Although I don’t write about the wireless sector that often, I’ve been getting a lot of calls from the media recently asking about the future of Research in Motion. As a Canadian technology nationalist, I’d like to see RIM regain its mojo after flailing around strategically and tactically for the past year.
Here’s a recipe for RIM to regain some of its lustre, although I highly doubt it will become a tier-one smartphone player again.
1. Appoint an independent chairman to provide shareholders with the confidence the board is really vested in protecting the interests of shareholders. Whether it’s Barbara Stymiest, a current RIM director, or someone outside the company, it would provide the investment community with a small dose of confidence the company is serious about overhauling its corporate structure.
2. Hire a top-notch CEO or COO. In either case, RIM must attract fresh blood with new ideas, energy and lots of credibility. It has to be someone who has extensive experience in the smartphone and/or wireless industry. As important, Balsillie and Lazaridis would have to give this person a lot of decision-making autonomy, even though this would be a huge challenge.
3. Either fix the PlayBook (and I’m not talking about incremental software upgrades) or kill it. Nine months the PlayBook was launched, it’s still a half-baked product in a world with far too much competition. Even die-hard BlackBerry users aren’t all over the PlayBook because it does not have even the basic features. I mean, how can a company that built its business upon mobile e-mail create a tablet that doesn’t have native e-mail. It explains why RIM is now selling all its PlayBooks for $299.
4. Release the new operating system, QNX, sooner rather than later. That said, QNX has to be completely baked when it’s released. Anything less than an OS that works really well, delights users and represents a tangible upgrade over the current OS will be seen as yet another strategic and tactical disaster.
5. Take a new, fresh and different look at its marketing. Even though RIM has become a pro-sumer brand, its marketing seems unfocused and scattered. Again, fresh blood from the outside would be a great move.
6. Regain its corporate humility. When I started writing about RIM in the late-1990s, it acted like a Canadian – successful and confident but not brash or arrogant. RIM to needs to recognize its roots and how it emerged s a leading wireless player by having a product that met a need (mobile e-mail) in a way that delighted users. RIM’s belated apology for its network outage last year was evidence that its needs to re-Canadianize itself – perhaps sharing a 24, eating some poutine and watching hockey might do the trick.