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RIM CEO admits to having considered switch to Android

The company says their phones are not built for playing games
August 3, 2012

RIM isn’t exactly in the best form today, having risen and fallen as the preferred smartphone platform in the enterprise market. To date, BlackBerry’s market share has dwindled, although the platform remains in third place after Android and iOS. In the aim of keeping up with the times, RIM had actually considered making the switch to Android.

In an interview with The Telegraph, RIM’s new CEO Thorsten Heins admitted that the Canadian company could not keep up with Apple and Samsung, given their market dominance in the smartphone and tablet business. He pointed out that RIM did not have “the economy of scale to compete against the guys who crank out 60 handsets a year.”

As such, the company seriously considered switching to another platform altogether, which could have potentially helped boost market share, given the popularity of Android among consumers. But RIM “took the conscious decision not to go Android and stick to developing BlackBerry 10.” The reason: differentiation.

Heins said manufacturers have very little ability to differentiate. Even if manufacturers could come out with dozens of models a year, they tend to lose focus and handset releases get lost in the sea of Android phones. However, RIM’s optimism lies in its ability to serve the segment that it considers the most important: the enterprise market.

RIM believes that the BlackBerry platform is not about playing games and loading multimedia. “[I]f you stay true to that purpose you have to build on that basis,” Heins stressed. As such, RIM wants to continue building products for folks who have little time to consume and enjoy content, but rather need to get things done.

Still, Heins acknowledged that RIM could not catch up to the likes of Apple and Samsung on its own. As such, it is considering licensing out the upcoming Blackberry 10 platform to third-party manufacturers. RIM will need a company that can produce BlackBerry smartphones and tablets “at a way better cost proposition,” and the company is currently investigating the potential implications if they will let other manufacturers compete in the smartphone business with BB10 as their platform.

Would Android have helped RIM improve their market situation? It was already a big thing when the BlackBerry Playbook was announced to have support for Android apps. True enough Android has a more comprehensive application ecosystem than BlackBerry. And let’s face it, BlackBerry’s market share in the U.S. is on a downward trend. But still, BlackBerry is going strong in some markets like the Asia Pacific region, where it is a strong platform in both enterprise and consumer markets.

Did RIM make the right decision in sticking to their guns? Or could they have had an advantage if they tried powering BlackBerry smartphones with Android and instead ported popular features – like the Blackberry Messaging service – to the platform?