Illustration courtesy of All Things D
“They are resting on their laurels. Steve Jobs is a much better marketer than RIM”. When your sixth-largest investor gives you such an embarrassing thumbs down, it is the worst vote of confidence you could have asked for. But that’s exactly what Stephen Jarislowsky, chairman of Jarislowsky Fraser Ltd., an investor in Research In Motion, told Bloomberg explaining why he was dumping his shares. Some investors are obviously spooked by RIM’s disappointing first-quarter results and the layoffs the company announced as it puts a plan in place to re-align operations. Second-quarter and full-year outlook is also below expectations. “We are on the way out. The stake has been reduced by more than 50% or even more”, Fraser tells the publication.
This whole week has been a downhill ride for shares of the Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry maker. Just today, RIM tanked 19 percent in after-hours trading, loosing one fifth of their market valuation as a result. And in what could be read as an attempt to boost its stock price, RIM announced a stock repurchase program.
Wow, what’s going on here?
Although RIM remains a profitable phone maker, multiple signs now signal that the company desperately needs a sustainable long-term strategy because corporations are beginning to embrace iPhones and Android phones at the expense of BlackBerrys. So far, RIM has failed to produce a must-have smartphone that could compete with the onslaught of Android superphones and shiny new iPhones. RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie in a statement attributed “a challenging start” in the first half of 2011 to “delays in new product introductions”.
Looking at the big picture, however, RIM doesn’t have killer products in its pipeline. True, they have been updating the BlackBerry family on a regular basis with new models. As much as BlackBerry fans would love to see sleek new models running the PlayBook operating system dubbed QNX, the software won’t be ready for smartphones before 2012 at the earnest. This means no QNX-driven BlackBerrys before the next summer and that’s a long, long time in the fast-moving mobile industry.
Come this fall, Apple is going to erase RIM’s key competitive advantage, a robust messaging solution that lets BlackBerry owners easily messages in real-time free of charge. The feature has been RIM’s key selling point for the younger audience, now Apple will have it and Android has had a similar integrated solution (Google Talk) from the get-go.
Perhaps the biggest concern for RIM is state of denial of its two CEOs (yeah, that’s how RIM is managed). Neither would (or could) fathom the needs of modern consumers who increasingly seek gratifying software experiences in smartphones. The two men also appear to lack Steve Jobs’ ability to peer around the corners of technology and figure out the next big thing. Here’s how Balsillie perceives the nerve-wracking situation his company has found itself in:
RIM’s business is profitable and remains solid overall with growing market share in numerous markets around the world and a strong balance sheet with almost $3 billion in cash. We believe that with the new products scheduled for launch in the next few months and realigning our cost structure, RIM will see strong profit growth in the latter part of fiscal 2012.
Can you see a problem here? Not once did RIM or its bosses mention the word ‘platform’ and that’s exactly what RIM lacks and the reason alone why it has found itself in such a vulnerable position where Apple and Google are eating their lunch. That, and arrogance.