What if RIM “did a Nokia” and decided to adopt the Windows Phone 7 platform?
After the recent announcement that Bing Search and Maps will power BlackBerry phones and the new PlayBook could there possibly be a deeper tie-up on the horizon?RIM have a strong user base but are losing the battle against iOS and Android in terms of acquisition and producing applications for the BlackBerry can be difficult. On the other hand, Microsoft are looking to maintain the current momentum of the Windows Phone 7 platform that has come from recent announcements and analysts predicting strong growth in the coming years. A deeper partnership between RIM and Microsoft would favour the new entrant more rather than the old. The reasons Nokia chose Microsoft over Google are all very relevant if RIM made the same decision. How would RIM benefit? RIM would enjoy lower core platform development costs if they were to move to Windows Phone 7 as Microsoft would own the development roadmap. If they decided to transition their applications to Windows Phone MarketPlace they would have lower operational costs and could potentially phase out BlackBerry AppWorld. As a development platform Windows Phone 7 is less fragmented than Android. BlackBerry development is time consuming due to the handset models and variants across regions as well as carriers. If RIM were able to have the same exclusive access purportedly being given to Nokia of the Windows Phone 7 core they could enhance the platform for their own phones and integrate BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) Office and SharePoint integration would suit RIM’s existing corporate user base. RIM would have an army of willing Microsoft based developers and a strong community. RIM would possess a smartphone user experience which rivals Android and iOS. The Microsoft ecosystem is more complete than that possessed by RIM presently (Stephen Elop made reference to mobile ecosystems) BBM would make a great complement to Bing, Xbox Live and Zune. The Windows Phone MarketPlace already has an increasing number of applications that RIM could take advantage of straightaway. What are the potential risks for RIM? A move to a new platform could:
- alienate the existing large user base who like the current style of handsets and BB OS. Steps would need to be taken to avoid upsetting these users.
- reduce the likelihood of existing BlackBerry developers committing to writing for Windows Phone 7.
RIM would lose complete control of their phone platform in terms of feature development.A partnership with Microsoft would put a question mark over the PlayBook. This is running the new QNX platform which is a big deal for RIM. Could the PlayBook play in the same space as the upcoming rumoured Windows 8 ARM based tablets? What would happen to QNX? I think RIM’s current dual CEO role could be put under stress if such an option was to be undertaken. What would Microsoft be thinking about? Microsoft are already in a better place after their tie-up with Nokia but having another name like RIM associated to the Windows Phone 7 stable would give a further boost in the battle with Android and iOS. RIM would be bringing a large BlackBerry user base to potentially adopt the Windows Phone 7 platform, for Microsoft this user base would compliment Nokia’s strong position in emerging markets. The integration of RIM’s “Killer App” BBM on Windows Phone 7 and how access to this highly engaged and social user base could bring in revenue. Microsoft would need to think about how to address any conflicts of interest between RIM, Nokia and other hardware partners. Like Nokia, RIM have years of mobile experience specifically expertise around hardware and Microsoft should be looking at how to learn and make better decisions based on this experience. It is all about volume and the opportunity to have more handsets on their platform would be the biggest win. Possible Outcomes I think that there are a number of possible outcomes:
- RIM continue as they are and compete against all the other players in the market alone.
- RIM partner with another platform for mutual benefit e.g. Microsoft or Google.
- Microsoft or another player (Google) look to acquire RIM.
Based on the nature of the Nokia and Microsoft partnership clearly the partnership route is less risky (for both parties) and more palatable for companies like Nokia / RIM who have a more established presence in the mobile marketplace.If RIM chose the Windows Phone 7 platform the battle to be the world’s no.1 mobile platform would be a three-way fight between Google’s Android, Apple iOS and Microsoft’s Windows Phone.