RIM Almost Switched to Android, Says CEO
RIM considered Android before moving forward with BlackBerry 10.
On Thursday RIM CEO Thorsten Heins made several revelations in an interview with The Telegraph, one of which is the possibility of letting other OEMs create BlackBerry devices so that RIM can better compete with Google's Android platform and Apple's iOS devices. He also admitted that the company thought long and hard about switching over to Android before finally deciding to move forward with its latest OS, BlackBerry 10.
"We took the conscious decision not to go Android," he said. "If you look at other suppliers’ ability to differentiate, there’s very little wiggle room. We looked at it seriously – but if you understand what the promise of BlackBerry is to its user base it’s all about getting stuff done. Games, media, we have to be good at it but we have to support those guys who are ahead of the game. Very little time to consume and enjoy content – if you stay true to that purpose you have to build on that basis. And if we want to serve that segment we can’t do it on a me-too approach."
Still, he admitted that RIM doesn't have the economy of scale to compete against competitors that can crank out 60 handsets a year. In order to better differentiate BlackBerry from Android and iOS, it needs to be a focused platform. One advantage is the company's BlackBerry Messenger which, according to Heins, delivers mobile messaging capabilities that are highly unique to the smartphone market.
"[BBM is] what attracts people to BlackBerry," he said. "This is our BlackBerry experience we can deliver -- there’s no other system out there where you can read, write, check if you’ve read my message. We want to make it as differentiated as possible. Going cross platform and opening up would be losing that advantage. I think there’s a huge difference between somebody who just provides the phone and the hardware and someone who provides services."
But to deliver BlackBerry 10, Heins said that RIM may need to look at licensing the OS to someone who can deliver devices at a better cost proposition -- OEMs like Samsung or Sony. "There’s different options we could do that we’re currently investigating," he added. "You could think about us building a reference system, and then basically licensing that reference design, have others build the hardware around it – either it’s a BlackBerry or it’s something else being built on the BlackBerry platform. We’re investigating this and it’s way too early to get into any details."
This is one of the reasons why RIM is working with financial advisers: to see if it's possible to license out BlackBerry 10 and where it would take the company. Either RIM will crank out BlackBerry 10 products in-house, or do it with a partner. Either way, RIM has no plans to abandon its subscriber base. That said, BlackBerry 10 is now make or break for RIM.
"We’ve just got to get it out there," he said.