Why RIM Gets a 'Bye'

Amid all the frenzy swirling around Android and the iPhone is RIM, with its loyal user base but substandard user experience (other than email). RIM came out with the Storm and Bold, bought a mobile browser development shop and is moving to try and create an improved and differentiated (and more integrated) user experience.

Financial analysts expect that RIM's forthcoming quarterly sales figures will be strong (though margins are uncertain).

Corporate IT managers continue to be very loyal to RIM as well as its installed base of users who value its keyboard and email functionality. Together they buy the company time to develop a more competitive mobile Internet experience. The Storm and even the Storm 2 are a disappointment -- and overshadowed now by Droid at Verizon in the US. 

Increasing international distribution will enable the handset maker to grow sales but there must be fundamental changes and improvements in the overall user experience if RIM is to thrive over time.  

By the same token RIM seems to be enjoying some improved customer satisfaction numbers according to a recent BrandIndex survey:

BlackBerry’s BrandIndex score at the start of 2009—with BrandIndex asking consumers, “Are you a satisfied or dissatisfied customer of the brand?”—was 7.25 percent. By July that number was over 10 percent, and on Dec. 8, it was 13 percent.

While RIM faces intense competition on the consumer side (the key to future growth), it remains the darling of enterprises. That strength is RIM's saving grace right now. 

___

Update: A comment on Twitter in response to this argues that BlackBerry is very popular with youth in the UK. This is likely because of the keyboard and the focus on SMS usage. That's another reason the handset may "weather" in near-term competition as it improves other features of the UX. In addition, RIM and its carrier partners have been aggressively discounting to maintain sales momentum.