By David Berman
James Surowiecki has taken on the subject of Research In Motion Ltd (RIM) in his latest New Yorker column, arguing that the BlackBerry maker's struggle has less to do with being overtaken by Apple Inc.'s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone and more to do with the consumerization of mobile devices.
As he explains: "The BlackBerry was designed for businesses. Its true customers weren't its users but the people who run corporate information-technology departments." Things have changed, though, as they often do with new products -- where everything from the computer to the telephone made their way from corporate and government use initially to the hands of consumers as they became cheaper and ubiquitous.
Unfortunately for RIM, the use of mobile devices didn't flow from corporate use to consumer use as they had hoped. As Mr. Surowiecki puts it: "In fact, even as the BlackBerry was at the height of its popularity, we were entering the age of what's inelegantly called the consumerization of I.T., or simply Bring Your Own Device. In this new era, technological diffusion started to flow the other way -- from consumers to businesses."
RIM didn't perform well under these changed conditions. It was late to bring out a touch-screen BlackBerry and its marketing efforts led to a dizzying array of products that couldn't be clearly differentiated by most consumers. "Consumerization has been disastrous for RIM, because the company has seemed clueless about what consumers want," Mr. Surowiecki said.
His solution? Uh, there doesn't seem to be one. "It's a brave new world," he concludes. "It's just not the one that the BlackBerry was built for."