The Success Metric For BlackBerrys Comeback

Looks like two new devices are being scheduled for the January 30 BB10 launch, at least according to the FCC filings that every tech site has been covering. You can imagine the commentary flying around given that smartphones have customers/fans whose fanaticism and bias rivals that found in professional sports. There’s plenty of criticism, doubt, and pessimism as to whether BB10 will be a success.

So how does one realistically measure and define success for a company in RIM’s position?

The Products

RIM is reported to have two products lined up for the launch:

The L-series (z10): Modeled after the Dev Alpha prototypes, a 4.2" touchscreen display with minimal hardware buttons, and a form-factor thats sleek and incorporates popular chassis styling (thin, rectangular, smooth rounded corners, glass and matte finish, etc.)

The N-series (x10): Clearly a descendent of the Bold device family, a smaller device with a hardware keyboard and buttons, and a 720x720 square display.

The Strategy

The strategy seems pretty simple: Build a device for the loyal BlackBerry fans based on their most popular model, and build a device for the modern smartphone (subtext: the competitors) customer. Its cost-effective and basic. Its also divergent from RIM’s history of offering a wide variety of styles and sizes.

There’s plenty of commentary from the competitor fan-base and the peanut gallery about how RIM is headed to the grave. Amusingly, this drum has been beating for a few years now.

Change Is A Process - Not An Event

Any “comeback” that RIM makes isn’t going to be instantaneous - the kingdoms of Apple and Android aren’t going to crumble on January 30th, just as they didn’t make their meteoric rise in a single day (or even a quarter for that matter.) The smartphone audience have wildly unrealistic expectations now, propagated by advertisements and announcements promising earth-shattering impact and revolutionary change just like the famous original iPhone announcement. An impact and reaction that was (and still is) heavily influenced by the culture of Apple and its customers - not solely because of a great product.

So then how is “success” defined for a company in RIM’s position? Some might claim success of a public company is reflected through their trading price. RIM saw fantastic improvement in Q4 2012 - I’m not a broker or professional market analyst but I’d call a 100% fantastic - but did the commercial public change their minds? No.

If the marketing campaigns of 2012 have suggested anything, its that the public is fairly delusional when it comes to product releases. For them, success would be defined as some spectacularly dramatic product announcement that leaves jaws on floors and the overnight decimation of Android’s market share. Thats not going to happen. RIM’s comeback is made with a whisper, not a bang.

The Definition Of Success

Thorsten Heins has a very clear picture in mind when he says he’s aiming for quality over quantity. Take your strengths, and capitalize on them as much as you can - the enterprise market was once utterly dominated by RIM, and the only contenders have been BYOD solution vendors.

I think a possible measurement could be: now when given the choice between BYOD and BlackBerry, organizations choose BlackBerry.