RIM’s role in making the transition from enterprise to consumer is the topic of this month’s column in Computerworld. I’m a long time Blackberry user going back to the first devices ever made but I wonder if RIM can really make it in the consumer space. I recently tried to update to the newest version of the BB Facebook app and the experience was a disaster. It refused to let me sync to my contacts. A little investigation revealed that my BB once connected to a BES and therefore needed a policy adjustment. Of course, I no longer connect to that server which made it impossible. The command line fix, backup and restore to make it all work was hardly consumer friendly. RIM’s a great friend to the enterprise IT manager but less so to the consumer. A lot will depend on what RIM does with Blackberry Six. While there’s a lot of momentum at RIM’s back, the question is how well they can do long term in an increasingly consumer driven market.
BlackBerry is still a hugely popular platform. For many business users and IT departments, it’s the only choice. In fact, an alien who landed on Earth and boarded the Acela train from New York to Washington would assume each earthling not only wore a blue suit but also owned a small oracle with a keyboard they were constantly consulting. RIM’s problem is that much of its success depends on inertia — it’s a snapshot in time. But with the enterprise market saturated, RIM must find ways to evolve its platform to be more competitive with changing user needs. While recent acquisitions show that RIM is slowly picking up some of the parts that it needs, such as a new kernel and better Web technology, it will need to accelerate the process of integrating those features into a new operating system — as well as a more coherent marketing campaign to better explain RIM’s offerings. (Some of RIM’s recent commercials have been so arcane, I didn’t even realize they were for the BlackBerry.)