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RIM dooms itself with IT-centric strategy

Rob Enderle | April 2, 2012
RIM moves to execute Microsoft's old Windows mobile strategy - a strategy that failed in the world of consumerization. By abandoning its consumer efforts, it may be RIP time for RIM?

In a world driven by consumerization one company stands alone against the wave of employees who are bringing their iPhones and Android phones to work. That company is RIM , who just announced plans to abandon their consumer efforts and focus on the enterprise. We know this will work because it worked so swimmingly for Microsoft. I think we can officially start preparing to say, "RIP, RIM."

I think if you are going to fall back on an IT-focused strategy, which is what RIM just announced, you have to focus on what IT wants and that isn't a phone that the users don't like. IT doesn't do phones anymore, so a return to an IT-based strategy will only speed RIM's decline. An IT-focused strategy would need to lose the phones and might be a service or product that IT needs to implement to secure and manage the user experience on the phones users choose, ensuring these devices and users are secure. However, IT just doesn't have the power to drive user technology anymore. They are losing it on PCs and most never really had it on phones.

Let's explore RIM's catastrophic strategic mistake.

Apple's Road to Glory

The most successful single cell phone company, particularly now that Google has had to disclose how little they actually make off of Android, is Apple. Apple became successful through a strategy of focusing exclusively on the user and they currently are the favorite IT platform for phones. Roughly a third of the large companies I spoke with at a recent EMC event said they were actively blocking Android.

Microsoft's Failed Attempts

Prior to Windows Phone 7, Microsoft had instituted an IT-focused strategy—with resources that dwarf RIM's and a reach through both multi-national cell phone makers and PC vendors—and got creamed in a market increasingly powered by user driven products like the iPhone.

The overall lesson is that if the users wanted it, the device came into the enterprise. And if they didn't want the device no amount of enterprise focus had any material effect on sales. Now Microsoft did make one huge mistake when they moved to Windows Phone 7; they abandoned virtually all of their enterprise management features. Those features could have been way to gain some unique advocacy because they haven't done that well on a consumer pure-play largely because buyers have already chosen another platform and don't have a strong reason to switch. IT support, better security and management might have created an IT advocacy which, on top of a consumer-oriented marketing plan, made them far more successful.

Consumerization: What's Not to Get

It amazes me that so many companies just don't get this consumerization trend. Recently I met with Citrix and they articulated an IT centric strategy as a response to OnLive, a consumer sourced company, entering their space. Consumerization, which is the mega trend that is currently driving the personal technology market, began as employee-driven technology decisions and it is quickly morphing into BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) strategies. While this is moving fairly slowly with PCs, it is on fire with smartphones—which represent 50 percent of phone sales today—and tablets.


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