BlackBerry 10: Recipe for a Successful Launch – The Preamble

Having followed the evolution of BlackBerry 10 since RIM CEO Thorsten Heins took the helm about a year ago this weekend, we have been seeing a textbook case of how to restore a faltering company and its brand to its former glory. On taking over the reins Heins’ challenges included:

  • sticking to the original product vision behind the QNX acquisition,
  • restructuring and realigning the company to support a new operating system,
  • recruiting and building a C-level executive team with world class experience,
  • taking control of the message being propagated through the media, and finally
  • building the infrastructure required for the successful launch of a new smartphone product into a very competitive and high profile market.

We are now eight days from the January 30 launch event date. And based on my previous experience with selling multi-tasking products, managing both hardware and software subsidiaries, participating in what was initially the successful restructuring of a NASDAQ-listed company and working with startups I want to share my outline of not only why  BlackBerry 10 will be a success story but also why RIM will be able to vector off into a unique market positioning in the future.

This post is the first of a three part series that will go out this week covering: The Preamble, The Main Story and The Questions.

RIM’s core DNA

RIM.DNASplicing.300pxIt all starts with a Tweet I found last night that uniquely summarizes RIM’s current DNA. For almost 30 years QNX has been developing a multi-tasking, multi-threading real time operating system robust enough to run nuclear power plants, power GM’s OnStar service and replace Cisco’s iOS in their routers. Meanwhile over the past 19 years RIM was building expertise in mobile technology, including not only efficient handling of wireless messaging and data but also doing it securely.

Two recent posts articulate why QNX is really the core to RIM’s future:

In RIM – BB10 True End-Game is QNX & NOC!, Dono at Serious Mobile provides a comprehensive picture of why QNX is the core of RIM’s future:

Some still are not sure why RIM chose to purchase QNX just over a 1.5 years ago. To them I say do a little research. QNX is a true, real-time OS! But [what] real-life benefits does QNX offer us? Most people do not see QNX let alone know it exists until RIM started using it in press releases about BB10.

QNX software is used in embedded systems all around us – yet it’s not limited to embedded systems. Automobile (cars & trucks) CPU’s and infotainment applications,medical devices, nuclear reactors/management systems, parking meters, credit card machines, ticket booths and much more which I’ll get to shortly.

A post in RIM’s own developer blog, You’re Already Using BlackBerry 10: Living QNX, outlines specific examples of QNX deployment in today’s market. The QNX Bentley concept car at CES 2013 gave a demonstration of what the future can be for automotive information, entertainment and control systems, demonstrating not only GPS but features such as video calling and self-diagnostics. In fact, they also demonstrated a BlackBerry 10 application capable of providing some “remote” interaction with the car’s features:

Bentley panel with GPS and calling.
Note the analog clock whose outside ring  can actually server as a volume control
BlackBerry 10 controlling locks, trunk, horn, sun roof, lights, temperature and music

The long term future for RIM beyond BlackBerry 10 lies with leveraging QNX for machine to machine interactions (M2M), including a significant role for BlackBerry 10.

The Fundamentals for Success

However, with that background, lots has happened in preparation for the BlackBerry 10 launch – the key foundation piece to realizing RIM’s future. When I was involved on the restructuring management team of a utility software company we had five key assets:

  • a well-known brand name (with a reputation for multi-tasking under DOS)
  • an established and loyal customer base of several million users
  • a restructured company team that was enthusiastic and committed to success
  • an established distribution channel that could readily ship new product
  • a new product under development that could be launched in a timely manner

Within six months the company was back to profitability. However, this was a much less complex situation than what RIM encountered. Their key assets include:

  • a well known brand name and reputation (but challenged as a result of some recent product issues)
  • 80 million users, of whom 60 million use a key “networking” or “bonding” feature called BlackBerry Messenger
  • a strong loyalty within that customer base as demonstrated on Twitter, blog posts and even comments to posts in the media
  • a visionary new product under development that could significantly change the user experience
  • an established carrier distribution channel that can readily ship new products
  • strongly focused leadership at the CxO level
  • a very keen RIM team enthusiastically supporting the mission and vision
  • $2.9 billion in cash

In summary – a startup’s dream scenario.

In my follow up posts I’ll talk about why I feel BlackBerry 10 will be a success story (along with a few caveats).

Full disclosure: the author has a small holding of RIM shares. But he also has iOS and Android devices in order to experience a cross section of the smartphone and tablet market. These observations are based on publicly available information combined with his own past business experience at senior management levels in high technology markets. His main interest is in seeing several thousand jobs maintained in not only the Canadian economy but also in RIM organizations around the world.

Given that RIM stock has been on a tear for the past few days since I started drafting this series I can only say check with your investment advisor before taking any action. These posts are for information purposes only.

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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