From DevCon 2011 to BlackBerry Jam Americas 2012: How much have things really changed at Research In Motion?

By Chris Umiastowski on 18 Sep 2012 10:55 am EDT

It has been almost one year since RIM's last developer's conference in California. Remember the one where Mike Lazaridis (then Co-CEO) officially unveiled BBX in name only? No product, no demo, and really not much of anything. As Kevin put it, the RIMPIRE Struck Out.

At the time I was attending the conference on behalf of Canada's largest newspaper, The Globe and Mail. I published an article called, RIM's Strategy: It all depends on execution.

When I look back at that article, it was fairly critical. I was worried about the company's future... bigtime. I wasn't happy with the company's communication strategy since they provided absolutely no updates on expected commercial availability for BBX (now BlackBerry 10), or the long-awaited Playbook 2.0 upgrade that we eventually did see. We had Jim Balsillie giving interviews to the media one day ahead of the big keynote, telling us, "We've engineered a leapfrog of the industry. And you're going to see that tomorrow." Of course we saw no such thing.

About the only interesting demonstration coming from RIM at that show was the preview of Cascades. But we all walked away wondering when it would be available.

My conclusion, at the time, was that RIM was still talking a big talk without much to show for it. So how have they done since then? Let's see:

  • Within a few months of taking over, Alec Saunders and his team completely rebuilt the developer micro sites and pushed far more open source code onto GitHub for the world to see and use.
  • Developers that I've spoken to, who are still active in the BlackBerry community, have universally applauded the tremendous improvement they're getting. The way they describe it is not much different from being in a dark room, unable to find a switch, when someone finally enters the room and turns on the lights.
  • BlackBerry 10 previews started to hit at BlackBerry World of this year. At first they were pre-canned demos, but it's now evident that real working devices are being shown off to media, carriers, developers and other partners. We're starting to see this new OS move from accusals of being vaporware to being very, very real.
  • RIM seeded thousands of Dev Alpha devices and went on an unprescedented BlackBerry 10 Jam roadshow around the world, communicating directly with any developer who was interested in attending
  • They released the full native NDK along with Cascades, and have been doing amazing work in adding features to BlackBerry WebWorks, the HTML5 framework that RIM open sourced a few years back. Even the most jaded of developers (who are still active and paying attention) are telling me that WebWorks for BlackBerry 10 is a real force, unlike the initial launch of WebWorks for the Java BBOS platform (which was a disappointment)
  • We have seen a big number of game releases, making BlackBerry App World interesting for people who like to play games. We've got Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, pretty much every major EA sports game, the GameLoft collection of first person shooter games, and so much more. One year ago App World looked much more like a ghost town.

I'm sure I'm missing a lot on that list, so please throw your comments in the usual place. My point is to show that RIM has been making a tremendous amount of progress. I can't wait to see what they show off at BlackBerry Jam in San Jose next week. A big part of me is really disappointed that I can't go this year (business conflict). It will be the first North American developer event I've missed since the inception of DevCon. You'll still be in amazing hands with the CrackBerry crew and I'll do some armchair analysis.

Financial results out of RIM have been a disaster over the last year. But we knew they would be. How could they not, with no new products of any significance hitting the street? But always remember that financial results are backwards looking. They do not tell you anything about what's coming. That doesn't mean great things are coming. It still could mean the storm is getting much, much worse. My point is that you won't see the road ahead by looking in the rear view mirror.

Watching where RIM has moved over the last year is actually encouraging. But they still need to get everything to market. That's the big missing component right now. Thankfully, we've seen some pretty firm indications of a January or February release. We've seen evidence that carriers will support the platform. We've seen compelling evidence that RIM's UX is not just another iClone, but something unique to suit the needs of "people who do"

I love Apple products, and I love how they're running the company. A comeback for RIM doesn't mean Apple has to lose (or Google/Android for that matter). This is a very big market. A comeback for RIM simply means that they stay relevant to a core group of users and prove themselves capable of being a stable platform in the post-dumbphone world.

The way I see it, RIM is still in a very respectable fight to become the #3 mobile computing platform in the world. In the last year they've made good progress. I can't wait to see what happens next week in San Jose.

Reader comments

From DevCon 2011 to BlackBerry Jam Americas 2012: How much have things really changed at Research In Motion?


LOL! That's the first thing I noticed too! What about a shirt? I think a black T-Shirt with one of those stars on the front or back would just be awesome! Blackberry by Choice!

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Need those pillows for sure!

So anyone at RIM reading this, slap some wireless charging capabilities in there, and shrink 'em by 50% and make millions in accessory sales! Nokia is doing it with pillow accessories that match the lumia 920 colours, BB charging pillows would be the killer BB 10 accessory.

But the full size ones are great to and anyone going to San Jose please nab some and put them on ebay for those of us who can't attend.

I like the pillows too! And I also am looking forward to see what's going to happen in the next year. Too bad you can't attend BBJam this year Chris. Would've been nice to get your feedback.

I really hoping RIM takes the #3 spot. We will find out their chances once Microsoft releases WP8 to the public. I think the rumored date of Microsoft's announcement is Oct 25.

I hear you. Android and iOS are far ahead in terms of apps and device sales, but RIM should be aiming quite intensely on bumping one of them off :) Who's weaker? Both have weaknesses that RIM can exploit. Apple is very closed and vulnerable since iOS needs a big upgrade -- it's starting to look and feel old. Android is fragmented and hopelessly insecure. RIM needs a strategy to tackle the opposition. They can't be content being #3. Microsoft will want that spot too.


I agree with your view.

Why can't RIM make it more clear to support Android apps for most of the Play and keep BB10 for the Work. There will be some BB10 for games in the middle. This is an immediate win-win for RIM, not reinventing the wheel and add numbers to the Pla app.

Currently, Playbook supports some Android apps but not all. Part of the reason is the conversion process of .APK (Android executable) to .BAR (PB Dalvik Virtual Machine executable) required and part because of some code is incompatible with the Dalvik VM.

I am not sure if PB has the Dalvik VM with the Just-in-time JIT compiler which can make Android apps run as much as 5x faster. First, if there is no JIT. I hope PB will add JIT.

Second, to support more Android apps, spend more time to improve the Dalvik VM to handle some of the incompatible code. Nowadays, there are not a lot of differentiation between mobile in terms of hardware as most are using the same System on the Chip SOC.

Another thing RIM can do to increase the amount of Android apps available to the PB/BB10 is to set up a conversion program so average joe can simply import the .APK file, hit a button, it converts the .APK to .BAR and run. RIM should also provide a database of which Android apps are compatible or convertible, and even take request of Android apps conversion.

Currently, you can sideload more Android apps from Goodereader site using a program DDPN and the .BAR files made available on the Goodereader. This is cumbersome. Who will take the time to do all that if they are not a geek. RIM has to make it easier and better to allow PB/BB10 to access Android apps.

If there are big improvement on supporting Android apps for Play, this will be a huge step forward. Leverage on Android to boot strap consumer demand of PB/BB10.

The way I look at it is different, and I think there's plenty of room for 4.

RIM will be the number NUMBER 2 open platform that allows users to CHOOSE the services they want to manage their content. RIM, like Google will offer a full suite of services for consumers to use but just like Android, you won't HAVE TO use them if you don't want to. Plus, as always, BB 10 will allow users to customize and tinker around and side load and make the phone truly personal.

Then there will be the two sandbox 'Printer and ink' ecosystems - iOS and Windows Phone. The ones that forse the users to use a specific set of services and limit personalization to re-arranging icons or blocks on a screen. These are the OS'es for former dumb phone users who just want to be told how to use their phone. The followers, not the doers.

That's how I see the market segmenting. RIM will be the ultimate productivity tool as always, and it will be for the people who want to control their phone not have their phone control them. It will appeal to Android users and iOS users alike because it is like android in that it offers freedom from iTunes and Xbox Music + Videos, and it is like iOS in that the experience will be beautiful and consistent and there will be a fantastic set of first party apps.

Yes, RIM is for Work and Play and all encompassing (Open and Close).

I earlier suggested leveraging Android is the way to attract consumers. Then with bigger market share, RIM can attract developers. Chicken and egg problem, it has to start from somewhere.

Take advantage of the fact that the two biggest competitors, Android is Open and Apple is Close. Position RIM in the middle Open and Close.

Microsoft is a competitor but their pricing will always be challenging. Microsoft has to make money and HTC has to make money. Automatically, it makes a higher price than Android as Android is free. It is higher than RIM because RIM produces both hardware and software under one roof.

Apple will be tied up in court with Samsung. If Samsung will be successful with their lawsuit on iPhone5, Samsung will get their $1B back from Apple and plus possibly more.

Tim Cook has made big mistakes, 1) to go after Samsung, 2) dump Google Map before the in house map is ready. Some kind media said Tim made a calculated risk. I say Tim did not calculate, he just took a risk. Stupid to dump someone before you have your own stuff ready. iPhone5 is not leading anymore. Level playing field for hardware nowadays.

Next week is a potential turning point for RIM or die. We'll see.

RIM better hit not just a home run with BB10 but a walk off grand slam if they want people to give them a 2nd look. The impression many people have is that RIM is going out of business (many even think RIM IS out of business), so why would they buy a BB? Personally, I don't know anyone who has a BB or is planning to buy one. I've even uninstalled BBM because I haven't used it in almost 2 years.

Can BB10 compete with iOS6, Windows Phone 8 and Android 4.1 devices and survive? Especially when those devices will be coming out ahead of B10. Also Windows 8 will be coming out. Android has cheap products coming out for low end markets; markets that RIM typically held onto alone.

Come January when credit card bills start to pile up and people already making their purchases of technology for Christmas, will people be thinking of buying a B10?

What am I still doing with a BB? What does that have anything to do with my comment?

But to answer your question, I bought my BB in 2010 to see what they were like because it was cheap enough and it was a no contract phone. I will never pay for a contract. And it still works. I bought my first cell phone in 1987, it was a bag phone. The BB I have is my 4th phone since 1987. When my BB becomes unusable, then I'll get another phone.

Ha funny, ios 6, you mean ios 5.1 right?

Besides for apps and games there is NOTHING Ios has to offer that bb10 cant.

Apps and games, you mean two of the more important and critical features of a smart phone. One area that RIM is severely lacking in.

Games arent the most important or critical featues of a smartphone.. theyre important for a game/gaming phone

If they still making a good qwerty device than there is many fans for that ..only touch maybe you right...blackberry have to build first class qwerty devices with best battery .....i mean apple use also an windows emulator why today is not possibrl that blackberry use BB10 but if you start android emulator you can use the android market...???? For me the bste is in the end blackberry run WP 8 thats it

Research in motion will not be running windows phone 8 on their hardware.
Oh and PLEASE use a spellchecker. I couldn't even read most of the typing.

How would people think is already out of business if they're still selling phones? The people that do think RIM is going out of business only thinks that because of some idiotic salesperson tryin to get them to buy a android or iphone

How would people think is already out of business if they're still selling phones? The people that do think RIM is going out of business only thinks that because of some idiotic salesperson tryin to get them to buy a android or iphone

"A comeback for RIM doesn't mean Apple has to lose (or Google/Android for that matter). This is a very big market. A comeback for RIM simply means that they stay relevant to a core group of users and prove themselves capable of being a stable platform in the post-dumbphone world."

This is key. From a consumer standpoint, there is room for more than two options. However, is there room for more from a developer's standpoint? Is the core group of users compelling enough to earn a spot on developers' minds? Otherwise, BB 10 devices could be the best phones that "nothing" runs on.

RIM's efforts to win back developers are a great start. But, part of this strategy needs to include winning over the social media and service-oriented players who leverage apps as front-ends to their web presences. I can't imagine why these guys (e.g., Instagram) wouldn't want to get their apps on every device possible.

But, even at large companies, resources are not infinite. So, it must be a matter of not wanting to direct engineering resources towards what they consider "marginal" platforms. Furthermore, there probably aren't many, if any, engineers at those companies who use or evangelize BB.

If RIM can't persuade these companies to develop native BB apps themselves, it should propose they outsource development to RIM or another third-party (that RIM will pay). It should be *RIM's* goal to have every major app or service supported on BB even if RIM has to do the legwork.

Developers go where the money is period. Platform doesnt matter much beyond where they can make money.

Obviously not since it has been reported countless times that developers for the BBOS make more money since our market isn't as occupied as the others.

Yet, most Android apps are free and reports have showed it's difficult to make money on that platform. Some studies show it's difficult for small devs to make money on app sales period.

And again, what about Instagram? It's not trying to make money on its apps sales; rather, it wants to drive more users to its service. So why wouldn't Instagram want is app to reach as many users as possibles, especially considering emerging markets where RIM continues to be popular?

BB10 needs to bust out of the gate with an ecosystem of apps that can compete with IOS and Android, im not saying number of apps, im saying quality of apps, if you want someone to give up their platform for yours you cant expect them to if you can't provide all they have become accustomed to having and more... cant give a better experience if its empty performance, opening and closing apps navigating through a streamlined OS with no meat on its bones...

I want BB10 to be amazing, for everything that IOS and Android give us, it’s still missing something, something that I think only RIM can deliver. If I didn’t believe that I wouldn’t even be on this site, writing this post, keeping my hopes high for a BB10 device that makes me fall in love all over again with the device that showed me what a Smartphone was

Let RIM has the cake and eat it too!

Have most of the Android apps, has BB10 apps for games and work.

To get most of the Android apps, improve the Dalvik Virtual Machine so it can support more Android apps. Make the conversion from .APK (Android) to .BAR (PB/BB10) process easy so more can migrate over. If not already using the Just-in-Time compiler with the Dalvik VM, use it. Android apps can even run faster on PB/BB10 than on an Android phone without JIT!

Attract consumers, get more market share and the developers will come.

Heins has made changes in the company. I will give him a chance to carry it through.

I think everything based on the assumptions of the features of the Blackberry 10. If you look at Samsung and Apple in the high-end smartphone market, it has become an innovator verses a low-cost producer. R.I.M. needs to bring a strategy which they can take market share from the high-end rivals. We need to hear the comments from the analysts from Wall Street and Bay Street about that strategy. The focus of R.I.M. was to capture the market of the enterprise customers. They never really focused on improving the functionality of the smartphone. The Mike has the impression that the argument is about the touchscreen verses the keyboard. I think the touchscreen won because of the trackball not the keyboard. They focused on the security and the design of the smartphone. I personally think they can use their research and development budgets effectively with the focus. It is about the profits than the market share. I think enterprise market is where you can sell high-end smartphones easily. The high-end smartphone is the place where you get the highest return of the investment.

They have the inventor’s mentality rather than an innovator. The company was looking for the next big thing but they did not focus on improving the existing features. This would create the gaps in the features. The Windows and the Palm tried to come in the enterprise space but they were not able to compete with them. The Apple took a different approach to focus on the consumers. They went to focus on a bigger market. The rise of the consumer happened because of the reduction of the smartphones’ prices which made it affordable to the consumers.

R.I.M. never helped the progression of the mobile revolution after they made the smartphone. I think the Mike is a smart guy but he never focused on the trends of the industry. I think the Jim should have focused on that rather focusing the administrative side of the company. I believe that the technology team needs the guidance on the areas to focus. I think the business development should focus on the industry trends rather their carrier's relationships. I think business development is equipped to understand the industry trends because of the information technology training they get from the school or the work. They had to convince to the carriers to approve their products rather than polishing it themselves.

The Jim’s answer is to focus on the low-end smartphone market because they could not make the headlines in the high-end smartphone market. He did not realize what makes the smartphones special to be high-end. They did not understand the trends so the Samsung came into the market as a low cost high-end smartphone. They need to bring something revolutionary to capture market share from its competitors. If you look at the history the Apple became dominant because they brought in new technology. The success of the iPod has to do something with it. They had the celebrity endorsements for the iPod not the iPhone.

The Steve Jobs was not an educated person but he understood the trends in the industry. Based on the interviews, he seemed to mix and match the existing technology. The Android went out their way to prove they were not that special. I think this is what makes the Apple success not because of their technical knowledge. It is the marketing of existing technology.

If I was a CEO, I would do things to impress the shareholders. They are saying you do not know what you are talking about.

The tablets made it that top developer tools were a must for the enterprise customers. They had to buy an operating system rather than developing it in-house. The culture is not rebellious enough to have the shift in the changes. The culture supports the existing management so we saw the people leaving the company when they left. An example is that the Windows changed their document type from .doc to .docx.

The marketing style should be to improve the image of the brand. The psychology of it is that they might buy the brand again.

Rezaur Rahman

I think the strategy is More Play and More Work!

How more play? Adopt Android apps more deeply, on top of native Play.

More work - as they have done in the enterprise, in police, in government. Focus more developers on this big money making area.

BB Jam Americas in California is going to be an important event, from what I take it. If they do something exciting then they can set another energetic/optimistic wave for the developer community and BB user community, which RIM can, hopefully, ride out on until BB10 debut next year. In other words, they must not disappoint at this event.

~I am BlackBerry by choice~

I agree.

Exciting message about the BB10 software.

US is a market that RIM has to win back. All US media are hostile to RIM. Next week is the chance that RIM can talk directly to these media and show them what the BB10 can do; not just the hardware but software.

"I love Apple products, and I love how they're running the company."Time to find a new blog to read. I thought this was

As for BB10, RIM can be #1. Why do they have to "fight" for the number 3 spot? People I have shown BB10 (cascades) are really impressed with the product.


I hope RIM will show BB10 (Cascade) to the US media next week. Lets open the show as most other mobile vendors have already done even with shipping date far out into the future.

RIM should hold their spot with the consumers too!

hmmm...RIM RIM....
i do not know what are u doing right now?
Dev CON Dev Con Dev CON. what is the purpose? only for hire all programmers in order to make bb 10 very perfect?
btw i said that u have lose big market due to ur behaviour since last year. there is no new product, new operating system, no promo, no big news, no story and etc which make people eager to wait for ur product. u just make people very angry with the new prototype of BB 10 which is still unclear about the launching date..
Apple and Samsung have taken more than 50 % of blackberry user to migrate. around 40 per cent of blackberry user have been using blackbery device due to the only unique feature which is blackberry messenger. They have no idea without it.
But, sooner or later, when blackberry will not release new product, i believe that they will migrate either to samsung or Apple without feeling innocent.

This is what i need.....
1. Quality Games like Angry Birds, Cut the rope, etc. those types of games for leisure time.
2. Service Apps like Directv etc...

Once these apps are there, thats perfectly fine with me. We already have Angry Bird and Cut the Rope, but i need Directv.

Great article glad to see that Rim has started to turn the ship in the right direction and really making the media believers in the new BB10 mobile computing platform, thx for the positive article. And is there op still working for globe and Mail I wonder

Great article glad to see that Rim has started to turn the ship in the right direction and really making the media believers in the new BB10 mobile computing platform, thx for the positive article. And is there op still working for globe and Mail I wonder

Great article glad to see that Rim has started to turn the ship in the right direction and really making the media believers in the new BB10 mobile computing platform, thx for the positive article. And is there op still working for globe and Mail I wonder

Great article glad to see that Rim has started to turn the ship in the right direction and really making the media believers in the new BB10 mobile computing platform, thx for the positive article. And is there op still working for globe and Mail I wonder

Do you know RIM has a 7" Phablet?

Take the 7" LTE Playbook + ComWave ePhone. You can call 57 countries for $.01/min. At LTE speed, it got to be sweet.

That would be ME: simply send me a check for printing rights (let's say . . . $5000) then you can keep all profits, heck - I'll even give you licenze for LIFE for produce clothes.

PM me for my address - I prefer a cashiers check or bank counter check.

First apps I will be looking for when BB10 comes out: Sky5e and N3tflix Neither of those then forget it.

Simple mind just don't look for alternatives.

ComWave ePhone = Skype.

Netflix has old movies and it is dying. There is a free PB app called "Tablet TV Free". In it, Crackle is for free movies.

A great map app that not only can do online map and navigation, it can download maps from around the world for offline use and offline navigation. It is Osmamd - an Open Source Map.

How can you post an article without having done a spell check? It's unprescedented to publish an article without such basic editing!

"We've got Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, pretty much every major EA sports game, the GameLoft collection of first person shooter games, and so much more."

I don't have any of these games. I'm assuming they are Playbook titles, and I don't have the disposable income it requires to own one. Very frustrating that their is the disconnect between Playbook OS and the handset OS'. It sucks to see a great new app or game that is Playbook only. Also I'm confused as to why RIM is even still pushing OS7 devices. There is NO WAY I'd get an OS7 device this close to BB10 launch. I knew when they announced OS7 I'd never own one because I was holding out for BB10. I guess I'm ranting a bit, I am just frustrated and really want RIM to get BB10 into our hands stat!

Thanks Chris
Lets not forget though that RIM is #3 and has been all along. credit for witch is lacking.
I know you mean that BB10 has a respectable chance. I believe your right.

Hi Chris,
Agree with you completely. Lots of noticeable change. Specially with Dev relations and the way they see a finished product. I'm so glad Thor decided to delay the product till its completely baked. They are taking some hard decisions which wouldn't have been possible under the old management. Having said that one needs to give credit to old management. For having the vision for BB10. The series of acquisitions they've made towards this greater goal should be appreciated. What they lacked in terms of execution and communication is now being filled by Thor. I'm super excited for the keynote. Hope Thor announces some major partnerships and doesn't give away too much about BB10 features and hardware. Now is too early for BB10 previews.

Agree with you in the acquisitions.

If it wasn't for QNX, TAT, Tungle etc..., RIM would have been dead long ago.

It doesn't say much about the old dead wood in the company when all these special task forces (acquisitions) saved the company. It explains the 5,000 cuts.

Its not all that early.. They need to keep some leaks & previews coming up til launch. It will help keep the people that are on the fence thinking about jumping ships (or platforms) wanting to stay or possibly come back to BlackBerry. Plus i wanna see some new stuff.

Great PR *applause* So why OS7 again? A whole extra year to work out the "kinks" according to the new CEO is what is killing Blackberry if you can't deliver the product year in year out like I dunno EVERYONE ELSE you are sealing your coffin.