Five Things Research in Motion Needs to Rebound
Believe it or not, this company could turn itself around.
To put it more delicately, things aren't looking good for the BlackBerry maker, which reported a massive loss, missed estimates, suspended guidance, and a round of management changes. It's enough to make investors run away as fast as they can (though at the moment the stock seems to be doing a little better with a 5% gain).
If Research in Motion is serious about the future of the company, its survival, and its sustainability, then it must take action immediately – and follow my five not-so-easy (but well-worth-the-effort) steps to BlackBerry success.
5. More Patents
With no more than 1% of the most essential wireless patents, Research in Motion doesn't have the legal backbone of its competitors. Consequently, it has fewer ways to extract money from the likes of Apple and Google, and fewer ways to protect itself in the event of a lawsuit.
If Research in Motion held more patents (either by conducting its own R&D and filing its own patents, or by acquiring other firms that hold key patents), the company would be stronger and increase the chances of it being acquired. For now, Research in Motion may not want to be acquired. It may have been interested in the rumored Amazon buyout. But if that had been more than a rumor, it would have provided a golden opportunity that no tech company could afford to pass up. Few corporations are large enough to honestly say “no” to Amazon. That said, Research in Motion may still wish to stand on its own. And if it does, more power to ‘em.
Sadly, RIM can't do it alone. We've all heard about the Golden Rule, which claims that he who has the gold makes the rules. Well, the same is true for patents. One way or other, Research in Motion needs to get more of them.
4. Smartphone Overhaul
In the past, people bought BlackBerry devices because they offered a full keyboard, solid e-mail options, and a decent user interface. That is no longer the case. While you can still find people who consider their BlackBerry to be the greatest device they own, the majority of consumers and business professionals have replaced these devices with fancier (and more modern) smartphones from Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG).
The problem with a redesign is that Research in Motion runs the risk of alienating the few customers it has left. And it would do so with the very real possibility that it wouldn't be able to attract any iOS or Android fans. Even Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), which released one of the more critically acclaimed mobile operating systems, has failed to take more than a small percentage of the smartphone market.
Still, an overhaul must be done. By staying the course, Research in Motion cannot survive.
3. Expand its Product Lineup
The tech industry isn't one that a company can easily enter. But it wouldn't be a bad idea for Research in Motion to start thinking about some other devices or electronics it could manufacture.
Inevitably, the best markets tend to be the ones that are the most overcrowded. From laptop variations like “ultrabooks” and “netbooks” to the now-dead MP3 player market, Research in Motion doesn't have a lot of obvious options.
Consequently, it should start out small by selling simple, efficient, and cost-effective items. Research in Motion could also invest some time in developing superior software – not necessarily a mobile OS for all (though that's not a terrible idea), but applications, games, and other downloadable goodies could prove to be a lucrative business for the BlackBerry maker.
If that fails, Research in Motion should take a closer look at it what its competitors are doing, find their weaknesses, and take action. Samsung, for example, is the world's leading TV manufacturer, so it would be silly to compete in this area. But if there is a market that Samsung is in but does not rule or cannot conquer, that could provide an opening for RIM.
Provided, of course, that Apple, Sony (NYSE: SNE), or some other tech giant isn't already the leader.
2. Find a Smart Buyer
This is a tough one, but it may be Research in Motion's only hope. Unfortunately for RIM, there aren't any “smart” companies that would be interested in a merger right now.
But RIM needs to keep looking anyway. RIM could approach Amazon once more, talk to Google (which might be interested in RIM as a cheap patent gain), speak to Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), send Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) a love letter… There should be no limitations. Pride and self-respect can no longer be obtained now that the bottom line has bottomed out. Thus, Research in Motion should feel no shame in making a fool out of itself to score a stellar merger deal.
1. One Killer, Groundbreaking Device
Is this too much to ask? Last year, I would have said “yes.” But after seeing what an iPhone-killer looks like from Nokia (NYSE: NOK), a company I once argued was the worst smartphone manufacturer on the planet, I have all the faith in the world that Research in Motion can break new ground.
Maybe it would be a fresh smartphone concept. Maybe it would be something else entirely. I don't know. Before smartphones, we had regular cell phones with plain color screens. And before them, we had colorless cell phones that people merely used to talk to each other – texting not included. The world can change overnight. Why can't Research in Motion be a catalyst for that change?
And like I said, it doesn't have to be a smartphone – or any other kind of phone, for that matter. All it needs to be is something that gets our attention, holds our attention, and encourages us to take a second look at the company's products.
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