"Crackberry", No More

Recent news such as RIM's colossal miss-steps concerning the playbook update and extended world-wide outages make it hard for one not to suspect that the Canadian PDA pioneer is approaching end days. To be honest, this is a train that's been coming down the track for a long time, and I won't be among the mourners when it gets here. In fact, I'm writing a merry obituary right now, and looking forward to tossing my BES server to the curb as soon as I can manage it.

There was a time when RIM had their finger on the pulse of hipster execs everywhere, and most would sooner cough up their Aeron before parting with their BlackBerry. I, too, sported an obligatory glossy black Pearl on my hip like a Batman accessory until just last year. But ever since I gave Android a shot, I've been about as ready to go back to Blackberry as I have been to uninstall Chrome and give this MSIE thing everyone's talking about another shot.

Right now, the only thing keeping Blackberry alive in my organization is highly placed people not wanting to have to devote effort to their phones, right now. We're not issuing any new ones if we don't have to, and just about no one is asking for one. Instead, everyone has become addicted to the immaculate walled garden of iPhones or the glorious anarchy of Androids. The marginally better email synchronization capabilities of Blackberrys is carrying about as much weight as how easy it is to place a call. Access to your office calendar has become as much a differentiator as having a battery and any device that doesn't make a serious effort at integrating work with the rest of our life will be ground up and sold for heavy metal content. These days, it's all about the app store, and RIM has nothing to compare to the variety of options offered by iOS and Android. In fact, the barely adolescent Windows 7 platform has a better chance of gaining critical mass that does RIM.

It used to be that the main reason business organizations kept Blackberrys around was because of the superior management tools. Any organization serious about security depended upon the Enterprise Server to enable remote support and, if necessary, wipe. However, RIM is no longer the only show in town. New applications like SOTI's Mobicontrol offer much the same functionality for other OSs without the albatross that the BES server has become. With expensive licensing for services that come free with the Exchange servers almost everyone already has (ActiveSync), and network vulnerabilities found in no other phone OS, the annual RIM invoice looks less and less like a good use of company funds every time I see it.

RIM has had a nice run, and some of its devices are still admirable pieces of engineering, but the overall ecosystem is faltering and it takes a truly positive outlook to see anything in the future other than total collapse. Like so many other early innovaters, I suspect they ended up believing all the hype Fast Company wrote about them, and figured some kind of Manifest Destiny would maintain their dominance. I'm thinking they were wrong, and it's time to make adjustments.