BlackBerry PlayBook Upgrade Arrives A Year After Launch: A Timeline Of RIM's Struggles
Research In Motion Ltd., the Canadian company that makes the BlackBerry, released an update to its PlayBook tablet computer almost a year later than promised. Here are some developments related to its struggles to compete with Apple's iPhone and iPad and phones running Google's Android system:
Sept. 15, 2011: RIM reports a sharp drop in net income and revenue in the fiscal second quarter and says it has sold far fewer PlayBook tablet computers than it expected.
Oct. 10: Email and Internet services are disrupted for three days, primarily outside North America. RIM says a crucial link in its infrastructure had failed, and a backup didn't work either. By the third day, other users, including those in the U.S. and Canada, were affected by a backlog of traffic.
Oct. 25: RIM says it is delaying the launch of an upgraded operating system for the PlayBook until February, saying it isn't up to its standards yet. The company also says the new version initially won't have the popular messaging service BlackBerry Messenger. It's the third delay announced since the features were promised in April.
Dec. 1: RIM suspends two employees after their drunken rowdiness forced an Air Canada flight from Toronto to Beijing to be diverted to Vancouver. The two are later dismissed from the company.
Dec. 2: RIM says it is writing off much of its inventory of PlayBook tablets after it had to sell them at a deep discount. The model originally priced at $500 now costs $200. The company says it's taking a pre-tax charge of $485 million in the just-ended quarter. RIM also says it will sell fewer BlackBerrys in the holiday quarter than in the one that just ended. It also says it won't meet full-year earnings guidance of $5.25 to $6 per share, the third cut in a row.
Dec. 5: Police in Indonesia say a senior RIM executive is a suspect in a stampede at a BlackBerry promotion there in November. Police say several people fainted and dozens were injured at the global debut of the BlackBerry Bold 9790.
Dec. 6: RIM says "BlackBerry 10" will be the new name for its next-generation system after the company loses a trademark ruling on its previous name, BBX.
Dec. 15: RIM says new phones deemed critical to the company's future won't be out until late 2012. The company says the BlackBerry 10 phones will need a highly integrated chipset that won't be available until mid-2012, so the company can now expect the new phones to ship late in the year. The company also says BlackBerry sales will fall sharply in the holiday quarter compared with the three months that ended Nov. 26. RIM says it would only ship between 11 million and 12 million BlackBerrys in the fourth quarter, down from 14.1 million in the third quarter.
Jan. 22, 2012: RIM founders Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis announce they will step down as co-CEOs. Thorsten Heins, a chief operating officer who joined RIM four years ago from Siemens AG, was named as their replacement.
Tuesday: RIM finally releases an upgraded operating system for its PlayBook. The free upgrade allows for built-in email, calendar and contacts on the tablet — features promised within 60 days after the PlayBook's launch last April. The PlayBook had received negative reviews because it launched without an email program and the popular messaging service BlackBerry Messenger. The new version still doesn't include the messaging service.Flick through the slideshow (below) for an overview of BlackBerry-maker RIM's biggest missteps from the past year.
Blackberry PlayBook Flops, Prices Slashed
The PlayBook tablet, which was the BlackBerry maker's answer to the iPad, went on sale in April 2011. Since then, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/03/blackberry-playbook-price-rim_n_1181167.html" target="_hplink">RIM has lost $485 million</a> on unsold units. At the beginning of January, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/03/blackberry-playbook-price-rim_n_1181167.html" target="_hplink">RIM slashed the price of all models</a> of its tablet to $299. The special pricing will last until February 4. PlayBooks, which come in 16, 32 and 64 gigabyte models, typically retail for $499, $599 and $699, respectively, <a href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-1001_3-57351162-92/blackberry-playbook-price-now-$299-for-all-models/" target="_hplink">according to CNET</a>. In November, RIM temporarily <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/22/blackberry-playbook-price-drop_n_1107941.html" target="_hplink">slashed the price</a> of the 16GB version of the tablet to $199 at certain retail locations.
In October, BlackBerry <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/13/blackberry-outage-2011-rim-says-services-returning_n_1008596.html" target="_hplink">suffered an outage that affected</a> many of its then 70-million worldwide users, leaving some of its customers in Asia, Europe, Latin American and Africa without service for as many as three days. Some users in the U.S. were affected, but not for as long a period.
Drunk Execs Disrupt International Flight
In December, two RIM executives were fired after a flight they were on was forced to be diverted because the pair's "drunken rowdiness," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/02/two-men-face-hefty-fine-a_0_n_1125214.html" target="_hplink">the AP reports</a>.
BlackBerry 10 Platform Delayed
Research in Motion announced in December 2011 that its highly anticipated BlackBerry 10 platform won't be available until the end of 2012. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/16/blackberry-10-phones-rim_n_1153314.html" target="_hplink">According to the AP</a>, the company claims the holdup is because the chipset needed for the phones running the platform won't be available until the middle of this year.
Stock Slides In 2011
In 2011, <a href="http://www.dailyfinance.com/quote/nasdaq/research-in-motion-limited-usa/rimm" target="_hplink">RIM's stock</a> dropped <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/23/rim-ceos-jim-balsillie-mike-lazaridis_n_1222605.html#s629929&title=Lessien" target="_hplink">a massive 75 percent</a>.
Falling U.S. Market Share
In less than a year, RIM's share of the U.S. smartphone market <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/23/rim-ceos-jim-balsillie-mike-lazaridis_n_1222605.html#s629929&title=Lessien" target="_hplink">dropped by almost 50 percent</a>, from <a href="http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2011/3/comScore_Reports_January_2011_U.S._Mobile_Subscriber_Market_Share" target="_hplink">30.4 percent</a> in January 2011 to <a href="http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2011/12/comScore_Reports_November_2011_U.S._Mobile_Subscriber_Market_Share" target="_hplink">16.6 percent</a> in November 2011. In 2009, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/16/blackberry-10-phones-rim_n_1153314.html" target="_hplink">RIM controlled 44 percent</a> of the US smartphone market. (Pictured above is the HTC Desire HD Android, which runs on Google's much more popular Android platform.)
Investors Urge Company Sell Itself
A nearly 75 percent drop in stock price in 2011 did not please investors. At the end of 2011, Jaguar Financial Corp, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/01/03/balsillie-lazaridis-rim-research-in-motion-jaguar-financial_n_1180885.html" target="_hplink">one of the largest investors</a> in RIM, called "for substantial corporate governance change and for a sale of RIM, whether as a whole or as separate parts." Vic Alboini, the chief executive of Jaguar Financial, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16393180" target="_hplink">told the BBC earlier this month</a> that RIM has "lost it." "The party is over, we believe, in terms of trying to design that cool, tech savvy smartphone," he said. "Microsoft has over $50 billion in cash, RIM has $1.5 billion. There is no way they'll be able to compete."
The family of 11-year-old Kian McCreath of Coventry, U.K., gave RIM some of its worst publicity in 2012, telling the media the boy was burned and left with permanent scarring when his BlackBerry Curve 9320 exploded. Although cell phones that are left to charge too long are known to explode, for RIM the news represented a horrible publicity disaster that came just weeks ahead of the launch of its BlackBerry 10.