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03/22/2012

RIM's last shot as Apple trounces it on home turf

It's official: Canadians like Apple's iPhone better than RIM's BlackBerry. Who would have predicted that? Well, pretty much everyone outside of RIM, probably.

Analyst firms IDC and Bloomberg pulled together research showing that Apple sold 2.85 million iPhones in Canada last year. Waterloo-based RIM sold 2.08 million BlackBerry phones. This stands in stark contrast to 2010, when RIM sold 500,000 more funds than Apple north of the border, but then, its fortunes have been steadily declining.

RIM has been losing the plot for some time. It was slow on the uptake when Apple first launched the iPhone, failing to realise how antiquated IOS made its BlackBerry operating system look. It is very difficult to recraft an old operating system to take on the trappings of a new one. That may be what caused it to scrabble for an alternative, purchasing a new operating system called QNX.

QNX was the operating system that ended up in RIM's Playbook tablet, which sold in very low numbers and which had some major limitations, such as the lack of an email client.

The Apple news is the latest in a long line of dark milestones for RIM. There were numerous financial results warnings, and that unfortunate service outage in October. In January, RIM lost its dual CEOs, who stepped down to make way for a new chief. The company had been pressured by activist investors to restructure its leadership.

What's next for RIM? People have speculated about a buyout. Google has already purchased Motorola for its patents. Apple wouldn't touch RIM - it doesn't need to. Microsoft is looking to bolster its presence in the mobile phone game after a few years in the wilderness while it recrafted its own mobile phone operating system. It has a strategic partnership with Nokia, but definitely needs help to get properly back in the game. Could an acquisition of RIM help it to hoist itself up?

If it doesn't sell, then RIM will attempt to soldier on, of course. It is planning a new generation of BlackBerry devices based on BlackBerry OS 10 (BB10), its new QNX-based operating system. It has recently shipped a software update to the Playbook, and there will be a version of BB10 for that device as well. RIM could be willing to licence BB10 to other manufacturers, and there are rumours of a $150m investment from Samsung, which is reportedly getting antsy at Google's purchase of rival Android phone manfacturer Motorola, and would presumably like some alternatives.

But it is difficult to claw back market share in the fast moving phone market, especially with so many Android-based manufacturers producing exciting products too. 

Nope, like its stock price, RIM won't go down without a fight. But down it will inevitably go. 

What do you think? Should RIM sell out now, or stick it out, and try to claw its way back? 

Danny Bradbury, MSN Tech & Gadgets

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Danny BradburyDanny Bradbury

Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with 20 years' experience. He writes regularly for publications including the Guardian, the Financial Times, the Financial Post, and Backbone magazine. Danny also writes and directs documentaries.

Maurice CachoMaurice Cacho

Maurice Cacho is a Toronto-based journalist mixing his love for tech with a passion for news. He's also CP24's Web Journalist and appears daily on CP24 Breakfast and weekly on the channel's tech show, Webnation, discussing tech news and trends.

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