How did RIM lose its way? Five things that cost the BlackBerry its dominance

TORONTO – Research in Motion went from being a company revered worldwide for its innovative phones — coveted status symbols proudly carried by world leaders, executives and celebrities — to an industry also-ran that’s down to its last chance with BlackBerry 10.

How did RIM fritter away its marketshare? Here are five factors that eroded its dominance.

1. A failed transition from the corporate world into the consumer market

Before users became accustomed to fast and unfettered mobile web access, wireless messaging on a BlackBerry was the ultimate in high-tech connectivity. The ability to send and receive email on the go and trade BlackBerry Messenger texts spawned the CrackBerry moniker, and everyone in the corporate world had a BlackBerry or lusted for one. But RIM failed to catch the wave of consumer smartphone adoption and its rudimentary support of multimedia and the mobile web eventually looked pathetic beside Apple’s iPhone, Google Android phones and other devices. Only now with BlackBerry 10 does it appear that RIM has caught up to its rivals, but can it keep pace as Apple and Android continue to innovate?

2. Too many phones

Since its original release in 2007 only six versions of the iPhone have been produced. RIM, meanwhile, has flooded the market with dozens of BlackBerrys with consumer-unfriendly names and imperceptible differences. There have been Bolds, Curves, Pearls, Storms, Styles and the Torch, paired with four-digit product monikers like Bold 9900 that made little sense to consumers. Instead of focusing on perfecting just a few outstanding devices, RIM spread its attention across a multitude of phones, including some clunkers.

3. The annoying spinning hour glass, battery pulls

Somewhere along the line the BlackBerry went from being the phone everyone loved to the phone everyone loved to hate. As the functionality of BlackBerrys became more sophisticated, users got to know the infuriating hour glass icon, or clock symbol, which popped up (all too often) when the phone was getting bogged down. And many got in the habit of popping off the back lid to pull out the battery and restore their crashing BlackBerry to life. Of course, the process to then restart the BlackBerry took an eternity, or at least felt like it.

4. Lacklustre web browsing

Anyone with an older model knows that web browsing on a BlackBerry can be frustratingly futile. The BlackBerry 7 operating system did bring huge improvements to the web browser, which became embarrassingly inadequate in recent years as website design became more complex. Now, many popular websites won’t even load on older BlackBerrys, leaving users to build a mental checklist of what sites they can actually visit on the go and which just won’t work.

5. No apps

RIM’s aggressive push urging developers to finally write apps for BlackBerrys is long, long overdue. RIM allowed Apple’s App Store and the Google Play marketplace to develop huge leads over its own BlackBerry World before taking the app gap seriously. Many of the top-tier app and game developers are finally looking at the BlackBerry market but there are still notable omissions, including Netflix, Skype and Instagram.