The future of Blackberry
Detractors of BlackBerry See Trouble Past Patents
By IAN AUSTEN
Published: March 6, 2006
Some think otherwise. "The patent case was a whole bunch of noise," said Ellen Dailey, a Forrester Research analyst. "Right now, R.I.M. is in danger of relegating itself to becoming a niche e-mail player."
David Schatsky of Jupiter Research echoed that view. "The lawsuit was an active threat to R.I.M.," he said. "But they now have to face other, long-term challenges. Microsoft appears determined to be a serious competitor in its markets."
These reactions are familiar ones for R.I.M., a onetime upstart that has received only limited respect, even after signing up about 3.2 million Americans, 70 percent of the United States market for wireless e-mail. Almost from the beginning of the BlackBerry, forecasters have predicted that its maker, based in Waterloo, Ontario, would be swept away by larger competitors, particularly Microsoft.
James L. Balsillie, the chairman of R.I.M., agrees with critics and some competitors that broader changes, including the long-delayed arrival of higher-speed wireless networks and a renewed mobile software effort from Microsoft, will force growth and changes in the market for wireless hand-held devices.
But Mr. Balsillie disagrees that those changes will leave Research in Motion out in the cold. "Our competitors keep going down the same path they've always gone down," he said. "When 95 percent of camera-phone customers don't buy a data plan, it shows that they haven't cracked the code."
What is now at issue, according to analysts, are the questions of where new wireless e-mail customers will come from and what kind of additional services they may demand.
The bulk of R.I.M.'s business has come from corporate information technology departments. As senior executives demanded BlackBerries, R.I.M. focused on creating a closed, easy-to-install system that featured high security so that computer systems managers had little excuse for denying their bosses' requests. That BlackBerries were spartan devices, avoiding fancy software, cameras and other add-ons, only seemed to increase that kind of appeal.
But most people in the wireless business, including those at R.I.M., recognize that future growth will have to come from outside the executive suites. And R.I.M.'s competitors hope that as wireless e-mail moves down corporate ranks to delivery vans and field-service technicians, customers will be looking for the kind of PC-like applications that BlackBerries do not offer.
"Voice is, of course, a killer app and e-mail is a killer app," said Tara Griffin, a vice president of Palm, maker of the Treo and a R.I.M. rival. "But customers are anxious to get beyond e-mail."
Danny Shader, chief executive of Good Technology, a leading wireless e-mail software alternative to BlackBerry, agreed, saying that R.I.M.'s coolness to outside developers will come back to haunt it. "This is a beginning of a 10-year shift in computing," he said. "Everything that can possibly be done on a hand-held will be done on a hand-held."
"Microsoft provides us with great developer kits and software tools," said Mr. Shader, whose company was sued by R.I.M. for patent infringement in 2003.
"Let's give BlackBerry its due," he said. "It's a completely integrated stack of stuff. If all you want to do is run e-mail on an appliance, then BlackBerry is your choice."
Research in Motion has indicated that it will be looking for more sales to general users. One recent deal will bring Google Instant Messaging and Google Maps to BlackBerries. And in an interview last week with Bloomberg News, Michael Lazaridis, president and a co-chief executive of R.I.M., said it was "inevitable" that future BlackBerries would include multimedia features.
I think the form factor is one problem, but in reality it's a niche product which needs more attractive formfactors to grow outside the corporate world.
Everyone worries about Microsoft coming, but their hardware efforts aren't dominant from Keyboards to consoles, they have competitors. I think this is just one more field for competition
posted by Steve @ 1:15:00 AM