RIM suffers annus horribilis

It has been an annus horribilis for Research in Motion, the Canadian manufacturer of the PlayBook tablet and BlackBerry smartphones – and 2012 may not be much better.

Shareholders have seen the value of their investment fall by more than 80 per cent following a string of disappointing results and profit warnings; 2,000 RIM employees have lost their jobs; and customers suffered a large-scale network outage while waiting for new products that have now been pushed back to the second half of 2012.

Next year the company must bed down a change in its operating system that is designed to enable it to compete more effectively with rivals such as Apple and Google’s Android partners. It must also try to hold on to existing customers in developed markets while continuing to grow in developing markets, despite its ageing product line up.

And it has to decide whether to dump the PlayBook tablet, sales of which have been disappointing, or try to soldier on in a market dominated by a few big players including Apple with its iPad and Samsung, a distant second, with the Galaxy Tab.

But the immediate challenge for RIM’s senior management including Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, co-chief executives, is to restore confidence among stakeholders – even though many analysts now think it may already be too late.

Pressure on both men to relinquish their tight grip over the company is likely to increase in 2012 and RIM could face shareholder unrest or even a hostile takeover bid. The alternative, some fear, is that RIM will continue to lose market share and relevance in the highly competitive smartphone market.

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