Why RIM needs the impact of a Siri

Some recognized that HP’s decision to exit the handset market was a small boost for RIM, Not only was HP thought to be more aggressive in going after RIM’s enterprise customers with a vertically integrated offering, but the scuttling of the Pre 3 left the Torch as one of the few vertical sliders in the market.

However, separate from the recent BlackBerry network outage that we’ve seen before, there’s at least two reasons for the lack of enthusiasm around  the company. The first is the challenge in getting people excited about its latest developments in BlackBerry 7. RIM has focused on finally tackling the BlackBerry’s generally lagging animation and greatly accelerated its browser. They were likely the moves that would have yielded the best return on effort and RIM has been effective on both fronts, but these are catch-up maneuvers.

On the other hand, there is the inclusion of NFC in the Bold 9900 and the forthcoming release of BlackBerry Tag.. Tag appears as though it will be the most advanced “touch-to-share” capability on the market, allowing two users to share “contact information, documents, URLs, photos and other multimedia content” by tapping together two compatible devices. RIM is also opening up Tag to third-party developers. That’s not only far beyond what HP was including in touch-to-share, but RIM is building it on the NFC standard as opposed to the proprietary Touchstone architecture that HP would eventually have probably had to migrate from eventually

As avant-garde and “gee-whiz” as NFC is, though, Tag is also failing to capture people’s enthusiasm because it works only with a subset of BlackBerry devices and is only of use when working with someone else who owns one of that subset. Contrast this with Siri, which brings delight to consumers right of the box without needing another Apple iOS device around.

The second major issue causing many to question RIM’s future is – assuming RIM can tie together the many acquisitions its made in the last two years – the differentiation of the result of its amalgamation. RIM isn’t going to outspend the big three ecosystem players and its robust corporate marketing strength isn’t very exciting to many consumers (or even necessarily to businesses with unmanaged IT). Here, too, Siri or something with its impact could be a huge win, because it helps stir the imagination of a user experience that is fundamentally different from that of the competition.

The unfortunate conclusion is that RIM would be unlikely to deliver something like Siri. Perhaps Apple is overstating it somewhat, but it has reserved Siri for its latest dual-core processor devices, and RIM continues to believe in delivering “just enough horsepower” for what a handset needs, relying on its network infrastructure to do a lot of the heavy lifting. But Siri is a great example of why RIM’s approach is misdirected. Skimping on the processor can indeed provide enough horsepower to run today’s applications, but it can also place limits on how a company can push the envelope.

BlackBerry Tag (along with Liquid Graphics) shows that, on some level, RIM understands this need for supporting hardware and the company clearly recognizes the potential of dual-core processors to produce next-generation superphones nirvana, but it’s not painting a picture of that promised land.

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