RIM’s Reset and What It Means for Mobile Developers

BlackBerry 10Research In Motion’s Blackberry has served the enterprise well over the last 15 years, providing secure, reliable two-way communication for business users.

What do RIM’s challenges mean for mobile developers? Tell us in the comments below.

But times are changing with Android and iOS devices sweeping through the consumer market. Suddenly, everybody has a smartphone with super easy-to-use voice, messaging, and Internet capabilities. Where RIM’s Blackberry niche was helping enterprise IT departments manage their devices, businesses are now challenged to accommodate a new and diverse smartphone ecosystem. RIM’s lock on the enterprise is slipping.

Perhaps RIM’s new CEO Thorsten Heins has the right mix of skills to put the company back on top. His background seems well-suited for solving complex problems, BusinessWeek’s Felix Gillette thinks. He spent 15 months in the German Army, so you’d expect him to be fairly well disciplined. With a Master’s degree in science and physics from Hannover University, he certainly should understand complex engineering and business problems. And, he earned money for college learning the fine art of woodworking. It seems like a small thing, but a CEO who can build with his hands surely bolsters his credibility with engineers and developers in the R&D and manufacturing departments. Before RIM, Heins worked his way up through a variety of engineering and business roles at Siemens, eventually rising to the board of Siemens Communications. To me, he looks like a good choice for CEO.

Heins has implemented a few new things with development:

  • The upcoming QNX-based (RIM bought QNX in 2010) Blackberry 10 operating system is due to be released shortly with good support for C++ and HTML5.
  • RIM is encouraging community growth by providing third-party developers with hardware, according to Telecommonthly.
  • How about a new development center in Northern Africa? It seems that Egyptians and users all over the continent really like RIM’s mobile offerings. Not much in the way of details yet, though.
  • RIMs first campus hackathon was held recently in New York. Winners of the event will move onto the Blackberry Jam 10 in Orlando, in May.
  • Lastly, Douglas Sothys of Untethered.tv says that RIM is now modeling itself as a startup. Its top principles are about being focused, honest and hungry. It’s an interesting concept considering RIM has 77 million subscribers.

Should you trust your career to a 15-year old company that just hired a new CEO and is beginning to act like a startup? Let’s hope they don’t burn through a bunch of cash.

My view is that while Android and Apple are strong competitors and certainly have broken into the enterprise, RIM just may be able to re-invent itself and return to dominance in the space. It’s working on including Android and iOS in its management tools. Android and Apple infrastructure management products are nowhere nearly as well developed as RIM’s tool chest.

Even though a lot of things will probably change over the next 12 months, if you are a developer who knows mobile, C++, and HTML5 ,why not pursue an opportunity with RIM? Hungry partners tend to be good partners.

Better yet, figure out a way to get in there and help it grow. It could be interesting work.