Steve Jobs: RIM will have to change to catch up with iPhone, iPad

During Apple's Q4 2010 conference call today, surprise attendee Steve Jobs took it to RIM, their BlackBerry link, and upcoming PlayBook tablet saying they'll have to fundamentally re-invent themselves to catch up.

Highlights, paraphrased:

  • Steve Jobs! (SJ): 14.1 million iPhones represents 91% growth. Handily beat RIM's 12.1 million BlackBerry's sold in most recent quarter. Past RIM, doesn't see them catching up. They must become a software platform company. A challenge for them. A high mountain to climb.

When it comes to their PlayBook tablet, he lumped them in with criticism for smaller screened Android Tablets as well:

  • SJ: Other tables appear to be just a handful of credible entrants. Almost all use 7" screens compared to iPad 10". Would offer 70% of benefits. But only 45% as large because of diagonal measure. 7" screens a bit smaller than bottom half of iPad screen. Not big enough to make great tablet apps.
  • SJ: Apple has done extensive testing, really understand this stuff. Limits to how close you can place elements for usability. Why 10" is minimum size for great tablet apps.
  • SJ: Every tablet user is also smartphone user. No tablet can fit in your pocket. Giving up precious diplay area to fit tablets in pockets isn't the way to go. Tweeners.
  • SJ: iPad now has more than 35,000 apps. New tablets will have 0.
  • SJ: Competitors have a tough time coming close to iPad pricing even with smaller screen. Apple creates own chip, battery chemistry, enclosure, everything. Incredible product, incredible price. Competitors will likely offer less for more.
  • SJ: New crop of tablets will likely be DOA. Too small. Will increase size next year, abandon customers and developers who went 7-inch.

That's some tough talk for the entrenched enterprise champion, with an incredibly passionate install base wrapped up in BES and BBM. Is QNX the reboot he's talking about, or is the Torch and Style a sign it's not coming fast enough?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Steve Jobs: RIM will have to change to catch up with iPhone, iPad

15 Comments

@ Dominick
Seems so, personally, I agree with Steve on his opinion concerning tablets. I always thought a 7in tablet was too small.

Why does RIM have to catch up with Apple? They cater to two different markets. RIM is all business, Apple is all consumer. At my workplace I have professionals that do all their business on a BB but pull out an iPhone/iPod for their home stuff.
BB's network, enterprise integration, and physical keyboard will keep it in the forefront for business customers for a long, long time. I can't see Apple breaking that anytime soon.

@Joost what about when your company supports the iPhone and those people figure out they no longer need to carry around 2 phones and ditch their BB's like is happening all over.

SHows you know nothing of the web, the web consists largely of flash based websites and games - SJ's refusal to implement flash on his devices will ultimately spell disaster for their marketshare when better more functional devices are released. Only time will tell if RIM is able to fill this void - admittedly other tablets have not come close, but even the ipads have big flaws
Not to mention SJ actually filters what websites you can go on too...take wikileaks for example...hes blocked that from his devices now.
Filtering the consumer's choice of usage is a very bold and risky move- people don't like being restricted - the only reason apple do so well is due to the massive advertisement - i actually see more people with a blackberry bold or a blackberry torch than I do any other phone out there

The federal government uses Blackberrys pretty much exclusively. Until Apple cracks that particular market, RIM is going to be in the race for a while. And if Apple's market share with federal government laptops and desktops are any indication, RIM doesn't have much to worry about there.

(Per the Joost/sting7k comments)
Many companies are cracking down on personal use of corporate assets (it's not just surfing anymore) - they're limiting use of ALL corporate assets - forcing people to carry a second device for personal use. We'll see more of this trend in the fortune 500, not consolidation.
Secondly, we've seen inroads by the iPhone into the corporate space (and Cupertino has been working on a back-end server farm for some time - mobile me is just the start...wait for it).
Bottom line, if you control the consumer space, you can leverage that to own the enterprise space. (you can have your enterprise market segment run at a loss to eliminate your competition). A good example is what Dell's been doing in the server space.
If BlackBerry doesn't become a leader in the consumer space, it's just a matter of time. The only saving grace is that there's room enough in the market for everyone right now. When everyone in the world has a smartphone, things are going heat up from a competition standpoint.

@sting7k Medium, large, and huge corporations are notorious for being conservative when it comes to changing their internal technology / infrastructure that is supported. Heck, I still use Windows XP on my work notebook.
The flexibility / power corporate IT has to manage BBs is one of the big reasons I don't see iPhone making inroads anytime soon.
Apple is also going to have to come up with a network infrastructure that is as secure/trusted as BB e-mail/messenger if they're going to make any inroads with enterprise customers. That server farm may be it... I don't know. But it's gotta be something that will compare.

As long as people can continue to hack, 'jailbreak', and 'root' their operating systems on iOS and Android, RIM has nothing to worry about when it comes to an invasion on REAL businesses. Smaller companies my let people use iPhones and such, but NO major corporation is going to let sensitive data onto a mobile platform they can't control.

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