It seems ridiculous almost to the point of being sublime to suggest that Research in Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry, is in need of a turnaround. Yet, if you listen to the pundits of the technology industry, it seems as if Research in Motion (R.I.M), the Canadian technology powerhouse, is on its last legs and will soon be plowed under by the onslaught of Apple and Android technology. And, even though the company shipped a record 52.3 million phones in the last fiscal year, a sharp 43 percent spike over the previous year, and, its fourth-quarter income of $924 million exceeded forecasts, people are saying that the company is going to be the unwitting star of an industry movie called “Palm: The Sequel” as a result of its aged technology platform and paucity of applications for that old operating system. Palm, if you recall, was the inventor of the Palm Pilot, a leader in handheld devices, and the company that was left behind in the marketplace by the BlackBerry not so long ago. Hewlett-Packard bought Palm off the trash heap a couple of years back, and is now doing what it can to resuscitate the brand and the operating system in a new handheld called a TouchPad. 

R.I.M, however, is not having any of that chatter, and is introducing the new Playbook Tablet next week, which hopes to take a big bite out of the Apple iPad. The new tablet computer from R.I.M. has a few things going for it right off the bat: 

  • A slick new operating system from QNX Software Systems, another Canadian company R.I.M. bought about a year ago, whose experience is in automobile infotainment systems
  • It is superb at playing Flash videos, something the Apple hardware can’t do at all
  • BlackBerry users love their devices, and so do the mammoth corporate and government clients that pay for those devices, and the Playbook Tablet should be something familiar and reassuring to both the end users and the organizations that sign the purchase orders
  • It is at approximately the same price point as the iPad 

By the way, that new operating system will also be the new platform on the next-generation BlackBerry phones in the very near future. 

There is no doubt that the Playbook Tablet is very, very important to R.I.M. They need a viable product in the tablet computing category and they also need the new operating system contained in the tablet. If it is successful, the company’s future is on solid ground and then some. If it has a lukewarm reception in the market, but the new operating system makes the next-generation BlackBerry better than the iPhone, and application developers also embrace the new system, then it will probably still be considered well worth the development money. If the product flops, the new operating system is deemed as insufficient for tablet and phone, and therefore developers shun the system in terms of designing new applications for it, then, yes, R.I.M may very well be starring in what for them would be a slasher flick, with the Canadian company as the hapless victim of terrifying market forces. 

Whatever happens, it is going to be interesting to watch.

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting, a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area, where he advises businesses in marketing, sales, front-end operations, and strategy. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at