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Five ideas that could turn around the fortunes of Research In Motion

ITProPortal is now turning its attention to Research In Motion and its recent troubles, which has seen the company announce 5,000 job cuts. Adding to this, is the news that the company’s flagship upcoming BlackBerry 10 OS has been delayed until 2013 – instead of arriving on phones toward the end of this year.

The problems inside the Canadian handset manufacturer have been apparent for some time, but last year’s outage of its BlackBerry services could not have helped matters. This left its handsets in Europe, Middle East, Africa, India, and parts of South America without email, web browsing abilities and BlackBerry Messenger for the best part of a week. This essentially rendered BlackBerry phones useless and left them only with calling and SMS features, which was not great news for the millions that rely on these mobile phones for their businesses and managing everyday life.

{MPU Placeholder}We are now compiling a range of ideas and concepts that might help turn the fortunes of RIM around and restore the once good name of BlackBerry, with the sales figures it once achieved.

Open BlackBerry-only features

Research In Motion could open access to its bespoke services, such as the BlackBerry Messenger and its own email system. Developers could write apps that would see these services running on other mobile phone platforms. The opened-up features would still operate via RIM’s servers or from a partnership with other companies, the latter reducing the sole reliance on its own servers. This implementation could also help provide a higher level of fault tolerance, offering a greater level of reassurance for those who had experienced the service outage. The infamous @[mobile phone network name] email addresses can still be used to clearly identify that a sender is contacting you from a BlackBerry.

Opening these RIM-only services could result in BlackBerry messenger being used on Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS and Microsofts' Windows Phone 7 operating systems. This in turn will extend the number of devices gaining access to BBM and its connected apps, which will increase RIM's user base and ultimately its mobile phone sales. Furthermore, RIM could limit the features in its opened services, and only offer the full range in its own devices.

Create more affordable BlackBerry handsets

BlackBerry handsets were once regarded as the corporate world's mobile phone. This is because RIM pioneered mobile email before it was a standard feature of the average smartphone. RIM's handsets then moved out of the enterprise space and were adopted by the youth market, thanks to the free BlackBerry messenger functionality of these devices and the targeting of more reasonably priced BlackBerry phones at the younger market.

RIM has stated to ITProPortal that two handsets were hugely responsible for making it the number one seller of smartphones in 2010 and 2011. These were the 8520 and the 9300: both of which were budget handsets. A new model has only recently succeeded these devices – the BlackBerry Curve 9320. This arrived some two years after the 9300 was launched. Research In Motion needs to create more of these affordable devices and more often, in a wider range of styles and formats. This is because the install base of these low-end phones can be larger than the top-tier BlackBerry devices. Undoubtedly, this will help the company turn around its declining user base and overall revenue stream.

Make BlackBerry tariffs cheaper

Accessing the Internet, receiving email or using BlackBerry-only features, such as BBM, requires a BlackBerry add-on to a standard mobile phone tariff. This is also known as BlackBerry Internet Service and it needs to be in place, as all the mobile broadband traffic goes through this – just as if it was a proxy server. Without this, there is no Internet access, no email or BBMs. Millions have experienced this lack of basic functionality, when the service went down.

Included within the add-on are features such as a data allowance, BBM usage, and unlimited push-email access. There is a fee attached to using this service, both on contract or pay as you go. This is usually a flat rate of £5 a month, with the unlimited email being the selling point of the service. At one point, this was the main attraction, but BBM is now the real seller for this service in the pre-pay arena. Research In Motion could tailor its offering to mobile phone networks and therefore the consumer, with different price scales for different services. This might be along the lines of halving that cost for just email and Internet access, or even less for just the BlackBerry messenger and minimal Internet use. The pay as you go market is key for RIM, and lowering its costs will make the service even more attractive to the youth market: where every penny counts.

Better utilisation of the BlackBerry desktop suite

Accompanying all BlackBerry handsets is the company’s desktop suite of software, which is only really used to back up the phone and add media to the handset via a Windows or Apple computer. There is not much more to the software other than that. Its overall functionality could be expanded by bringing in access to standard BlackBerry services: such as email. This would effectively turn the software into an email client that works in much the same way as Outlook does with Microsoft Exchange servers.

Adding to this, could be BBM use inside of the desktop suite, offering up access to the service in the same way as Facebook chat or Windows Live messenger operates. Once again, this will enable the desktop suite to do a lot more than it currently does.


RIM could implement a web-based email service to complement its phone-based services. Similar offerings are already in place and used by millions today, with the likes of Gmail and Hotmail. The emails would not go undelivered and unanswered if an outage happens again, as it would mirror what arrives on the handset. The BlackBerry webmail would act as a central repository for all the emails, where there would even be a generous storage capacity too. This website could even house a web-BBM client, for use while on a computer and away from the phone. This could also work in a similar way to Facebook chat, only with a much higher level of security and utilising the BlackBerry PIN.

Rob Kerr is a journalist with more than 14 years experience of news, reviews and feature writing on titles such as Wired, PC Magazine, The Register, The Inquirer, Pocket-Lint, Mobile Industry Review, Know Your Mobile and The Gadget Show. The mobile phone world is his real passion and forte, having owned a handset as far back as 1994 where he has seen them grow from just a business tool to a necessity in everyone’s everyday life.