Avoiding a BlackBerry oblivion

Forget the Union — what's the state of the BlackBerry?

Research in Motion, maker of BlackBerry smartphones and tablets, sent its co-chief executives packing last week and replaced them with Thorsten Heins, who had been RIM's chief operating officer. How would he characterise his employer?

"We make the best communications devices in the world," said Heins, who met with editors and reporters from The New York Times on Friday.

Not everyone feels the same way. Over the past year, RIM's share price has plunged 75 per cent. The company once commanded more than half of the US smartphone market. Today it has 10 per cent.

RIM has two, maybe three ways forward.

The first — the one that Heins is clearly aiming for — is a triumphant comeback after a near-death experience. Think Apple and its iMac. RIM is on the verge of upgrading its PlayBook operating system — now with, among other things, email, a feature that the original PlayBook bafflingly lacked — and will release the BlackBerry 10 OS this year.

Behind Door No.2 is a gradual decline and diminution as rivals like Apple, Google and Microsoft devour most of the market; to some degree, they already have. BlackBerry would keep the scraps — a small but dedicated following of corporate and government customers who want its proprietary messaging and security features.

Then there is the third option: oblivion. The road of progress is littered with the corpses of fallen titans. Objects that once seemed as indispensable as the companies that made them have been mercilessly superseded.

RIM ought to know: With mobile devices like the BlackBerry 957, it helped to extinguish the pager era.

The New York Times