Monday, June 18, 2012

RIM and Nokia Deathwatch

BlackBerry. Five years ago, I wanted one of RIM's BlackBerry phones. With its BIS and push email it was the cutting edge mobile device. I applied with a local carrier, and was willing to pay the steep tariff for the service, but as a self-employed professional, I did not qualify. Back than, it was limited to corporate users and VIP's. Two years ago, I could get one, but with Apple iPhone's and Google Android phones being available on unlimited data plans which would give me everything I wanted to from a BlackBerry, on better hardware, with a larger selection of apps. 

Today, the BlackBerry offers the cheapest unlimited data plans at Php599 a month, which is Php400 less than what I would pay for a unlimited data plan for a iPhone or Android device. Even as the value for money option, it still does not look like it is worth it anymore. 

It took RIM of all of five years to go from premier smartphone service provider to a company whose very survival is now in question. With low cost for their services RIM is making some headway in developing countries. With Php99 a month for unlimited BlackBerry Messenger use or Php299 for unlimited access to your favorite social networks, RIM is now the budget choice for 24/7 world wide access. The headway in developing countries is not enough.

Everything now hinges on BlackBerry 10, RIM's next generation operating system. BlackBerry 10 is more modern, touch oriented and consumer friendly than the current BlackBerry 7.1 operating system. I really just do not see RIM being able to claw back enough market share from Android, Apple and even Microsoft.

This is what 10K gets you from RIM today. No 3G and a crappy camera!

RIM designs its own hardware, and the result is that RIM devices are pretty expensive. If you look at RIM's latest entry level handset, it will cost you all of Php9,390 or more, has no 3G, a poor camera, and a small 2.4-inch display. It is really not any better than a three year old entry level BlackBerry. Really, it should cost half as much.

BlackBerry 10 will being a new operating system, and newer better hardware. But I do not see how RIM could offer this at competitive prices.

Nokia. Things are not looking good for Nokia either. The 10,000 job cuts they announced lately being the best indicator of how bad things are.

A year and a half ago, Nokia moved away from Symbian and adopted Windows Phone as their next generation smartphone operating system. Windows Phone is a modern up to date operating system. However, unlike Android, it does not support a wide array of hardware. Nokia also took a long time coming up with their first Windows Phone 7.5 handsets, and the worldwide roll-out was slow.

The result is in 2012 Nokia Windows Phone handsets have specifications of two year old devices. As expect, market reception is lukewarm. If Nokia had been able to roll out these handsets a year earlier, it would really be a different story.

For Nokia, everything hinges on Windows Phone 8. Windows Phone 8 will support more modern hardware allowing Nokia to build more competitive devices. But we don't expect to see Windows Phone 8 handsets till October 2012. This means, 2012 will be another year of losses for Nokia. 

This phone, updated with a 720p display, a dual core processor, a better camera and 1080p video recording and playback can take the fight to Android and iOS. The only question is, is there enough time?

Unlike RIM, we do not see Nokia's situation as hopeless. But a good Nokia Windows Phone 8 launch is a make or break proposition. Nokia has needs a home run in October. Windows Phone 8 will be competitive enough. It's up to Nokia to make some really exciting hardware.

Nokia can integrate the technology in their 41 MP camera in the Nokia 808 Pureview, or even better a lesser lower cost version of this, in their Windows phones, that would be a big draw indeed. Coupled with their Nokia Drive turn-by-turn navigation system which works in almost all countries, this will give Nokia the kind of edge it needs to make a decent go for it. 

Its really game over for RIM. BlackBerry 10 really wont change things. Things look bad for Nokia. A late game touchdown might give the company enough time to start clawing back market share. But another fumble, and it could all be over.


  1. Back then, I was aiming to get a Blackberry Playbook. But when it was finally released, other tablets came out with more competitive features that I suddenly lost interest in the Playbook.

    However, I still do hope RIM will bounce back since they have an attractive OS and their technology appeals to me.

    Nokia on the other hand, should have stuck with and developed Meego. I really love the Nokia N9 and was saddened when they focused on Microsoft Windows Phone instead.

    1. The problem is I do not see how will will design its own devices and compete in terms of cost against OEM's. Maybe if it licensed out its OS and focused on software and services?

      I think Meego would even be harder going than Windows Phone. Nokia should have simple been a hardware manufacturer (like Samsung) and built Android phones, Windows phones and their own Meego phones. They all use the same hardware underneath anyway.


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