RIM: A Phoenix in Rebirth Emerging

Analysts and many technology reporters and bloggers had crow for breakfast yesterday; it’s time for them to get with the program. BlackBerry 10 is well along the way to becoming a smartphone market reality. And Shakespeare’s Henry V is becoming an inspiration to drive the challenge ahead.

It has a 500 to 1000 year life-cycle, near the end of which it builds itself a nest of twigs that then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix or phoenix egg arises, reborn anew to live again. The new phoenix is destined to live as long as its old self. In some stories, the new phoenix embalms the ashes of its old self in an egg made of myrrh and deposits it in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis (literally “sun-city” in Greek). It is said that the bird’s cry is that of a beautiful song. The Phoenix’s ability to be reborn from its own ashes implies that it is immortal, though in some stories the new Phoenix is merely the offspring of the older one.

Wikipedia: Phoenix (mythology)

This past week has seen a new RIM emerging from the ashes of its past history. A BlackBerry Jam event attended by over 1500 paying developers; demonstrations of the evolving BlackBerry 10 OS (BB10 OS) and its uniqueness; partner demonstrations involving Facebook, Four Square and Webex. And all this news was capped off by a quarterly news release reporting results that beat analyst expectations and with “no surprises”. In the rapidly evolving smartphone market space RIM’s “Phoenix” may only have a life cycle of 10-12 years for each BlackBerry generation but from the past year’s activity has emerged a new RIM. New platform, new mobile computing paradigms, new corporate culture and new opportunities for its partners.

The energy in the San Jose conference center was a palpable reflection of the enthusiasm we have for what we do – I shook hands, met people, participated in a meet up with a bunch of Argentinean developers via video link, took photographs, was photographed – I even autographed phones. It was a huge blast.

The nest of twigs includes:

  • QNX – a robust, true multi-tasking, multi-threading, multi-processor operating system
    • currently used on over 60% of all automobiles sold this year
  • Over 600 carrier relationships worldwide
  • A network operations center that provides unsurpassed efficiency in data delivery
  • Rock solid enterprise security, including approval by major government agencies
  • A legacy reputation for building mobile communications platforms
  • Hardware keyboard technology
  • 80 million subscribers; over 60 million BlackBerry Messenger users
  • Over $2 billion in cash; no debt

The new young phoenix egg contains:

  • A new algorithm for personal and business communications, incorporating:
    • BlackBerry Hub – a messaging Inbox for the future, always readily accessible
    • Flow and Peek – removing the friction that interrupts the ability to rapidly access complementary information
    • A new Blackberry Messenger, optimized for BlackBerry 10
    • BlackBerry Balance – separation of personal and business activity
    • Swipes that replace the Home button, one hand operation
    • Open applications are always there – no “in-and-out” paradigm
  • Carrier evaluation units – to be sent out next month for initial carrier trials
    • positive response from carrier demonstrations in 16 countries
  • A complete set of open source development tools –
    • leveraging the expertise, experience and entrepreneurship of developer partners
  • A developer program that allows developers to easily build a sustainable, profitable third party business
  • A company team that is passionate about execution of the BlackBerry 10 launch
  • A new top level management team that is starting to demonstrate results and restore credibility
  • Confirmation of BlackBerry 10 delivery in Q1, 2013.

The pieces are falling into place:

  • Distribution channel: carriers will be able to list BlackBerry 10 for sale in Q1 (see above)
  • Enterprise customers: RIM executives are visiting key enterprise accounts with demonstrations
  • Applications: Developers have provided over 105,000 apps into BlackBerry App World, including 25,000 for Playbook
    • RIM has now provided the complete BlackBerry 10 API feature set allowing developers to complete their BlackBerry 10 apps
    • New release of BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha devices and a firmware update that provides developer access to many more BlackBerry 10 features on these devices
    • The BlackBerry 10 App World opens for applications in two weeks; includes movies, music and TV show downloads with multiple payment channels
  • Manufacturing: restructuring of the manufacturing operations, including outsourcing, to optimize costs and deliveries
  • Costs are being brought under tighter control
  • Marketing plans for a global launch in Q1 2013 are in being put in place
  • CEO Thorsten Heins is reaching out to the media, getting control of the overall messaging

So it’s starting to look like RIM’s cry is becoming that of a beautiful mobile computing platform. Like the Phoenix, the BlackBerry 10’s ability to be reborn from its own ashes has aspirations for immortality, the new BlackBerry 10 is beyond merely the offspring of the older one.

But they’re not there yet….

In addition to the links above, here’s some of the other supporting activity:

The Developer Relations team caused quite a buzz with their new video that launched BlackBerry 10 Jam Americas on Tuesday: Devs, BlackBerry Is Going To Keep On Loving You:

Dan York was puzzled and then blown away by it: Alec Saunders Is A Rock Star In RIM’s Strange New Blackberry 10 Video. It even appeared on CBC’s The National newscast Tuesday evening. Whether the comments were positive, negative or neutral, it accomplished one major achievement: generating buzz across the Internet about BlackBerry at a time when new competitor smartphones are being launched.

I don’t expect the mainstream media to get it. They’re not developers. They don’t have the context. And frankly, what most want to write about is the drama around RIM.

And where does Shakespeare’s Henry V come in? Check out Alec Saunders’ post-BlackBerry 10 Jam Americas blog post, We few, we happy few, we band of brothers where he invokes Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day speech to the English soldiers before the Battle of Agincourt.

I have been thinking of it a lot recently, because that lofty inspirational speech also is a wonderful metaphor for the challenge ahead of RIM and my team, and beautifully articulates the kind of passion I have for what we do every day.

Alec’s talents go beyond technology and music to include articulate prose, outlining his feelings and ambitions after 14 months at RIM. At 36:20 of this podcast, listen to Alec discuss his own music background and the production of this video. The two “Info”  notes above are quotes from Alec’s post.

In conclusion a rallying cry is still needed to execute on delivery to the market; wherefore I take up another speech from Henry V (Act III, Scene 1):

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our smartphone market dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for BlackBerry, RIM, and Saint Thorsten!’

Bottom line:Bring on Q1, 2013! If there are a couple of major outcomes of this past week, they would be

  • the new management team has fully taken charge and is demonstrating they can execute and make a difference
  • the company has certainly significantly moved the marker along re-establishing credibility with both users and the financial markets.

Full disclosure; the author has a very,very small holding in RIM shares and has been following RIM for over 14 years. More important is his desire to see the outcome of a mobile product with true multitasking on a mobile platform due to his own long-time experience selling multi-tasking for mini-computers and PC’s. Finally several thousand Canadian and worldwide jobs are at stake. We all need to see the employment in today’s challenged economic climate.

About Jim Courtney

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

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