BlackBerry in 2012: More Trouble in Store for RIM

RIM and BlackBerry smartphones and tablets could take some strides in the right direction in the coming year, but the outlook is mostly grim, writes CIO.com's Al Sacco.

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Wed, December 14, 2011

CIO — The year 2012 promises to be an interesting one for BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM). The Canadian company has come upon some tough times lately. And despite a number of key product releases and enhancements, things will only get worse before they get better for RIM...if they do at all. Here's why.


I'll start by saying that RIM's not going anywhere in the coming year. Just because it is struggling right now, with market share and customer loyalty dwindling and its foothold in the enterprise losing strength every day, RIM is still a major player in the handheld space and it's not just going to fall off the face of the earth, taking its BlackBerry handhelds and tablets along for the ride. RIM's still hanging on, in other words.

But that also doesn't mean the BlackBerry manufacturer will be able to pull itself out of its ongoing tailspin.

RIM should release a number of exciting new products and services in 2012, which will help keep the company afloat in the increasingly competitive mobile space, but I don't expect RIM to gain significant market share, at least not in the United States; RIM market share will likely remain steady throughout the new year, right around 10 percent of the U.S. market.

Pros and Cons of BlackBerry 10

In early 2012, RIM should release the first smartphones running its brand new OS, BlackBerry 10. BlackBerry 10, formerly referred to as BBX, will have a strong focus on touch and touch navigation. And it is designed to grab the attention of users who may be eyeing new iPhones or Android devices.

That's a good thing, but I worry that RIM is losing sight of a key element in its early success: The "physical," button-based keyboard. I wrote a blog post recently asking whether readers wanted touch screen devices or QWERTY BlackBerrys, and more than 80 percent of the roughly 200 respondents said they would rather RIM focus on devices with button-based hardware keyboards.

At least a few of the new BlackBerry handhelds running the BlackBerry 10 OS will be 4G/LTE devices, and that's sure to motivate wireless carriers to put more marketing hutzpah into pushing these new BlackBerrys to customers. And consumers may be more attracted to these 4G BlackBerrys than RIM's current smartphone lineup--though I'm not sure the average smartphone owner really cares all that much about 4G. (A recent CIO.com poll found 40 percent of respondents in no rush to upgrade to 4G devices.)

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