RIM: Kill Yourself So Others Might Live

RIM: Kill Yourself So Others Might Live

RIM is toast. RIM, in the very near future, will no longer exist. BB10 will probably never be released. The ship is sinking, on fire and covered in ants. If it keeps bleeding out, there maybe nothing left worth saving. But if RIM chops itself up for salvage now? We all win.

Here’s a neat thought: RIM could actually serve this cold planet by dying. Why? Because underneath all that blubber and gristle, the company’s got some valuable innards: BBM, hardware smarts, and a boatload of clever patents. Here’s how we should carve this turkey up.

It’d be bad acting to call RIM’s demise a tragedy, or something resembling a loss for anyone who isn’t a RIM employee. They have our sympathies, but RIM as a company deserves the slow moaning death coming for it. It treated the iPhone as a joke, then spent years cranking out sad catch-up attempts. But really, who cares — the intricacies of RIM’s implosion are as bleak and mundane as they are manifold. Let’s not retell that old campfire story. Let’s see what good can come of it.

At this point, BBM, BlackBerry’s sorority girl/business executive IM system of choice, is the best thing it has going on. And there’s no damning by faint praise here — BBM really is terrific, putting the rickety and unreliable iMessage to shame. It’s been over a year since Apple dropped iMessage on us, and if anything, it’s getting worse — messages are frequently dropped or delayed, vanishing into the textual ether, and syncing between iOS devices rarely works.

BBM? No problems. This owes largely to the fact that BBM is ancient compared to iMessage, with years upon years to tweak, augment, and wrangle out bugs. So it’s no surprise that RIM’s IMs are more reliable than Christmas, and offer neat mini-features like the ability to “ping” friends (think Facebook poke, on a phone) and set a status message. Meanwhile, Apple can’t even get a message to jump from one phone to another a lot of the time.

So here’s an idea, RIM: sell it. If Apple bought the entire BBM team (and hell, maybe the servers it uses too) and subsumed the whole operation within iMessage, iMessage would no longer be an uneven blemish. iMessage could be fast, reliable, smooth — everything we want it to be — combining Apple’s design divinity with the workhorse functionality of BBM. It’d be great for us to use. Your mobile chat would both look good and work well, and some smart people from up north at RIM would keep their jobs.

There are other ways this could play out, too — a private equity firm could acquire the BBM division and spin it off as its own company, licensing the messaging magic to those who need it. You know who needs it? Microsoft, who doesn’t have any kind of proprietary, cool kids IM service like iMessage. Or maybe MS will buy BBM outright.

RIM’s hardware team isn’t as killer as the BBM squad — the company has put out some seriously shit-sandwich handsets in recent years — but for a company like Amazon, it could be a tremendous leg up. Although RIM is responsible for the BlackBerry Storm — a smartphone worthy of trial at The Hague — it also birthed the PlayBook. Sure, the PlayBook was a black rectangular Lusitania of its own, torpedoed by RIM’s software ineptitude, but the hardware was top notch. It coulda been a contender. Despite a hit or miss track record, RIM has at least a few heads in Canada who knows how to design a good gadget. Amazon has already made a couple, and there’s no doubt it has its eye on more — buying up the knowhow behind successes like the PlayBook could give the Kindle Fire lineage more than budget appeal. Amazon could be a serious maker of things — it should be a serious maker of things, and cannibalising the best thing-makers from RIM is smart.

But BBM and hardware slivers aren’t the only delectable bits on the butcher block: Reuters reports Microsoft is eyeing RIM’s patent goodie bag, which could be snatched up for a song and used to bolster the struggling Windows Phone endeavour. Even if BlackBerry experiment is ending in a slow, smouldering slide down the side of a cliff, it’s picked up wisdom along the way in the form of patents. This should be passed on. The story should be told. Whatever clever tricks RIM’s invented should be handed over before it expires — a multi-billion dollar deathbed confession that could give WP the boost it needs to, you know, not crumble away like BlackBerry.

The worst case scenario is that RIM becomes the next Palm, collapsing into the arms of an uncaring possessor. But the best case scenario is a tech world bolstered by what little good RIM has left in it. The buffalo is dead. Let’s use every part.

This is your best shot, RIM. It’s not even really a shot. It’s not even a crash landing. It’s a graceful exit from the mortal plane, letting you live on, at least in spirit, through the success of people who just did it better. You completely blew it, and we’re wll watching you disintegrate. But if you put yourself up for sale and attract the right buyers, your last blast might be a fireworks show instead of a bloody exit wound.