The secret is out, it has been out for a while – Research In Motion is plummeting, and fast. As I see it, they have two choices:
1. Stay and Sink
There is no question that history will remember BlackBerry as the pioneer in mobile and enterprise email. But, RIM doesn’t need to be remembered, they want to be revived. They have needed reviving for years. RIM can no longer survive on being all business, and they have backed into the consumer mobile market holding onto a business solution and BrickBreaker. They can no longer win on battery life, an efficient push email service, and BBM alone – the three things that kept many, including me, from switching. These were the glory days of BlackBerry.
Before I dive into my very detailed reasoning for why Amazon is the future of RIM – please understand that I am asserting this position from a innovative technology perspective, not an economic one. I also recognize that the conversation is incomplete without the inclusion of economic analysis among other factors.
I LOVE BlackBerries. For context, in the past seven years, I have owned ten different smartphones, those are not ones that broke and I got replaced, these are ten separate makes and models at separate times. Of those, five were BlackBerries on three different networks: T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon. I currently am using an iPhone. I have very high expectations of our mobile future because the possibilities are more visible each day. RIM is stumbling right now, but they do not have to because they have a viable future in mobile, but not alone.
BlackBerry was produced to reflect what RIM is great at, over and over again, with a shiny new case, in an effort to compete. At the beginning of each year we hear about a number of devices and a whole new operating system to be released later in the year. The number of devices gets cut to just a couple that aren’t that different or impressive, and the new operating system just looks shiny but doesn’t actually change consumer behavior, innovate, or at the very least meet expectations. In the mobile dominated consumer and business markets, RIM is showing the strain that comes when you over promise and under deliver and your customer loyalty can no longer be dependent on dependability, but innovation for our whole lifestyle not a compartmentalized life.
RIM has been steadfast on option one in hopes of even a small uptick in sales and re-adoption before they can start pulling away iPhone and Android loyalists. To a degree, for a while they could take risks, and try something new because RIM has a portfolio of some interesting patents, that I will go into later, their value is not fully understood exact terms for most of us, but they matter - a lot. For Example: Did you know that RIM recently applied for a patent that would allow the phone to recharge the battery with each press of the keypad.
To be honest, RIM’s same strategy, is an uphill battle that isn’t worth fighting. It will leave RIM with no option but its inevitable demise by chopping up assets and selling them to the highest bidders –some of which (Google and Apple) will likely shelf patents into their war chest for lawsuits to come. Or they (Microsoft) will be able to harness the technology but execute it in a way that won’t be well received by consumers. Amazon is the best positioned to take us into the future of mobile faster and better than anyone else. No, they don’t have a mobile phone and yes they use Android for their Kindle Fire – but that doesn’t change the fact that Amazon is the future of mobile and why RIM will be their catalyst and brain trust.
The future of mobile isn’t faster processors and brighter screens – the future of mobile is about one thing: DECISIONS. Whether it is Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon or some unnamed organization that has yet to be built – the giant will be the one who can REDUCE the number of decisions I have to make as a consumer by learning what decisions I have made and presenting what I expect over time, WHILE giving me access on my own terms. Furthermore this giant must have an infrastructure to execute the outcomes of my decision the most reliably.
Amazon’s mobile saving grace is the kindle, it did for Amazon what the iPod did for Apple – except Amazon was already on the upswing and Apple needed a catapult at the time. The reason the kindle was more powerful is because Amazon was already the worlds leading online store – for products – not just books. Apple is unmatched in digital music sales, app sales, and is gaining ground on books. The problem: I can’t choose what I want to buy from Apple. I have to buy what they have: technology and media. Apple is digital lifestyle. Amazon is a marketplace. With Amazon, I can buy physical products that I need in all areas of my life – from big brands to bargain deals, and I don’t have to leave my home. I don’t have to go to the mall and compare prices, I go to Amazon and pick what I want and how much I want to pay for it - and Amazon wins either way. So what is the problem: People still buy things in person, we eat out, go to shows, and live outside of our computer. Each time I purchase something outside my home Amazon loses and Google Wallet or my credit card wins. If you are not familiar with Google Wallet, here is a quick video that describes how it works and the technology behind it, near field communication (NFC):
If Amazon is serious about mobile they will play to their strengths of redefining the marketplace as a brand that we know and trust – that goes with me everywhere I go - not just a place I go for everything I want. Yes, I will still pay with my credit card, but my credit card bill will only show me charges – if I pay with Amazon, I never need physical receipts again, all my transactions online and in person will be in one place and I can access it anytime with specific information about the purchase, the product, and the locations and reasons I made that decision. But, Google already does this right? Wrong. Google is redefining the wallet and HOW I pay, while Amazon is redefining shopping and WHY I pay. Google is a service. Amazon is a marketplace. Like Apple, Google can only sell me technology, media, and information. Amazon can sell me Apple products, Google Products, physical products, digital media, and even a steak for dinner if I wanted one.
What do I really want and expect? I should be able to make a wish list on Amazon and walk past any retailer while a message pops up to say they have one of the products I want at the price I was waiting for in stock with a map to the product’s exact location on the shelves. As a heads up, Amazon tells me if the ratings on the product have changed and customizes the ratings to include industry experts and my friends on social networks. I also want an alert if a new version is about to be released with tips as to if I really should buy now. I then want to make a purchase at any retailer via Amazon protocols using NFC on my phone, making one single shopping experience that I can expect everywhere I go, with the same security features, customer guarantees, and community rating systems. I want to be able to look back at my purchase history over the course of years and see how much I bought for myself, my family, my friends as gifts, and see the specific products and their community ratings at the time of purchase. Furthermore, I don’t want to hand over my credit card each time I have to make a purchase. I don’t want to carry a wallet. I swipe my phone and I can even “check-in” to authenticate my identity or get a special deal. I even want to be able to transfer the use of my credit card or an Amazon swipe using my account to someone else as a gift or in a period of emergency. They can just log in with their account and claim the amount – the bill gets sent to me. I don’t have to make a decision to trust any retailer because they don’t get my credit card information, just my money, and I already made the decision to trust Amazon who will keep my credit card safe. Oh, and this all happens in one seamless app experience – not seven.
Amazon can develop a software solution on their own to innovate in this space, and they probably are, but they need RIM to play to its strengths while Amazon plays to its own and they need to do it together if they really want to define what mobile looks like in the future.
1. Security + Trust
RIM’s software, data security and accompanying patents ensure another layer of protection to consumers who will utilize Amazon services on a mobile device. RIM comes with a library of patents that have been licensed to the federal government and corporations for their encryption technologies. Amazon is already a trusted marketplace and this deepens the level of trust consumers will maintain with Amazon when transferring, processing and maintaining financial transactions and records.
2. Cloud + Documents to Go
RIM acquired technologies associated with converting and editing documents on mobile devices and back to traditional formats, which has been a huge asset to enterprise users on the go. Amazon’s cloud is great for storage and viewing files but not making edits on the go. These patents will allow Amazon to make a more robust cloud platform that is more than just a file cabinet and allow consumers to convert files and edit them on the go securely without using a third party app or proprietary document programs on mobile devices and tablets.
3. Software + Hardware
The Amazon Kindle Fire is reliant on Android because Amazon does not have a mobile software solution. If they are making their own hardware and providing their own service they need the user experience built from the ground up to work together, a la Apple. This will give Amazon the agility to implement quickly and compete with both Apple and Google in the mobile device space with integrated services like the cloud. Amazon can retool the BlackBerry software and business solutions to add in consumer services like Amazon Prime Video and Kindle libraries with a backend system that is secure and protected. In addition, with the rise in mobile consumers taking photos and videos to share on social media, Amazon cannot ignore features that enhance those experiences for social. RIM’s portfolio also includes companies and mobile software solutions for video and picture editing. Amazon will also acquire software solutions for social with BBM and will not have to create a competitor to iMessage or Google Talk and Mighty Text, and doesn’t have to recreate the wheel for push notification services and protocols. Amazon will be able to put out a proprietary phone of their own that works with all their software and systems without compromise. More importantly, they can piggy back off of existing NFC technology for Android and soon to come in iPhone with the release of app solutions that provide the same point of sale solutions for customers regardless of phone make or model.
4. Enterprise + Government Marketplace
Arguably, RIM has stayed afloat because of government and enterprise contracts and solutions. BlackBerries have been the go to phone for most government agencies to do work securely on mobile. The problem is, Apple and Android have caught up and surpassed RIM in functionality and software solutions outside of email and calendars. Accountability and security are at the core of these RFP’s and contracts. But what can Amazon provide that Apple and Google cannot? A marketplace. Amazon can become a source for procurement, and organize purchases, history, users, and access controls so that people making purchases from office supplies to travel expenses (via NFC) on a budget, and can be organized and tracked digitally and securely. When it comes to corporate and government travel, Amazon can eliminate competition like Neat and reduce the time employees spend on processing paperwork. Finally, RIM contracts with government agencies and companies will supplement Amazon’s existing portfolio of software solutions they provide to The Department of Treasury, Energy, State and Agriculture.
Amazon is already the point of sale for more types products than any other marketplace on the planet. We need them to take us to the future of mobile marketplaces and they need RIM to guarantee a level of security and efficiency that is tested to speed up development and implementation. Furthermore, by having Amazon enter the mobile phone market, innovation between Amazon, Apple, Google, and other producers will take us to a place that we can only imagine for technology and mobile consumer products and services.
RIM, I need you to play to your strengths and stop trying to be like every other phone, we need you to secure the mobile future.
Amazon, I need you to cash in some chips – opportunities like this don’t come by that often and no one is in a better position to take on our mobile future than you.
In the end the goal here is to build and implement better products, services and technologies so that we all may benefit.