RIM Fires 2000 Employees; Stock Near 52 Week Low

RIM which has been completely blindsided by the Apple iPhone and Google’s Android in the last couple years, is in very dire straits. Its market share in the U.S. market is dropping and its stock is getting hammered every day. It’s currently near its 52 week low, at around $25.

Its dual executive arrangement isn’t working at all, and none of its recent products have managed to attract consumers. The Blackberry Playbook is officially a failure and even its lineup of new Blackberry devices doesn’t really seem impressive.

The only saving grace for RIM has been Blackberry usage in corporates, but even that has been dropping gradually.

Today, RIM announced that it would be laying off about 2000 workers, or about 11 percent of its total workforce. It has also shuffled responsibilities among a few executives and announced a few high profile departures. It commented that it would be explaining the exact reasons for the job cuts during its second quarter results on September 15.

The old guard in the smartphone industry (Nokia and RIM) is under attack by the new entrants (Apple and Android). Nokia is cozying up with Microsoft, hoping that Windows Phone 7 will be the panacea for all its problems. RIM has migrated almost all its new devices to the QNX platform, but none of those moves seem to be working so far.

PlayBook App Player For Android Apps Appears

What was promised by Research in Motion, back before the launch of the PlayBook, was apps…Android apps at that. The PlayBook launched and immediately took a vertical nosedive due to missing important features such as a native e-mail, calendar and even contact support. The spotlight was quickly taken away while RIM fended off anonymous employee letters describing their downfall.  It’s hard to imagine things are about to change with leaked software, especially when  employees are  moving to competitors.

The well talked about, but never seen, ‘Android app player’ for the PlayBook has been leaked by N4BB, a BlackBerry enthusiast site. In what can only be described as a “boneheaded move” by RIM, pertinent package information containing links to the unreleased player were stored within an easily accessed file for an update to their desktop managing software.

The app player provides a secure chrooted environment containing Dalvik runtimes to allow the PlayBook to seamlessly run supported Android applications atop their QNX platform. The technology works extremely similar to Myriad’s Alien Dalvik  which was demoed on a Nokia N900 in February at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Although it is a poor substitute for actual native applications, leveraging the ecosystem of a competitor is a move that has many analysts curious as to what is going on inside RIM. A good experience with Android apps on the PlayBook may drive users to purchase one of the many Android tablets available, tossing away their mediocre BlackBerry paperweight. On the other had, a poor experience with Android apps on the PlayBook will leave users shaking their hands on the way to purchase a real Android tablet, again, tossing away their mediocre BlackBerry paperweight. RIM has some serious decisions to make as to their future.

If you’re one of the (un) lucky few with a PlayBook, the leaked file is hosted on servers managed by RIM, so if you’re planning on getting the “real deal” make sure you act fast before it’s pulled. Hosting mirrors will allow you to get it no matter what, while keeping RIM busy, but to be sure you’re getting a vetted installer, you might want to wait until it’s publicly available.

Via N4BB

RIM Senior Product Manager Defecting To Samsung As Marketing Director

In a bizarre yet carefully calculated move, Ryan Bidan, Senior Product Manager at Research in Motion, has announced he will be leaving RIM for a position with Samsung Telecommunications America as the Director of Product Marketing. Bidan is well known for his role in the launch of the PlayBook, which is RIM’s first play into the tablet market.  While the PlayBook itself wasn’t very well received by early adopters, it’s arguable that the launch and hype behind the device was a success. With rumors of RIM selling 250,000 units in the first month, it’s definitely a positive note Ryan is leaving on.

Bidan follows what is almost a steady stream of senior suits who have recently left the company, presumably jumping ship before it’s too late. The industry knows all too well the moves that RIM is making; splitting efforts between multiple operating systems, stagnating with their hardware and design efforts, and to top it off they have internal red tape and bureaucracy that stifles creativity. These are some of the telltale signs that Nokia had before their big shakeup and partnership with Microsoft. While nobody knows where RIM is heading, we do know that RIM has previously advised they were expecting a drop in profits as well as a reduction in workforce in order to compensate for losses.

While neither Samsung nor RIM have confirmed the news, Ryan’s LinkedIn page speaks for itself, showing his past position at RIM with his current one in big bold letters. A recent tweet by @ryanbidan corroborates his LinkedIn profile position in Dallas and eludes to his relocation in the near future.

Who can compete with the iPad?

The iPad is the king of tablets

Apple’s iPad has dominated tablet sales so far. Android tablets have started making some dents, but none of them are really gaining steam as a product (vs. Android tablets gaining some share as a collection). Harry McCracken at Technologizer asked the simple question every tablet maker should be asking at the time of creating their products: Why should someone buy this instead of an iPad?.

Not just the hardware

The iPad and iPad2 are exceptional products by themselves. Great design (although, I could do with a non-glossy/non-reflective screen), light enough to be really portable, GREAT battery life, and to me, a good size for a screen which would be used for media consumption like movies and TV shows via Netflix, hulu and the like.

The key to their success though, besides the hardware itself and the beauty of the operating system, is the ecosystem. The apps, music, movies, podcasts, iTunes U, and the sometimes overlooked accessory industry. Apple has made slow and steady progress in putting these pieces together and has a seemingly invincible position, but in the world of technology today, it could be very short-lived.

Of course, the starting price of $500, thought by many at the time of the iPad launch to be too high, seems like another killer feature of the iPad.

Ecosystem providers, real competition

Who can really compete with the iPad? Not just the tablet, but the entire package of the tablet, the ecosystem, and the price? Remember, it may be ok to just meet the iPad, but in order to create a serious dent, the competition has to have a pretty big advantage on almost all of the aspects. So, let’s see who is competing:

  • Android at the low end: Cheap Android tablets are everywhere but they may not have Google’s blessing and as a result be cut off from the first-class Android experience, including the Android Market. So they have the price advantage but nothing else.
  • Android at the top end: Motorola XOOM and Galaxy Tab started off as 3G devices sold by the carriers. They required a data contract or ended up costing more without data contract, than an iPad. They suffered from the data contract/price issue to start with, but more importantly, there are hardly any apps for Android in the tablet form factor. An ecosystem though, is not just about the apps, it should also provide a good collection of music, movies and TV shows, which Android seems to lack today.
  • HP TouchPad with webOS: HP recently launched the TouchPad and the sales as well as reviews are not encouraging. HP has a problem similar to Android tablets in terms of getting quality apps available for the customers. It does not have to be hundreds of thousands of apps like the iPad apps, but when you start from zero, it is really an uphill climb. HP does not have a marketplace for music, videos and TV either, but it is big enough to cut some deals and get something going. The point right now though, is that there is nothing on offer, making it difficult to justify the purchase for consumer use.
  • RIM Playbook and Windows 7 slates: I won’t go into too much detail because it is clear that RIM released this thing too soon. It is an unfinished product and has been a flop so far. It is hard to imagine a product from the maker of Blackberry devices that does not have native email and calendar. Native email and calendar are supposed to be coming this summer, but until then it is an incomplete product.   I am similarly ignoring Windows 7 tablets like the the Asus slate, because Windows 7 Touch seems like touch was slapped on Windows 7 rather than it being built for touch-first use. While it works much like a PC, thereby providing a healthy ecosystem to rely on, it is not really an iPad competitor because it is not as light, and is way more expensive.

Windows 8, Amazon tablet Two legitimate competitors

We know very little about Windows 8 and almost nothing about the Amazon tablet. In fact, we don’t even know if any such product is going to come from Amazon, but here is why I think either of these, or both, are going to be viable competitors to iPad (and also lay out conditions for their success).

Windows 8 (especially ARM version): ARM is known for its power efficiency, and we can assume that it will enable small form factor Windows 8 devices with a long battery life. Combine this with the public announcement by Steven Sinofsky that Windows 8 system requirements are going to be same or lesser than Windows 7, and we have a good chance of seeing Windows 8 tablets/slates in the iPad form factor with similar battery life. Windows has a great ecosystem which it supports on the XBOX and Windows Phone, in the form of the Zune Marketplace. It provides a huge collection of music, movies and TV shows. Windows of course, has the most extensive applications catalog (although the current Windows applications will not automatically work on ARM, but will do on Intel architecture as-is). Windows Phone has rapidly grown its app catalog, starting from zero in October/November of 2010 to about 25,000 this June. Since we don’t know what Windows 8 application development will be like outside of HTML/Javascript, let’s just assume that the app ecosystem will be rich enough to start with. This assumption is generally for Windows 8 with full support for legacyWindows applications. We cannot discuss ARM applications until we know more, supposedly at the //build/ conference in September this year.

One concern I have is that Microsoft seems to be fixated on the fact that tabletsare full PC’s, just in a different form factor. Maybe they consider slatesto be the lightweight PC with a similar form factor. I hope that one way or the other, that they understand that there is a product category which is not necessarily a full PC, but serves the purpose of casual computing much like the iPad does today.

Amazon tablet: Of all Android tablet makers, Amazon surprisingly is poised to be the best equipped in terms of an ecosystem it supports music, movies, TV shows, instant streaming, subscription, cloud storage, cloud music player, digital goods, and very recently, even its own curated Android market for apps! It has already shown manufacturing prowess with the highly successful Kindle, although I understand components for a tablet are different from those used in making the Kindle. Amazon also has a great retail shelf spaceto sell their tablet, and that is their home page, visited by millions of people every day.

If they can pull off a 9- or a 10-inch tablet built on Android with their own marketplace for apps, movies, music and TV shows, they would immediately be a competitor.

It is strange that I feel most optimistic about something that we may not see for one more year, and something that does not even exist as a product today. Such is the state of iPad competition (or lack thereof) today, that we are left to place our bets on almost-unicorns and unicorns.

I sure hope there is some real competition for the iPad though, because that can only be good for us, the consumers. Right?

Blackberry App World Hits 1 Billion Downloads; App Store and Android Market Still Way Ahead

The Blackberry App World, the online application store for Blackberry devices has officially hit a very significant milestone – 1 billion downloads. The guys at the Blackberry blog revealed this figure in a blog post today. They are currently seeing close to 3 million downloads every day.

“The BlackBerry App World storefront launched a little over two years ago, and over that time, we’ve made many feature improvements, enhanced the look and feel, and added a ton of compelling apps. BlackBerry App World is now in over 100 countries, seeing an average of 3 million downloads per day, and we recently crossed the 1 billion app download milestone!”

Blackberry App World

RIM’s Blackberry is the third most popular smartphone platform in the US after Android and iOS, even though it has been on the wane since a couple of years. Since the launch of the iPhone and then the Android OS, they have taken a majority of the smartphone market share around the world.

The Apple App Store sports close to 425,000 apps and has served more than 15 billion downloads. Even the Android Market has been doing quite well, with more than 200,000 apps and over 5 billion downloads.

RIM will be launching Blackberry App World 3.0 soon which it says will “evolve and improve the experience for both our developers and consumers”.

However encouraging these figures may seem, RIM is still in a very tough spot. Its market share is being eroded day by day, by the iPhone and Android smartphones. Even Microsoft and HP are trying to get a piece of the smartphone pie. RIM’s latest launch – the Blackberry Playbook – hasn’t been a huge hit. Even RIM is, in the words of Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, on a ‘burning platform’.

Android Still No. 1, Apple Moves Up to No. 2 in U.S. Smartphone Share

Although Android holds the No. 1 position and sits on top of the smartphone market, the battle for the second position between Apple and Blackberry got tougher and in the end it was Apple who made it, leaving behind RIM’s BlackBerry in the third position.

According to the report published by market research firm comScore, Android continues to dominate the smartphone world while Apple’s iOS ranks No. 2 and BlackBerry dropping to the third position followed by Microsoft’s Windows 7 at fourth position.

Apple Beats RIM's BlackBerry, Android Still No. 1

The reason behind Blackberry’s backsliding could be due to the delay in release of new models and the several problems faced by the company.  RIM is currently valued at about $14 billion which came down from $83 billion in June 2008.

RIM’s Blackberry OS has 24.7 percent in the the smartphone market share while Apple’s iOS now enjoys 26.6 percent share whereas Google’s Android OS saw a 5.1 percent rise making its total share 38.1 percent and topping the list.

During the three month average period ending in May 2011, Android and iOS were the only two platforms that saw growth of 5.1 percent and 1.4 percent respectively. Blackberry lost 4.2 percent while Microsoft losing 1.9 percent and Palm losing 0.4 percent share in the US market.

Top Smartphone Platforms
3 Month Avg. Ending May 2011 vs. 3 Month Avg. Ending Feb. 2011
Total U.S. Smartphone Subscribers Ages 13+
Source: comScore MobiLens
Share (%) of Smartphone Subscribers
Feb-11May-11Point Change
Total Smartphone Subscribers100.0%100.0%N/A
Google33.0%38.1%5.1
Apple25.2%26.6%1.4
RIM28.9%24.7%-4.2
Microsoft7.7%5.8%-1.9
Palm2.8%2.4%-0.4

The report also mentioned that Apple saw a significant growth in hardware sales, and rose from 7.5 percent to 8.7 percent. However, Samsung retained it’s position at the top with 24.8 percent restricting LG to second position with 20.9 percent. Motorola, on the other hand, had a slight decline of 1 percent, yet holding it’s position at three.

Top Mobile OEMs
3 Month Avg. Ending May 2011 vs. 3 Month Avg. Ending Feb. 2011
Total U.S. Mobile Subscribers Ages 13+
Source: comScore MobiLens
Share (%) of Mobile Subscribers
Feb-11May-11Point Change
Total Mobile Subscribers100.0%100.0%N/A
Samsung24.8%24.8%0.0
LG20.9%21.1%0.2
Motorola16.1%15.1%-1.0
Apple7.5%8.7%1.2
RIM8.6%8.1%-0.5

 

The research also dug up the mobile content usage by subscribers. It was reported that subscribers most used text messaging (69.5 percent) on their mobile device with a 0.7 percent rise. Browsers on the other hand, were used by 39.8 percent of subscribers (1.5 percent rise) while 38.6 used downloaded apps.

Social  networking or reading blogs,  however, saw a 1.8 percent growth with 26.8 percent while others enjoyed playing games (26.9 percent) and listening to music (18.6  percent)

Mobile Content Usage
3 Month Avg. Ending May 2011 vs. 3 Month Avg. Ending Feb. 2011
Total U.S. Mobile Subscribers Ages 13+
Source: comScore MobiLens
Share (%) of Mobile Subscribers
Feb-11May-11Point Change
Total Mobile Subscribers100.0%100.0%N/A
Sent text message to another phone68.8%69.5%0.7
Used browser38.3%39.8%1.5
Used downloaded apps36.6%38.6%2.0
Accessed social networking site or blog26.8%28.6%1.8
Played Games24.6%26.9%2.3
Listened to music on mobile phone17.5%18.6%1.1

Microsoft, Apple, RIM & Others Win the Nortel Patents that Google was Desperate For

Google was desperate to win the Nortel portfolio of patents, so that it could stave off patent trolls and other companies trying to sue it. Nortel’s huge portfolio of over 6,000 patents would have given Google a lot of leverage over its competitors. When Google first made the $900 million bid for those patents, it was expected that it would be very aggressive in trying to win them. The Department of Justice first played spoilsport, but later cleared Google to make the bid, setting the stage for Google to make the winning bid.

Today, Nortel announced that it had concluded the auction of all its remaining patents. The winner, it said, was a consortium consisting of Apple, Microsoft, Research in Motion, Sony, Ericsson and EMC. The consortium won the entire patent portfolio for $4.5 billion.

“Following a very robust auction, we are pleased at the outcome of the auction of this extensive patent portfolio”, said George Riedel, Chief Strategy Officer and President of Business Units, Nortel. “The size and dollar value for this transaction is unprecedented, as was the significant interest in the portfolio among major companies around the world.”

From the looks of it, it seems like all the members of the consortium teamed up against Google. Losing the auction means that it is still vulnerable, with a portfolio of less than 1000 patents. It is currently being sued by Oracle over the use of Java in Android, for damages estimated to be over $2.6 billion.

Many Android device manufacturers are also being sued by Microsoft. If it had won this patent portfolio, it might have been able to fight off its opponents.

via Marketwatch

BlackBerry Playbook Gets A Software Update; Adds Some Nifty Features!

RIM (Research In Motion) has started rolling out a new software update for its first ever tablet the Playbook. The new software update brings some performance enhancements and stability improvements.

The update also includes an updated Facebook book application, optimized for the Playbook. With this update, Playbook users can also charge the tablet whilst it’s fully powered off. The tablet will also display an error if an incompatible charger is used to charge it.

Blackberry_Playbook

RIM has also added a small but handy power menu, when a user taps on the battery icon. The power menu provides users with options to shut down, restart or put the Playbook on Standby mode, along with a brightness slider.

The update also brings in-app payments support to all Playbook compatible apps. RIM has also updated the developer tools with support for in-app payments.

Aside from the changes stated above, the video call quality has also been tweaked, with support for TURN (Traversal Using Relay NAT).   Some additional language support for the tablet has also been included.

Sadly, this update does bring the much awaited Mail app to the Playbook. Until the next update arrives, Playbook users still need to use their BlackBerry handset to sync mails between these RIM devices.

BlackBerry Torch 2 Running BlackBerry OS7 Pictures Leak

At the beginning of this month, Research In Motion (RIM) had unveiled the next generation BlackBerry Touch a.k.a BlackBerry 9900. The new Touch will be powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core processor from Qualcomm, and run on BlackBerry OS 7.

Today, the leaked pictures of another BlackBerry handset the Torch 2 have surfaced on the Internet.

BlackBerry_Torch_2

The Torch 2 has similar internals to the BlackBerry 9900. It is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core processor from Snapdragon, and packs 768MB of RAM along with 8GB of internal memory. The resolution of the 3.2-inch capacitive unit has also been bumped to VGA (640×480).

The leaked picture also suggests that the back of the phone will sport a 5MP camera with 720p HD video recording capability. Other key features include GPS with A-GPS, Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth and NFC. The back of the phone will also have a metallic back cover.

I am guessing the Torch 2 will run on the next generation BlackBerry OS 7, which has an all new web browser and is much faster than its predecessors. Expect RIM to announce the Torch 2 officially and reveal more information about the handset in the next few weeks.

(Source)

RIM Announces The BlackBerry Touch 9900/9930; Runs BlackBerry OS 7

Research In Motion (RIM) has just announced two new BlackBerry handsets which aim to woo back the company’s once loyal customers.

The BlackBerry Bold 9900 and the Bold 9930 a.k.a Bold Touch feature a full QWERTY keyboard, and a 2.8-inch Liquid Graphics’ touch screen with VGA (640×480) resolution. The handsets are powered by a 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor.

Both the handsets are same right down to the core, except for their network antenna. The Bold 9900 supports HSPA+, while the 9930 supports both dual-band CDMA and quad-band GSM. The handsets also pack 768MB of RAM, 8GB of internal memory along with a microSD card slot. The back of the phone sports a 5MP camera with Flash, and Image stabilization. The camera is also capable of recording videos in 720p HD resolution.

BlackBerry_Bold_Touch

The Bold 9900 and the 9930 are also the slimmest BlackBerry handsets until date, measuring in at only 10.5mm. The usual array of sensors Digital Compass,   Wi-Fi a/b/g/n (2.4GHz/5GHz), Proximity sensor, GPS with A-GPS and Bluetooth 2.1 are also present. The handsets will also come with an NFC chip, again a first for BlackBerry handsets.

BlackBerry 7 The BlackBerry 7 OS is designed to power the new performance-driven BlackBerry Bold platform. It provides an easier and faster user experience with improved browsing, voice-activated searches, the ability to manage personal content separately from corporate content, as well as additional personal and productivity apps out of the box.

The Bold Touch 9900 and the 9930 will be running BlackBerry OS 7, when launched. The new OS brings is faster, easier to use, and also brings a new web browser. The new OS also supports voice search, along with BlackBerry Balance. This new features aims at separating a user’s personal and corporate content on his handset.

The handsets will be powered by a 1230mAh user-replaceable battery. The Touch 9900 and the 9930 are expected to be released all over the world beginning this summer’.