RIM co-CEOs co-resign, co-COO Thorsten Heins takes over

I think the Globe and Mail was the first to report that RIM’s beleaguered CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis are out – moved upstairs to the boardroom.  The strangest thing about the story, and really the past few years, is the total denial by the leadership that Blackberry is in a death spiral.

Research In Motion Ltd.’s new chief executive officer says the company is doing everything right and does not need a change in strategy, and must instead focus on harnessing its talent to improve the BlackBerry and revive sales.

“It’s a fantastic growth story and it’s not coming to an end,” Mr. Heins said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “What you will see with me is rigour and flawless execution.”

When asked whether he thought the appointment of Ms. Stymiest as chair and himself as CEO would be enough to satisfy investors, Mr. Heins retorted, “Change to what? Change for what?”

He continued, “I mean, what’s the objective of a change? We’ve made a lot of changes in the past 18 months. Not changes, but also evolution. I changed a lot of my management team, in hardware, software … I’ve trained a lot of other people in the last four years. What do you think I did? … We didn’t stand still in the last 18 months, we did our homework. And I think we will complete our homework soon.”

Even in appointing a current co-COO, who looks even less charismatic than either of the two people he replaces (video below), RIM is hedging its bets on Blackberry 10/QNX, which it won’t release until the end of 2012 on phones —if it bucks recent trends and ships on time.  Heins joined RIM just as the iPhone was released in 2007, and he has seen the company’s market share dive.

RIM’s tablet effort, the Playbook, is barely selling and only when priced below cost.  It still somehow does not natively do email.

It is hard not to feel bad for the position this once great company is now in.

(Making it easier, RIM has scheduled an 8am ET Monday conference call with the press on the details. Press release follows) Read more

Too little too late for the Windows tablet?


A Windows 8 tablet mockup

If you believe today’s Forrester Research report, a Window of opportunity is closing fast as customers are losing interest in the forthcoming Windows 8-powered tablets. Microsoft on its part previewed Windows 8 two months ago and won praise for its touch interface. To be perfectly honest, the UI does look nice and interesting and support for ARM/x86 architectures and app market makes it better suited to compete in the post-PC era. But timing is everything and “Windows 8 is going to be very late to the party”, Forrester argued. Here’s the gist of their report:

For tablets, though, Windows really isn’t a fast follower. Rather it’s (at best) a fifth-mover after iPad, Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, HP’s now-defunct webOS tablet, and the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. While Windows’ product strategists can learn from these products, other players have come a long way in executing and refining their products — Apple, Samsung, and others have already launched second-generation products and will likely be into their third generation by the time Windows 8 launches. Meanwhile, newer competitors like Amazon (Kindle Fire) and Barnes & Noble (Nook Tablet) are reshaping consumer expectations in the market, driving down price points (and concomitant price expectations), and redefining what a tablet is.

Interestingly, Microsoft has a web tool that, when accessed on one’s iOS or Android device, lets one run an emulation of Windows Phone 7. In what some might dub a sign of desperation, Microsoft is reportedly readying a version of the Office suite for iPad - an ironic move, really, as they didn’t even announce Office apps tailored for Windows 8 tablets.

Announcing Windows 8 well ahead of the promised late-2012 release may have backfired as the excitement surrounding Windows 8 tablets wore off and competitors like Apple and Google can close any perceived advantages. In the first quarter, 46 percent of U.S. consumers yearned for a Windows tablet, Forrester noted (your chart goes right after the break). Last quarter, consumer interest plummeted to just 25 percent. Apple went from 16 percent to 28 percent and Google from 9 percent to 18 percent. But even though more people yearned for a Windows tablet than an Android one, Forrester notes:

Microsoft has missed the peak of consumer desire for a product they haven’t yet released.

Of course, gauging demand for an unreleased product can be misleading and even Forrester analysts were forced to change their ideas of how the market works when early iPad sales caught everyone flabbergasted. On the other hand, we do know Windows 8 tablets won’t ship in volume before this time next year. And herein lies the problem…


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Amazon’s Kindle Fire vs. Apple’s iPad 2


With the $199 Kindle Fire out of the gate, the inevitable questions pops into mind: Which is faster overall, the Amazon or Apple tablet?

The comparison isn’t really fair because Amazon skimped on internal components, which was key to its breakthrough $199 price point. An iFixit teardown reveals Texas Instruments’ OMAP 4430 chip inside the device, also  found inside Research In Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.

For starters, iPad 2 boots much quicker than the Amazon tablet – again, due to its more efficient dual-core processor and optimized software. Browsing the web? No surprises here either, Safari on iPad 2 stormed ahead, performing noticeably faster than Amazon’s Silk browser which offloads page rendering to the Amazon cloud. One thing to remember: In this test, Kindle Fire was loading Flash content which of course is not supported on Apple’s device.

The iPad 2′s graphics unit, praised for its nine times performance jump, helps with scrolling, which is pretty choppy most of the time on Amazon’s device. One surprising finding is that Kindle Fire streams Netflix smoother than iPad 2, most likely due to the new version of their Android client which is not yet available for Apple’s platform.

This is not the most scientific test in the world, mind you. Again, as 9to5Google noted in its quick review, there’s really no comparing Kindle Fire to iPad 2, be it on the price, overall polish, performance or shininess. As for the speed, mainstream buyers may not be interested in raw specs anymore and Amazon has priced this thing out of the range of the Samsungs and BlackBerrys of this world so it’s more of a competitor to Android tablets than to Apple.

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Reality check: Apple’s iPad has no competition

“Is 2011 going to be the year of copycats?”, Apple’s then chief executive rhetorically asked at the March iPad 2 introduction in San Francisco. Really, the title of this article couldn’t be more true. iPad is now stealing market share from Android, climbing from 65.7 percent share to 68.3 percent globally as Android slipped from 34.0 percent to 26.8 percent. HP exited the game, having retired its TouchPad and today lackluster sales of RIM’s PlayBook tablet made the news.

Apple decimated competition so thoroughly that analysts are saying the company can take its time releasing a third-generation iPad. According to J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz, Apple should be in “no rush” with iPad 3:

Our latest research continues to indicate that there is no such device slated for production this year. In our view, Apple should be in no rush. The other tablet entrants have stumbled so far, and that trend-line could persist deep into 2012.

He also wasn’t impressed by Sony’s tablet which “lacks the refined, sleek feel of the iPad and its bezel-like back is not user-friendly”. And Research In Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet? On a downward spiral and probably due for life support. Per RIM’s quarterly filing, they shipped only 200,000 PlayBooks in the quarter, a paltry number compared to Wall Street expectations of 700,000 units. RIM refused to reveal actual sell-through as it is no doubt significantly lower than the sell-in. Ticonderoga analyst Brian White weighs in:

We believe the PlayBook is poised to follow HP’s TouchPad as the next casualty of iPad’s tablet dominance

To put PlayBook sales into perspective, RIM shipped one PlayBook to every 46 iPads. With just 200,000 units, PlayBook may very well be heading to the technology graveyard. BlackBerry phones are also shrinking due to “lower than expected sales for older models”. One fifth of RIM’s stock valuation was wiped out today as a result of poor tablet and smartphone performance. By the way, RIM’s global market share is now dropping to single digits. Did the Waterloo, Ontario company learn a valuable lesson?


Many watchers have written off the PlayBook, but RIM has bigger worries on its mind: Its smartphone business is declining and global market share dropping to single digits. Chart courtesy of Asymco.

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Net Applications: iPad's web usage share 53x that of "nearest competitor" (read: Samsung's Galaxy Tab)

Net Applications is out today with a new survey that paints iPad’s web usage share 53 times greater compared to Android slates. As always, their findings stem from tracking browser and operating system usage across their global network of more than 40,000 websites so you should take them with a pinch of salt. Of course, iPad’s web usage lead might progressively decrease as the Android camp carries out their tablet carpet bombing. For now, though, iPad is king. Now, onto the numbers, more amazing facts plus nice embedded chart from Net Applications…

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