BlackBerry, TomTom Deal is RIM Strategic Shift in Action

RIM's appointment of new marketing and operations executives is certainly noteworthy, but the real news is the BlackBerry-maker's partnership with maps and traffic company TomTom, according to CIO.com's Al Sacco. Here's why.

Just last week, during a press session at Research In Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry World 2012 conference, the company's CEO Thorsten Heins identified two problem areas for RIM and vowed to address them "very soon:" 1) BlackBerry marketing; and 2) corporate operations at RIM. (Check out my BlackBerry World 2012 roundup for everything you need to know about the show.)

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This morning, RIM and a partner company made three major announcements that all take action on Heins' promise. RIM announced that it has hired a new CMO and COO. And while this is certainly major news, it's the third announcement that caught my eye. Digital-mapping and traffic-information provider TomTom announced a new partnership with the BlackBerry maker.

This partnership is noteworthy because it's the first real step Heins and Co. have taken toward the new strategic direction the CEO mentioned during the most recent RIM earning calls in March—the same earnings call in which statements made by Heins were misinterpreted by some media outlets to mean that RIM was abandoning the consumer market to focus specifically on the enterprise.

From a TomTom press release on the subject:

"BlackBerry Traffic is now powered by TomTom HD Traffic, giving customers access to the most accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date traffic information on the market. Additionally, TomTom maps and location content is used in BlackBerry Maps, and for BlackBerry Locate Services, which gives 3rd party software developers access to the mapping and traffic information for their own apps."

During his BlackBerry World press session, Heins plainly acknowledged that RIM has been spreading itself too thin over the past few years, wasting time and effort on new features and functionality instead of focusing on the things that it does best. Heins specifically identified the BlackBerry Maps and Traffic services as examples of where the company would be better off partnering with third-party mapping companies than developing its own services. Now we know why he called out those specific apps.

I hosted a BlackBerry World session last week, and I asked the four RIM executives who participated in my Q&A about what exactly Heins meant when he described RIM's planned strategic shift. They again stressed that RIM isn't at all abandoning the consumer market, but instead it's dedicating more efforts to areas it already excels in, such as productivity features and the enterprise. In other words, RIM isn't doing away with its BlackBerry maps and traffic services; instead it's looking to third parties for the nuts and bolts, and we can assume that the company is scaling back, redistributing or eliminating the RIM teams that were working on maps and traffic.

This BlackBerry/TomTom partnership is the first step of many in RIM's ongoing effort to sharpen its focus and reinvigorate the company and the BlackBerry brand in North America and elsewhere.

AS

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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