Today marks a watershed moment for Research in Motion. The release of its new operating system BB10 will determine whether it even has a chance of regaining its former glory or whether it will be condemned to be a footnote in the annals of telecom history. From behemoth to also-ran, RIM’s history has been a lesson on the perils of over-reaching. The company saw strong sales and revenue growth for nine years before it announced that Q1 2011 revenue would fall—a product of the company’s ambitions to grow past its office applicability and compete with ‘fun’ smartphones like the iPhone and Samsung’s various Android-operated phones. It wasn’t a silly ambition, per se. It was becoming unavoidably clear that the real growth was among the demographic buying smartphones for entertainment rather than work. But, the over-reach came when RIM tried to cater to this demographic with nothing—neither software nor hardware—comparable to what Apple and Samsung had. By March 2012, RIM shares were worth less than $14, from a height of over $140 in 2008. Not even its PlayBook tablet could revive this slump.
That’s where BB10 comes in. Early viewers of the software say it has tackled many of the deficiencies its predecessors faced. One major problem was that corporate users had to have two phones—one work and one personal—because earlier BlackBerry phones didn’t distinguish between the two. BlackBerry Balance allows two personas to be loaded on one phone, enabling the user to easily switch between work and personal mode. BB10 also has an upgraded browser, better keyboard (already one of RIM’s better features), enhanced multi-tasking ability and greater consolidation of communication apps. The best-case scenario for RIM is if it regains its corporate clients while achieving parity with iOS and Android in the entertainment space. It seems to have worked hard to make this happen, but only time will tell whether it was too late.