RIM has issued a statement insisting it is not exiting the consumer smartphone market, despite reports from numerous media outlets. When RIM’s earnings report for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2011 was published yesterday, it painted a bleak picture of the once-mighty smartphone maker. Revenues for the fourth quarter were down 19% from where they were in the third quarter, and 25% from where they were this time last year. Overall revenue for fiscal year 2011 was down by 7%, while smartphone sales were down 21%.
Along with the earnings report, RIM made several statements about the company’s strategy moving forward. Part of that forward movement involved the departure of three of RIM’s top executives, including co-founder and former co-CEO Jim Balsillie. The company also announced a refocusing of its marketing strategy. During the earnings call, new CEO Thorsten Heins said that RIM plans “to refocus on the enterprise business and capitalize on our leading position in this segment.”
This statement was widely interpreted to mean that RIM was more or less abandoning the consumer market, leaving it to competitors iOS and Android, which have proven vastly more popular among consumers than BlackBerry. Now RIM is denying those reports. In a blog post this afternoon the company insisted that it “remains committed to the consumer market.” The company does not, in fact, plan to abandon the consumer market completely, rather the company will “focus its talent base and homegrown software and services on specific areas of the consumer market where BlackBerry excels.”
Citing the increasing use of personal mobile devices for business, the company says that they will focus on building “a smartphone that consumers will be excited to use both personally and professionally that will also satisfy their employer’s needs for security and data management.”
So there you have it. RIM is not abandoning the consumer market completely, they’re just focusing on the areas of the consumer market where they aren’t currently being trounced by iOS and Android. Specifically, they’re focusing on the BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device”) market – people who need mobile devices for work, and whose employers allow them to choose their own rather than issuing them. More to the point, they’re targeting that fuzzy edge of the consumer market where it rubs against the business market. To be fair, that’s where BlackBerry has fared best against iOS and Android, and it does make sense for BlackBerry to continue to play to its strengths. Even so, it’s such a narrow segment of the market and so closely related to the business market that it’s a bit difficult to see the distinction. Maybe they’re not technically abandoning the consumer market, in the strictest sense, but they’re abandoning most of it, and from most angles, it’s hard to tell the difference.
What do you think? Do you buy RIM’s statement that they’re not abandoning the consumer market? Let us know in the comments.