RIM’s BlackBerry Woes: A Case Study in the Pace of Innovation
By: Jason Llorenz
April 26, 2012
Just a few short years ago,Research In Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry was the industry leader in smartphone technology. It enjoyed near-monopoly status within some key workforce sectors such as Capitol Hill and federal agencies. Today, after just a few short years, and the relentless introduction of newer, faster, smarter (and, many think, cooler) devices that offer Blackberry functionality plus new tools and a preferred interface, many now speculate on RIM’s survival. This provides all of us an important market study on the speed of innovation.
Needless to say, the pace of new technology is astounding. The industry gold standard bearer, Apple, continues to push the envelope – having announced within the last year significant upgrades to both of their flagship product lines, the iPhone 4s and the third-generation iPad.
In the meantime, BlackBerry’s “numbers are plummeting. A National Journal survey found that 41 percent of Capitol Hill workers have iPhones – compared to just 13 percent two years earlier. Meanwhile, BlackBerrys are down from 93 percent to 77 percent, implying that some percentage of people who would rather not are being forced to carry around BlackBerrys for work.” As one Washington Post writer astutely surmises: “Nothing consigns a technology to the Has-Bin faster than being forced to carry it around for work.”
While RIM products may be out of vogue, our national desire for smart mobile technology is only growing. According to the new study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project: “Nearly half (46%) of Americans aged 18 and older own a smartphone as of February, 2012, up from 36% in May, 2011.”
However, the same survey had some bad news for RIM: “An analysis of the platforms being used reveals around 20% of all American mobile phone users own an Android OS-based phone, slightly more than the 19% of iOS users. Just 6% used Blackberry RIM, down from 10% in May last year.”
With all of this movement in market share, the state of innovation balanced by industry regulation and policy deserves some attention. Today’s regulatory and policy ceiling can be tomorrow’s floor – meaning that what policymakers and legislators determine to be the rules that companies live by while leaving room for growth today, could some day become restraining and stifle innovation, simply because one can not know where the market lands tomorrow.
As we’ve seen, technological innovation has the power to address societal challenges. Investment and innovation in Health IT , for example is only now beginning to gain momentum. This sea change in healthcare can improve and even save lives –especially within the most at-risk communities that have difficulty accessing healthcare and struggle with more chronic disease.
While the future of the BlackBerry is uncertain, the potential within advancing mobile technology is bright indeed – with the warning that our policymakers have a key responsibility to make sure the path is cleared for that future to become areality.
Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director, the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP). Follow on Twitter: @hispanicttp. www.httponline.org.