this tempts younger consumers to buy anyway, and they may upgrade to a BlackBerry plan later; important in Canada where usable BlackBerry plans start at $60-and-up. This improves BlackBerry reputation; they are being viewed less often as "special business cellphones for those business bigwigs" - and more interesting to the HipTop/Sidekick audience than they were. This grows the market for RIM, by selling more profitable BlackBerry hardware, even if a dwindling percentage of them have a BlackBerry plan attached.
More Work Needed
Lots more work remains to be done, but improvements to an extent have been made to all 7. The mere threat of competition such as iPhone is already driving RIM very hard. Better software catalogs are still needed, for example. Integrate more user-friendly multimedia, such as iTunes or iTunes-like system, make it easier to import video and music without buying expensive software, etc. There are still market sectors that think BlackBerries are boring business tools. Some blogs, denigrate the BlackBerry and pan them. But, overall, the BlackBerry picture among consumers is much more positive than it was 2 years ago!
Potential Business Alienation, Market Confusion
At the same time, RIM needs to balance things out. Businesses may be alienated by difficult BlackBerry keyboard designs that are too small for big fingers of many executives. (Older, big-thumb people miss the good days of the BlackBerry 7290, for example - one of the better BlackBerry keyboards) They may be scared away by the sudden emergence of cameraphones and memory cards (though, thankfully, BES allows you to turn these features off in a secure corporate environment). RIM can reassure these by continuing to support older models, as well as introducing huge numbers of different BlackBerry models. RIM has done an excellent job of keeping both SureType and non-SureType models, even if some market confusion occurs by having so many new BlackBerry models on the market.
Consumer Data Pricing At Carriers
Here, the role model is T-Mobile in the U.S., while Cingular(new AT&T) lowered their pricing since this post was made. With consumer BlackBerry use, a big challenge is data pricing. But more carriers need to follow suit. Lower priced BlackBerry data plans are needed to entice consumers - for example, T-Mobile style pricing needs to come to Canada soon. For example, Rogers Canada now have a $10-for-10meg generic data plan called "Navigate Data Package" which interestingly now works with Opera Mini and IM+ on BlackBerries .... unfortunately, the cheapest BlackBerry EMAIL plan is $25-for-0.5 megabytes (250% as much price, for 1/20th the data!). Carriers need to stop protecting their small golden goose of corporate customers, and introduce consumer-pricing -- Rogers Canada could potentially make more profit at selling 10 times as many BlackBerry plans at half the price, as a potential example. This is needed to prevent BlackBerries from being sold without a data plan, or with only generic data plans (that is only compatible with third party network software, with BlackBerry-branded email/browser being disabled)
What's your opinion of RIM's progress in the last 2 years?
Good and bad elements?
What can they do better in the future?
I agree about the data pricing. I have 2 teenagers and a wife who want smartphones (iPhone or BlackBerry, depending on which one you ask). With voice plans, you simply add $10/month for each additional phone. Unfortunately, with data plans--you add the full price of the data plan (again). If I were to buy them all BlackBerry or iPhone devices, I'd pay $5000 in cell phone bills for 3 casual users over the next 2 years. I don't mind the price of the phones (even the iPhone), but I'm not willing to pay those data charges. As more consumers and families look at smartphones, I believe this will be the #1 road block. They need to offer discounted group rates on data.
You know what I think RIM really needs to do?
FIX THEIR BROKEN DEVELOPER API
I was literally gob-smacked when I first started developing for the BlackBerry - what an absolutely atrocious API; poorly documented; inconsistent; blatantly wrong in many places; not flexible (appears to have been designed solely for their needs only).
If RIM wants anyone at all to develop for the BlackBerry and keep the platform alive they better hire some competent developers to fix their API and fast.
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