“RIM is a reactionary company,” a former executive at Research In Motion recently told Boy Genius Report, a technology website. For years, the top dogs at RIM refused to believe that the suit-and-tie users of BlackBerrys would care about being able to snap pictures and listen to music on their phones. It turned out they did, and the company has been scrambling to catch up. Today, with its stock at record lows and its workforce being trimmed by 2,000 employees, RIM is on the defensive.
And yet, it might still be worth holding on to those RIM shares. The last few weeks have seen a string of positive news and good reviews that could be the signs of an ongoing renaissance at the Waterloo, Ont., headquarters. For one, the new BlackBerry Bold 9900 made quite a splash. The New York Times has called it the “best BlackBerry RIM has ever produced,” and praised its “classy” stainless steel sides, touch-screen features and “spectacularly comfortable” keyboard. The new handset is faring so well among technology experts it is boosting confidence about RIM’s upcoming QNX phones as well, which will run on an entirely new software and are expected to hit the market next year.
Investor sentiment on RIM also got a boost from the earthquake that struck Virginia last week. While cellphone calls failed, government workers were able to contact family and colleagues through the BlackBerry email service, which runs on thousands of RIM servers and wasn’t affected by the usage overload that clogged phone companies’s networks. It all highlighted RIM’s security, which often gets lost in the focus on the smartphone gadgetry of rivals like Apple and Google.
And if messaging services are one of RIM’s strong points, then the company seems to be on the right track with its new BBM Music service. The app, currently running on a beta version and expected to become available later this fall, allows BlackBerry users to share songs they rent from a cloud-based library with friends through BlackBerry Messenger, the instant-messaging system that’s made RIM a favourite among teenagers.
With a few promising tricks up its sleeve, RIM may be finally reacting in all the right ways.