Research in Motion was on the verge of adopting a strategy that would have opened the company’s BlackBerry network to competing phones before a change in management led to its downfall, a new report claims.
According to Reuters, former RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie wanted to allow wireless carriers in North America to use RIM’s proprietary network to provide data service to non-BlackBerry phones. The idea was for carriers to leverage the rel atively inexpensive BlackBerry data plans — which would only allow basic social networking and instant messaging — to entice users to upgrade from low-end “feature” phones to smartphones.
However, the report says talks with the carriers led to trouble in RIM’s boardroom. Soon, both of RIM’s CEOs were out, replaced by the current chief, Thorsten Heins. The plan stalled, and Heins appears to have abandoned it, pinning RIM’s future solely on the success of its own platform — and the soon-to-come BlackBerry 10 phones in particular.
BlackBerry phones use both RIM’s network as well as the carriers’ network. RIM’s network is extensive, and the company operates data centers in key locations. By compressing and encrypting much of the data that runs through the RIM network, BlackBerry phones tend to tax their data plans significantly less for everyday operations like instant messaging or Twitter updates.
For a large number of people, that’s exactly what they want to do with their phones. According to statistics from comScore, 64.2 million people use social networks on their phones, with more than half of them doing it “almost every day.”
Balsillie’s strategy would have presumably opened up a new source of revenue for RIM, and would have created a kind of in-between category of cellphone: something better than a feature phone, but not as versatile as a full smartphone, complete with multimedia apps like Netflix and Angry Birds.
But Heins took over, dropped the idea, and Balsillie resigned from the company’s board shortly thereafter.
What do you think of RIM’s almost-plan? Would it have been a good strategy, or was the new CEO right to kill it? Sound off in the comments.