RIM delays BlackBerry 10 to Q1 2013, lays off 5,000 employees

In an increasingly bleak picture of the once dominant Research in Motion, their next-generation mobile operating system BlackBerry 10 has been delayed to the first fiscal quarter of 2013. The operating system and first devices equipped with the software were originally slated for release in the holiday 2012 window, which would have presumably given them an early infusion of install base. Instead, the 2013 release window places RIM squarely in the sights of an established Apple iPhone 5/iOS 6 and Google Android 4.1 Jelly Bean-laden landscape.

To add insult to injury, RIM is also laying off 5,000 of their employees to fight the tide of ever-decreasing revenue that outstrips the most cynical predictions by analysts. The 5,000 lost employees comprised 32% of RIM’s previous workforce count of 16,500. In the face of this, CEO Thorsten Heins has steadfastly stayed the course, expressing hopes that the reduction of staffing will streamline development of BB10. He went on to state that QWERTY and touchscreen devices for the platform would release in close proximity to each other, though there would likely only be one of each as not to oversaturate the market.

Even with such a resolute view, rumors are rising that suggest RIM’s board is pushing for more drastic options that would splinter various elements of the company. Reuters reports that discussions have also taken place for Microsoft to acquire the Waterloo-based company and work Windows Phone 8 into RIM’s relatively popular physical design. In either case, it seems that the board is still deferring to Heins’s judgement for now, but don’t expect the status quo to be upheld much longer if any of these rumors hold true.

Source: GigaOM, The Verge

BlackBerry World 2012

This year’s BlackBerry World in Orlando, Florida will probably go down in Research In Motion’s history as one of the company’s biggest milestones. That’ll be thanks in no small part to the reveal of BlackBerry 10, which will almost certainly make or break the stumbling smartphone manufacturer. With marketshare and mindshare on the decline, RIM’s future in the BlackBerry business truly depends on an entirely new mobile operating system that has a lot to prove.

BlackBerry 10 screenshot

Screenshot of BlackBerry 10's UI

That being said, RIM is taking some big steps to make a notable entrance. The above “Sneak Peek” gives a general idea of what BlackBerry 10 has to offer in addition to a brief look at the developer hardware. On an aesthetic level, the operating system seems to take cues from both iOS and Android. Mechanically, BB10 takes hints from all of RIM’s major competitors, ranging from the gesture-driven multitasking reminiscent of webOS to a very glanceable homescreen comparable to Android’s widgets or Windows Phone 7′s live tiles.

As far as actual hardware is concerned, RIM only revealed a developer device at their event. They heavily stressed that the device is not representative of any final products, which is good because the phone’s design is essentially that of a shrunken BlackBerry Playbook. The phone also essentially runs PlayBook OS 2.0 presently, giving developers a screen and general framework to concentrate on while not yet releasing BB10 into the wild. Most importantly, the dev phone has no hardware keyboard which indicates a general effort to make BlackBerry 10 work well with a touch interface. That fact doesn’t necessarily bar any possibility of a future BB10 phone with a physical keyboard, but it does show a shift away from both the practical thinking and the current marketing scheme of RIM.

Finally, RIM’s also making a big push into what will be their tallest hurdle – ecosystem. Not only did CEO Thorsten Heins show off a fairly promising suite of apps currently in development, but he also made a promise to developers. Essentially, he guaranteed that anybody who develops a “certified” BlackBerry 10 app will make $10,000 in the first year. A few understandable requirements are on the table to be eligible such as a certification from a third-party and a baseline of $1,000 in revenue, but if a certain app is up to snuff and doesn’t make $10K from user purchases RIM will make up the difference with a hefty check.

All in all, it seems like Research in Motion isn’t ready to lie down and get trampled by Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Unfortunately, the market won’t see retail devices available until very late in the year, though that’ll hopefully give BlackBerry 10 ample time to grow a community of developers who can give the platform a good starting point.

Source: The Verge (storystream) | Image: The Verge

RIM reveals Q4 earnings, further shakeup for leadership and strategy

Yesterday, RIM held a conference call and sent out a press release revealing their Q4 2011 earnings. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the company performed poorly with few new products and a floundering tablet effort, as the following statistics reflect:

Highlights:

  • $2.1 billion in cash, cash equivalents, short-term and long-term investments at the end of the quarter, which increased by approximately $610 million in the quarter
  • Cash flow from operations of approximately $1.1 billion, up from approximately $900 million in Q3
  • Revenue of $4.2 billion, down 19% from the third quarter
  • GAAP net loss in Q4 of $125 million or $0.24 per share diluted; adjusted net income of $418 million or $0.80 per share diluted
  • BlackBerry smartphone shipments of 11.1 million in Q4, down 21% from Q3
  • RIM to discontinue providing specific quantitative guidance
  • RIM provides update on organizational changes

Likely swayed by these losses, CEO Thorsten Heins seems to be taking some major steps in changing RIM’s general strategy in hopes of turning around the company. He cites a “lack of accountability” due to complicated and excessive leadership, which will result in some layoffs at higher levels. Beyond that, he seems to be open to most tactics available to a company mid-fall, including but not limited to divesting elements of the company, selling patents, licensing software, and possibly even selling the company altogether.

Unfortunately, RIM’s 2012 product offerings are meager at best and may cut the feet out from under these changes. BlackBerry 10 won’t be ready for primetime until very late in the year, leaving RIM to sell BlackBerry 7 handsets at increasingly meager profits through subsidization. In terms of mindshare, the lack of a proper smartphone operating framework leaves the BlackBerry brand shrinking in relevance, especially with upstarts like Windows Phone 7 making larger pushes this year.

Source: GigaOM, BGR

European Commission and US Department of Justice approve Google’s acquisition of Motorola

After almost six months of consideration, the European Commission and US Department of Justice have finally allowed Google’s buyout of Motorola Mobility. The $12.5 billion deal likely is more for the wireless patents that Motorola holds than the actual hardware produced, so obviously so that the language that the DOJ used to describe its analysis is heavy with reference to Moto’s history of “intellectual property disputes”:

The specific transactions at issue, however, are not likely to substantially lessen competition.  The evidence shows that Motorola Mobility has had a long and aggressive history of seeking to capitalize on its intellectual property and has been engaged in extended disputes with Apple, Microsoft and others.  As Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility is unlikely to materially alter that policy, the division concluded that transferring ownership of the patents would not substantially alter current market dynamics.  This conclusion is limited to the transfer of ownership rights and not the exercise of those transferred rights.

The transaction still cannot take place until approval comes down from China, Israel, and Taiwan, but the precedent set here is practically carved in stone. In addition to Google’s victory today, the DOJ has also approved the sale of Nortel’s 6000+ patent portfolio to a consortium of companies that include Apple, Microsoft, and RIM. At the end of the day, the patent battle will never cease but Motorola’s future within Google is still quite the mystery.

Source: Department of Justice, European Commission | Via: The Verge

RIM co-CEOs step down, former COO Thorsten Heins steps up

In a somewhat predictable move, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis stepped down from their roles as co-chief executive officer of Research in Motion (RIM) this past Sunday. After plummeting share prices, rising shareholder demand, and a outwardly stagnant business strategy, the company that produces Blackberry smartphones and tablets was in dire need of a shakeup. While Balsillie and Lazaridis have a significant amount of stocks on their own and thus can’t be completely ousted, they’ve also ceded their roles as chairmen of the board.

The CEO role will be filled by former chief operating officer Thorsten Heins, who promises to stay the course in the near future as far as Blackberry 10 is concerned. Current board member Barbara Stymiest will the take role of chairwoman, with Lazaridis as vice chairman. The report from the Wall Street Journal also suggests that another major strategy that Heins will be keeping is a revamp of the Blackberry Playbook, a rumor that only took shape briefly with whispers of a 10″ form factor tablet. Whether this reference is to that tablet or even reworked hardware to replace the current 7″ Playbook, nobody knows quite yet.

Suffice it to say that this change-up more or less maintains the status quo for at least the next year, while the possibility of new ideas and strategies from Heins’s reign may come along too late if BB10 and Playbook 2.0 don’t manage to take off. Granted if they do, a creative shift after 25+ years of unchanged leadership may be what RIM needs.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Blackberry 10 to be dead on arrival, reports BGR

BGR (formerly Boy Genius Report) has been well known since its inception for dependable reporting of rumors about technology and specifically upcoming mobile devices. That track record is what lends credence to a recent report from “one of [their] most trusted sources” that BlackBerry 10 is essentially doomed to failure.

If you don’t know the story behind BlackBerry 10, the newest version of RIM’s BlackBerry operating system was announced in October and promised to combine the best elements of BlackBerry OS with QNX. In essence, it represents the unification of the software on their phones and their PlayBook tablet, presumably giving RIM the foundation it needs to compete with modern smartphone operating systems like iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7. Unfortunately, RIM discussed in a recent earnings call the release of BlackBerry 10 devices being pushed to the latter half of 2012, placing the OS even farther back in a race of constantly evolving software.

BGR’s source claims that the delay of these devices is not based on availability of LTE chipsets (which RIM CEO Mike Lazaridis suggests) and rather that the OS is so half-baked that it essentially isn’t a working product. Furthermore, the source says that BlackBerry 10 is about as advanced as iOS 1.0 or Android 2.0, unfavorably comparing basic RIM services like email and BlackBerry Messenger to even preexisting BlackBerry 7 software. Coupled with the financial realities of not having competitive devices and software until late 2012, these rumors spell a truly sad future for Research in Motion.

Source: BGR