"I think they never thought they would be in this position," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner. "You can see from the Lazaridis interviews online that he isn't absorbing this failure. He is probably having trouble coping with the fact that his products are no longer the top dog."
Still, Dulaney and others said IT managers should not give up on RIM, because of its strong approach to security and management of distributed wireless devices. "Their platform is very good for enterprises," Dulaney said. "Remember, they still have the best keyboard device, and there is a significant population of users that likes keyboards. It's just no longer 90% anymore."
Dulaney said RIM's principal failing has been in not creating a popular touch-screen smartphone, a problem also facing Nokia and Microsoft. The BlackBerry Storm and its touch screen were a disappointment, he said. "Whether they do well or not is determined by the touch screen," Dulaney said. "We at Gartner like RIM in the enterprise, and they do a good job, but my customers tell me they are disappointed that RIM hasn't solved this touch-screen problem."
The proof point for RIM seems to be how well it will handle the new QNX operating system in phones appearing in 2012, analysts said.
"BlackBerry is the still the gold standard when it comes to security and manageability," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J.Gold Associates. "And for many sensitive apps, it's the only platform that can meet all the compliance standards. That said, that's not enough to keep users from wanting to go with an alternative. So the challenge for BlackBerry is to build a highly secure and manageable phone, which still offers many of the consumer-friendly features that users want. That is not an easy problem to solve, as many of the consumer-friendly, user-interface-friendly apps are notoriously insecure and the devices are easily hacked."
RIM could come into fashion again in a year or two if its leaders make the right moves, analysts said. "It wasn't that long ago when BlackBerry was perceived as being cool and a 'have to have one' phone," Gold recalled. "But that was before the iPhone and Androids changed perceptions."
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