RIM: A Case in Point

Our fundamental belief and approach to strategy might be illustrated by the example of Research in Motion (RIM), the disillusioned Canadian Blackberry smartphone maker!

About RIM

Research In Motion (RIM), incorporated on March 7, 1984, is a designer, manufacturer and marketer of wireless solutions for the worldwide mobile communications market (Reuters’ company profile).

RIM grew to be the largest smartphone manufacturer with Blackberry in pre-iPhone era, and RIM had a firm grip of the corporate market due to its safe and encrypted data communication.

Abandoning The Roots

However, RIM abandoned its roots and core competences related to the corporate market in their attempt to follow in the footsteps of Apple and Samsung when they moved into tablets. RIM released its own tablet, Blackberry Playbook, for sale on April 19, 2011, in Canada and the United States, but dumped prices drastically half a year later, as the Playbook was collecting dust on the retailers’ shelves. In the meantime, RIM lost more than focus and strategically anchored investments, it lost the stronghold position in the backyard market: Smartphones and corporate markets.


A Wrong Play

This case study implies that it was NOT a thorough and clever analysis of RIM’s strengths and core competences that lead it into a chase for the consumer electronics market dominated by Apple!

In fact, it has proven to be a decision that has jeopardized RIM’s survival as an independent company. The Blackberry Playbook was/is far from impressing and adds no new features to iPad or Galaxy Note users! It only adds to the negative publicity for RIM, negative associations to the previously incredibly strong Blackberry brand and delays for more suitable platform upgrades and new developments for RIM’s key customers!

But above all, it was just a very poorly timed strategic shift into a new fast-paced consumer electronic device market. Apple were already kicking butt to everyone with the iPhone and iPad, and RIM – like Nokia (!) – were the last ‘protectors’ of the non-touch display smartphones at that time (2007-2010).

So, did touch displays tablets reflect a RIM strength, competitive advantage or core competence?

What If?

RIM now struggles with an all-or-nothing new platform and new touch display Blackberry smartphones, while the iPad ruthlessly and constantly eats into the corporate market segment! Imagine what a proper strategic decision would have meant for RIM back in early 2010, had they decided to NOT be a fast follower of the iPad, but rather to monitor the tablet market development and gradually learning its dynamics and key success factors. RIM would in this scenario have been able to introduce a tablet to its corporate customers as they formulated the need from a strengthened market platform!


It is always easy to look backwards and analyze the past! However, we believe that understanding the fundamentals of strategy, competitive and market dynamics will allow you to make sound strategic decisions going forward in the face of uncertainty! There is really not much else to do – except to follow the path of your competitors!

It will NOT, though, be a ‘Winning Strategy’ and most likely NOT be successful in the long run!

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