Where Does RIM Go Now?

News of the growing strength of rivals to Research In Motion really isn’t new, but companies like Good and Seven continue to rack up deals. That’s not the real problem facing RIM, though — the real issue for the company going forward is the increasing commoditzation of mobile e-mail. Where Blackberries used to represent something unique, the idea of mobile e-mail, particularly in the enterprise is becoming ordinary, and will soon no longer be the premium service that now drives RIM. Two-thirds of the company’s revenues come from hardware sales, and there’s been a widely held rumor making the round for quite some time that the company would exit the device business and simply license its software out to any and all vendors. While it’s made a number of deals like that overseas, the ongoing NTP patent lawsuit has precluded them in the US. With that situation appearing to near an end, the situation may change. Some point to an acquisition by a big-name device manufacturer, as was rumored earlier in the year, but Nokia’s enterprise boss says it wouldn’t be interested as it can develop similar expertise on its own. So what happens to a company like RIM when device manufacturers and network infrastructure vendors can bundle their own email software into their products, or email server vendors include mobile functionality in theirs (as Microsoft’s new Exchange version will do)? There’s tremendous pressure on RIM to continue to innovate and offer enough differentiation to justify a premium price, but it’s hard to see just where that differentiation will come.

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