Can BlackBerry Make a Comeback in Legal?

2012 has not been a good year for RIM. The company became a favorite punching bag for technology pundits as it continued to delay products and fail in everything from marketing to developer relations. RIM’s co-CEO’s lost their job, and the company’s new CEO, Thorsten Heins, promised the company’s new operating system, BlackBerry 10, would catalyze a turnaround for the company, something many tech experts thought was delusionally optimistic.

The company has finally pinned a release date on BlackBerry 10: January 30th. Rogers and other carries are taking pre-orders today, and RIM is sending out preview hardware and software to over 120 enterprise and government clients.

Early assessments of BB10 are surprisingly positive. The Toronto Star describes it as “elegant” and as playing to the traditional strength of the BlackBerry: instant communication.

However, even if BB10 is a groundbreaking operating system that delivers an amazing user experience, will it be able to help the company recover from its moribund state? Mark Suster makes a compelling argument that, like Palm before it, RIM will die (or be acquired) no matter how great BB10 is:

Blackberry (RIM) will not survive as an independent company. Microsoft will buy it. Or somebody similar. They will use it to try and capture phone market share. I called this publicly 2 years ago. It has taken longer than I expected.

Why can’t [RIM] revive?

  • It is nearly impossible to go from grossly uncool to even mildly ok.
  • We are in a world where the eco-system matters and that means app developers. Who would sink their money into a moribund ecosystem?
  • RIM doesn’t have a “core” business that can revive its fortunes in the way Microsoft does

So would the last Blackberry user please turn out the light on your way out? I have already left the building.

Legal has traditionally been one of RIM’s strongholds, but even there the company’s devices have been supplanted by iPhones and Androids. Legal software companies like Clio, Fastcase and others have decided to forego building apps for the BlackBerry (disclosure: I work for Clio). Given that users and companies alike seem to have left BlackBerry behind, the odds of a successful comeback seem slim.

Do you agree? Let me know in the comments.


  1. “It is nearly impossible to go from grossly uncool to even mildly ok.”
    Since when did “cool” supplant functionality as the primary reason for purchasing a device…..

    “We are in a world where the eco-system matters and that means app developers. Who would sink their money into a moribund ecosystem?”
    Explain to me just which of these apps I “must” have in my corporate position, and the last I heard RIM was enticing app developers with incentives. Just how many apps do I need to be productive.

    “RIM doesn’t have a “core” business that can revive its fortunes in the way Microsoft does”
    RIM has 82+ million subscribers of their data network (rarely talked about), doesn’t that count?
    What about QNX?

  2. I for one am not counting RIM out by a longshot. I have experimented with iPhones and Android devices and I’m even an avid user of my iPad for all sorts of entertaining distractions but that’s the nub of it…every other device I’ve tried as an entertaining distraction. My Blackberry remains the most powerful business tool I have ever used.

    As someone who drafts lengthy e-mails and documents on the go, the QWERTY keyboard on my Torch remains far and away the best user interface. Blackberry BBM is still quantum leaps ahead of Qik, WhatsApp or whatever other lame alternative Apple/Android cooks up next week and it’s also a tool that, through the group messaging options, we use multiple times a day every day to keep in touch with our lawyers.

    I’m encouraged by the early buzz for the BB10 operating system. I wish the physical QWERTY keyboard was coming sooner rather than later but I for one am willing to wait.

    As someone who travels a fair bit as well (see my alter ego as “The Crime Traveller“) I’ve found that almost everywhere outside of North America, Blackberry is the undisputed king. We North Americans get a distorted view of the death of RIM. In South America, Africa and to a lesse extent Europe (I can’t speak to Asia) Blackberry IS the ‘cool’ device and people are salivating at a chance to see what BB10 has to offer.

  3. There was a recent time in which the BlackBerry was significantly more secure against outside attack than Apple or Android, because of its proprietary network. Thus the longer-lasting preference for BB among governments and lawyers, among others. (The much more usable keyboard probably had something to do with it too.)

    Is this security advantage still present? Do people worry less about security differences in this BYOD age, where many organizations are pressed by employees who want to use their own devices for business and personal purposes – in other words, because employers have resigned themselves to lower security (at least till the next big breach)?

  4. I am and always will be a crackberry. I too love the keyboard and often don’t bother to unpack ny computer when travelling. I think there is a huge pent up demand for the BB10 among other current BB users. RIM may be down butit is far from out.