The worst thing about RIM's (RIMM) Q1 results was not the horrific performance over the last quarter; it was that BB10 is going to be delayed until 2013. At this point it doesn't matter how amazing BB10 will be when it's released. It will not turn things around for the company.
The Current Situation
An honest reflection has to be made as to what the company is capable of doing. It's clear that they cannot cater to the needs of both business and non-business users. They have to pick one group, and they should pick business users. Business users are more profitable and this is where RIM already has a competitive advantage.
Since the release of the original iPhone, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) have taken away RIM's market share. Frankly the company has not really done anything tangible to stop them. Not too long ago, RIM had the opportunity to become a great mobile computing platform; but that time has passed. They have to realize that they've lost this round.
The mobilization of PCs will occur over the next few years and RIM needs to move on and be prepared for the next round. They need to do four things to set themselves up to be successful over the next five years.
1. Forget BB10 and switch to Windows Phone 8
To date there do not appear to be any functional features that will make BB10 devices a must have. Don't reinvent the wheel. Adopt the Windows Phone OS and port all the BBM Services to the Windows Phone Platform.
RIM adds value to subscribers through their BBM network and messaging services. Every other function of their devices is a commodity. RIM should let Microsoft focus on developing and driving the future of the phone OS. Doing this will allow them to focus on the development of the Blackberry services platform and will give them the opportunity to shape the Windows Phone platform.
The success of mobile devices in the future will be driven by the strength of the platforms that the devices connect to and interact with. Why not Apple? RIM will just be an app within Apple's walled garden. Why not Google? Fragmentation. Why Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows phone? It's the only platform that they will be able to help shape. Look at how Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) mapping technology is being integrated into the Windows Phone Platform.
BB10 development will continue to consume resources within the company until it is developed. It will also require significant resources to maintain its competitiveness in the future.
2. Produce only two styles of devices that run Windows Phone
The first device should be a phone chassis with a QWERTY keyboard for power business users similar to the current Blackberry Bold QWERTY devices. Currently nothing can top the feel of a physical keyboard for power users. It's just easier if you do a lot of typing. To maintain that advantage the company should attempt to work out an agreement with Microsoft to be the only manufacturer that can use the "blackberry style" chassis. Currently there are no devices in the Windows Phone ecosystem that look like a traditional Blackberry. RIM should do everything to make sure it stays that way when they adopt the OS.
The second device should be a full touch screen phone with a reasonable sized screen. It would be geared towards the more casual to moderate business users. Keeping only two devices will force the company to focus on improving and developing its service offerings so that resources are not wasted on hardware development.
3. Adopt Window 8 as the OS for the Playbook
RIM has the engineering skills to build great mobile devices, and with the right software to connect the device to a more functional platform it can be a must have device. Windows 8 blurs the line between tablets and PCs. Over the next five years corporate users will be replacing many of their existing PCs and laptops. It's probable that companies will replace their desktops and laptops with tablet style PCs as they are more versatile.
With a Windows 8 tablet, corporate users will still be able to run their existing legacy desktop applications. This would mean fewer costs in the transition. Tablet style PCs will also allow far more flexibility as the way we work will continue to change. Not as many people sit at desks for the entire workday anymore. Having a Windows 8 playbook will allow users to be mobile and have access to the same level of productivity that they currently have with desktop PCs.
RIM has expertise in engineering and developing mobile devices. Right now, they have the skills to do it better than HP (NYSE:HPQ), Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and the other traditional PC makers. Switching the Playbook OS to Windows 8 will give RIM the opportunity to do to Dell and HP what Apple and Google did to them.
4. Create a Blackberry marketplace within the Windows marketplace
Create a developer program that will allow applications to be developed for corporate customers that can be used in conjunction with the blackberry network. Only make these applications accessible on Blackberry phones running Windows Phone OS. This will allow the company to leverage existing developers to create more value added applications for RIM's corporate customers.
Timing is everything
Time is running out. It doesn't matter how strong their balance sheet, it's time to jump or burn. RIM needs to pick an operating platform that can help the company further develop their profitable and trusted services platform. The company needs to shift its focus from trying to win in the smartphone wars and focus on being the best mobile computing platform for business users. If they don't do this the company will become irrelevant because someone else will do it.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.