April 06, 2012, 7:38 AM — Last week I spoke to why Research in Motion's centric strategy would fail. Now that more details are out, I think we can conclude that the plans RIM's leaders have devised are exactly 180 degrees from what they should be doing.
Let's explore the problem with RIM and what a successful strategy might look like. They are actually onto something--they just got it completely wrong.
The Problem at RIM
It is said that if you are a screwdriver company you'll look at every problem as if it is a screw. RIM, at its heart, is an IT company in a consumer-driven world, which is a formula for obsolescence. So the problem is that RIM, which has a product once so desirable it was called the " crackberry," has lost its customer base.
I covered RIM's initial success closely, and I find it ironic that IT didn't drive the company into the market, but rather it was the executives who found the early two-way pagers irreplaceable that RIM targeted. In short, RIM started out, much like Microsoft did, as a user-focused company and then lost its way.
Now RIM is pressing a strategy to focus on IT and partner for the consumer side, but that's a losing bet. Think of the likely partners--the best consumer company is Apple and it has a phone. Second is Samsung, which also has a phone, followed by HTC (it has a phone) and LG (it has a phone) and on down the line. In short, outside of retailers like Amazon and carriers, there are few options for consumer-side partners outside of Nintendo (even Sony has a phone), and doing a gaming pure play with Nintendo would likely kill the IT side.
On the IT side, with systems management RIM would go head to head with IBM, Dell, HP and a host of companies with deeper roots into IT than RIM has but no phones. So you would think that the more successful strategy would be to go to these companies, all of which have largely tried and failed with smartphones and tablets, and partner with them for IT while handling the consumer segment yourself because partners there just don't exist.
Amazon, with a set of services that largely match or exceed Apple's, may be the lone exception, and it doesn't have a phone. Amazon is also the largest online retailer in the world, so a partnership there might be doable.
But in the end, if RIM tries to partner on consumer and drive IT, it will be swimming upstream. Given how weak the company already is, that likely won't end well.