RIM’s new BlackBerry 6 operating system and apps platform still isn’t in the same league as its arch rivals, Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android. So it’s time for RIM to make a difficult, but important move: Stop wasting time developing its own operating system and apps platform, and switch the BlackBerry to Android, which is booming with success. The sooner, the better, before it’s too late.
As Wall Street is starting to figure out, RIM still doesn’t have a credible answer to the iPhone or Android. While RIM is still selling plenty of BlackBerry devices — thanks to international expansion and big sales at carriers — it’s not a software leader anymore. As a result, RIM is losing the high-end of the smartphone market to Google and Apple, and risks becoming a low-end, low-margin player, or worse.
RIM is the new Palm, in a sense. And don’t forget what happened to Palm, even after it miraculously created a decent new OS from scratch. (The sad twist of irony is that RIM could have bought Palm and its solid new WebOS platform, before it completely blew the deal.) But a switch to Android could at least give RIM a chance to take back some of the high-end buyers, for several reasons:
- No one who buys BlackBerry products actually cares about the BlackBerry OS.
- RIM’s greatest assets are its email service (on BlackBerry phones and back-end server setup), BlackBerry Messenger, and the BlackBerry brand. These could all be moved over to Android, and none of them relies on the BlackBerry OS.
- RIM’s mobile app platform is garbage compared to Apple’s or even Google’s. An Android BlackBerry would be able to take advantage of the fast-growing Android app platform, and RIM wouldn’t have to waste any money nurturing it.
- RIM still has good relationships with most carriers. So an Android-based BlackBerry could receive top billing from carriers, versus rival Android devices from Motorola, HTC, Samsung, and others.
- If RIM joined the Android camp, it would be a HUGE boost for Android, and a big problem for Apple, which would lose even more platform share to Android. Developers might seriously have to start thinking about Android first, and Apple’s iOS second. (There are still some major problems with Android’s app market, but those can be worked out.)
- For illustration, if RIM were an Android vendor in Q2, Android would have had 35% of the world’s smartphone market, per IDC, versus Apple’s 14%. Instead, RIM had 18% — down from last year — and Android had 17% — up huge from last year.
Doesn’t a BlackBerry Droid sound sexy to you?