Silicon Alley Insider published an interesting chart showing RIM’s historical revenue and gross profit growth. Allegedly, RIM management looks at this chart and wonders why Wall Street has been punishing their stock. The article states “They [RIM executives] look at what worked in the past, and think that’s what will work again. This is why we hear co-CEO Mike Lazaridis talk about BlackBerrys leading in security, battery life, and bandwidth efficiency.”
The logic reminded me of the decision criteria I faced when I bought my first cell phone circa 1997. My first mobile phone was a clunky Motorola flip phone with a meager LCD display and the only thing you could do was make calls and send text messages (for what felt like a hefty price at the time). It had a short battery life and, at best, erratic signal strength with multiple dropped calls. And, did I mention, it was expensive. By contrast the landline provided to me, for free, by MIT had great voice quality, integrated voicemail, shortcodes to reach on-campus numbers, and you could even hook up the line to a cordless phone that gave you a couple hundred feet of signal mobility from the base station. So why would I spend money on a clunky first generation cell phone on a meager student budget?
Easy. The unfettered mobility that the cell phone offered vastly trumped any advantages the land line may have had. It “place-shifted” my telephone conversations and I felt liberated. The first time I jumped on a conference call while sweating on an elliptical, I felt I had made a huge personal productivity breakthrough. The first time I received a time-sensitive call while strolling along the banks of the Charles River on the Esplanade, I felt I had elevated my efficiency by an order of magnitude. Simply stated, the cell phone was a paradigm shift and comparing it to a land line was akin to comparing apples to oranges.
Similarly, today’s iOS / Android phones admittedly suffer from a number of limitations. I am reminded of these limitations every time I am in New York and have to look for a charging station every 3-4 hours, every time I get a “call failed” triple beep (frequently), every time I am forced to deactivate 3G to push battery life, and every time an app unexpectedly and inexplicably just crashes. At times, I wish I had kept using my old BlackBerry. But then, whenever I do pick up my old BlackBerry, I immediately and severely miss fluid touch-screen navigation and the multitude of apps on which I have gotten hooked: from Angry Birds to Pandora to RedLaser to Instagram. From my perspective, despite all their current limitations, iOS and Android represent a paradigm shift from a user-experience perspective relative to the BlackBerry. Comparing these devices to RIM’s “security, battery life, and bandwidth efficiency” is, in my opinion, the wrong frame of reference. RIM executives might be well served to recognize this reality.