I read RIM is loosing local developers this morning in the Ottawa Business Journal. Basically it speaks to RIM's challenges today, applications developers are not lining up to create apps for RIM. They polled some of the firms in town, and the view is balanced on what they are doing with RIM. Here are my thoughts on the situation.
Yes RIM has huge challenges now and ahead. Any business losing momentum is a difficult business to be in. Lots of RIM's employees' are just plain confused right now. Just 24months ago they could do no wrong, and today they work for a company that is perceived as doing nothing right. The moral is things change quickly, and without warnings.
Adam calls this complacency, it can certainly be. When you're number one staying ahead requires lots of listening and observing. Somewhere along the way RIM stopped listening and observing what was happening and where things were going. Actually let me re-phrase, they do listen and observe but only one market segment, the ones they were serving well, the users that were swearing they needed a keyboard, the ones who never wanted to use their device for other things than bbm and emails.
The leadership of RIM is under huge stress and being tested. The experience underway is a humbling one, take the slap, learn from it and move on. The troops need to work hard on what matters. When you're number one you start focussing on all sorts of things that don't matter to the upstarts. Projects and mandates that are slowing things down to protect the base instead of accelerating things to grab more market share. I say
- gut the overhead, and the red-tape that has been put in place over the last 5years.
- It's time to go back to first principles of product creation:
- work really hard on things that matter,
- test out the prototypes, then go back to explore&observe
Design: Design is how it works, it's a mindset
Some companies like apple are great at design. RIM has a long way to go in this domain. RIM does design well don't get me wrong, still they are miles away to have a simple product. Compare the BB with anything out there it's more complex, it has too many options. It's the difference between a design centric (apple) organisation, and an engineering centric one (rim). The former looks at the world from a task to be accomplished model, while the later is about bubbling features up.
The next platforms will need to kiss good bye backward compatibility. This is going to hurt before it feels good, and it's necessary. As Bryan puts it creating products for the Blackberry is very difficult because of the older devices and OS. It's reset time, to compete and to be just as nimble as the competition, RIM needs to let go of legacy, it's slowing them down. They have the best opportunity to do it now, they are being beaten on, the opportunity is ripe for it.
RIM has never been really good at fostering development for its applications. Maybe they need to do something like apple did a long time ago. Spin out software applications development in it's own organisation, and let them have their own P&L. Apple did this with Filemaker back in the days, it's helped create the ecosystem, why not do this with all apps at RIM now. I'm sure the app team will become more nimble and create even better products out of it. I'd take that challenge right on!
Going and raising the awareness to RIM's platform with developers is not happening. Rob Woodbridge and myself host Mobile Mondays here in Ottawa(http://mobilemondayottawa.com/). Rim has over 1000 people in Ottawa, no one from RIM is showing up to the events. To get developers to create applications for your platforms you have to go where they are at the grass root.
Wrapping it up:
RIM has to get on the get on design wise simplify it's organisation, and simplify it's products. This is hard, this takes time, and I hope they get to do it, because I'm rooting for them.