They were responsible for the best emailing phones available to humanity, helping to shift 50 millions BlackBerrys in ten years taking RIM's huge success outside of North America and Canada. However with the rise of the iPhone and the Android smartphone platform plus the emergence of Microsoft and Windows Phone 7, it has been a tough past year for the men at the RIM helm with co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie deciding to step down from the company, handing over CEO duties to Thorsten Heins.
Speculation of a change at the top has been rumoured for a couple of weeks now and as we wait to see what the new man plans to do to reignite RIM's fortunes, we look back at six defining moments that could have shaped the duo's decision to step aside.
1. BlackBerry PlayBook
We championed its cause naming it in our Hot 100 gadgets of 2011, with Flash support and a tagline of “The world’s first professional-grade tablet” optimism was high that the BlackBerry PlayBook would emerge as the first true iPad challenger. However, the seven-inch tablet lacked in terms of high-level apps and functionality and we had to wait some time for RIM to introduce the update that brought native email, contacts and calendar apps. Ideally these features would have been present when the tablet first launched last year. As the PlayBook price continues to drop it has been rumoured that the company could be planning to ditch the device it had such high hopes for despite only launching in 2011.
2. Trouble in the RIM camp
Ahead of the BlackBerry Playbook launch, RIM’s first device to host its new QNX operating system, a senior RIM employee (who remained unnamed) made his feelings clear about the direction the mobile giant was taking in an open letter to the company. The letter was comprehensive; covering everything from the employee’s worries that RIM weren’t investing more to make the business more developer friendly, to concerns over the company’s marketing strategy. If we had to summarise the central theme of the letter we think the first line did it best: “I have lost all confidence."
3. BlackBerry down
BlackBerry users will no doubt recall the interrupted period of play back in October when BlackBerry phones endured several days without access to Email and BBM services. RIM blamed failed core switches for the outage while T3’s Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with users unhappy by the slow response to indicate that there was an issue. RIM apologised, but this did little to resolve the matter as a law firm in its native Canada filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for users affected by the service outages.
4. I predict a BBM riot
It was the summer of 2011, the sun was shining and the kids decided to go looting. As London riots spread across the country shaming the nation, RIM had fingers pointed in its direction with accusations that its BBM instant messaging service was to blame for the organization of the rioting. Allegations were made by police that rioters were communicating using BlackBerry’s encrypted network and was, "one of the reasons why unsophisticated criminals are outfoxing an otherwise sophisticated police force." Research in Motion pledged to help the Home Office with speculation that they could hand over details from users suspected of being involved in the unlawful acts. It was simply more bad press that the company could do without.
5. BlackBerry phones cancelled?
Earlier this year, Internet reports alleged that the BlackBerry Colt and the BlackBerry Milan smartphones were set to be abandoned, leaving just the BlackBerry London to arrive in 2012. The Colt which is set to run on the new BlackBerry 10 operating system, and the OS 7-packing Milan are now on the chopping block according to multiple sources BGR have spoken to. That means we could expect just a single handset launch from RIM this year alongside OS 10 which may not surface until October, giving the likes of the much rumoured iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3 plenty of time to dominate the market before we get to see a new BlackBerry smartphone.
6. BBX/BlackBerry 10
RIM announced at BlackBerry DevCon 2011 that it was set to follow Google and Apple by unveiling BBX, its first universal operating system that would work on both smartphone and tablet devices. Combining the best of BlackBerry 6 and 7 with the best of QNX, the OS is already in the hands of developers but a release date has yet to be announced. Already lagging behind Android 4.0 and iOS 5, the late arrival of BBX was compounded by the news that the company had lost a battle to use the BBX name renaming the OS to BlackBerry 10.