RIM's Platform Is Now Burning

Yesterday RIM reported earnings that were below expectations. (Revenue was $4.9 billion, profit was $695 million and off almost 10%.) After months of denial about RIM's outlook by management it's all out in the open: RIM is on fire and not in a good way.

It's time for the RIM version of Nokia CEO Stephen Elop's now infamous "platform is burning" memo. That immediately preceded the abandonment of Nokia's Symbian OS and the adoption of Windows Phone as the company's future.

One potential bright spot from yesterday's earnings release is that the company "sold" 500,000 Playbook tablets. However this is a fake number; it represents the number of devices distributed to retailers, not bought by consumers. In my travels -- and recently they have been extensive -- I've not seen one Playbook in actual use (though I have seen many ads).

RIM's BlackBerry brand is still relatively strong and probably stronger outside North America now. That's where the company's growth is today.

Hypothetically, with the right mix of products, RIM could stabilize and get back on track globally. But it's not clear precisely what RIM can do to regain its competitiveness. There's no easy answer here. 

If the company were to adopt Android as its platform it would become simply another Android handset OEM. And in that effort RIM would be soundly beaten by Samsung and HTC. Yet RIM's own software experience has been second-rate compared to the iPhone and Android devices (and Windows Phone). 

RIM's stock is way down this year and investors are grumbling. RIM is planning a buy back to keep the stock from sinking further. Yet Co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis are probably on the way out, or at least one of them. The company has also announced that it will lay people off, but it needs some major rethinking and retooling of its culture and processes to become competitive once again. 

There is a diehard group of RIM loyalists out there -- and they number in the millions. However, at least in the US, they are an endangered species.

Related: Some see Verizon's hand in RIM's US decline after the company shifted its allegiance to Android.