RIM Competing With Apple

Web 2.0 Summit – Discussions with Jim Balsille, Co-CEO

The Web 2.0 Summit is now over and I can catch up on some things. The interview, as I call it, with Jim Balsille yesterday was interesting, including the fact he kept coming back to the topic of the Playbook, but did not have one with him which he could show to the audience. Since he indicated it will be out on February 1st, you would think they would start showing it around for people to see and get excited about.

The most talked about item from the discussion was his statement of smartphone and tablet users “don’t need an app for the Web”, which was a dig at Apple CEO Steve Jobs. He continued to lay out his strategy about how they are open and you do not need proprietary tools to do apps with RIM where you do with his competitor. Several times he brought up the recent smack down on You Tube where they are showing the iPad and the Playbook side by side doing a sort of performance test of web browsing. The Playbook with its multi-core chip was significantly faster than the iPad. They are really pushing that video.

In typical CEO statements, the Blackberry is experiencing growth around the world, though he left out the losses in market share in the US. He did stress the movement to mobility which is where we all see things going in the next few years and the coming Playbook does fit into that scheme. He said that mobile phones are focused on speed, performance and apps right now and so is RIM.

When asked about the NFC, Near Field Communication for the mobile wallet, he did not state what RIM is doing, but did say they are always looking at new technology. Not a yes or a no answer. What was very interesting was what came after that. He talked about the need for credentials as it relates to NFC. This is a point of control issue and is something which will have to be determined as wireless providers, financial companies and business will have to work through as we approach turning the mobile web on.

Credentialing for RIM is something they have been involved in for a while with the Blackberry phones in the enterprise. In the marketplace, who does the credentials for a transaction will be key in the process to make sure people are who they say they are. If you have ever owned a Blackberry phone and watched it boot up, there is a security piece that loads to make the phone secure. In the financial transactions world, someone has to perform a similar task at the time of the transactions. That might be the wireless provider, it could be the phone (or phone provider), it might be the financial institution, it might be the platform things are running on or even a SIM card. All of these are in play as possibilities. Several companies are involved in this area and RIM needs to be competing there next quarter or they will miss out. Apple has announced they are putting software in IOS 4.2 to provide for the use of chips to do NFC. Others are jumping on that wagon and if they can resolve the credential issue quickly, RIM might get left in the dust.

While the smack down You Tube video was interesting, I would like to see a rematch. Since the iPad is closing in on its first year, I would be interested to see a repeat of the smack down with the iPad 2 and the Playbook. I wonder who would win in that battle.

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Richard Pike

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Richard has been involved with technology for over 20 years working on various projects and systems during that period. Located in the US, he has been following technology with a keen interest on where things are going and how it will benefit everyone.

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