Sometimes, I find it hard to watch a big company tumble. I can't help but wince when organizations that had a huge presence in the tech scene begin to crumble.
Other times, I just throw my hands up in frustration and want to shake some sense into the executives. More frequently, I want companies that can't keep pace to step aside and let an innovative newcomer with fresh ideas take the reins.
These last few quarters, I've been watching Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), and honestly, I really don't know which bucket to throw it in anymore. Recently, I've grimaced at its downfall, chatted about next steps, and watched polls about its makeover potential. (See: RIM: Is the Party Over? and Can RIM Reboot?)
Now, I think it's starting to look like a comedy of errors, especially with yet another quarter of obvious missteps. I'm beginning to believe that “Stubborn gets what stubborn deserves” — meaning if company executives can't figure out how to dig themselves out of a mess and insist on spinning out useless babble, then I guess they'll have to figure out how to withstand whatever comes next.
Third-quarter results for the period ended Nov. 26 looked like this:
Revenue for the third quarter of fiscal 2012 was $5.2 billion, up 24% from $4.2 billion in the previous quarter and down 6% from $5.5 billion in the same quarter of last year. The revenue breakdown for the quarter was approximately 79% for hardware, 19% for service, and 2% for software and other revenue. During the quarter, RIM shipped approximately 14.1 million BlackBerry smartphones and approximately 150,000 BlackBerry PlayBook tablets.
And there was this piece of news: a $360 million after-tax writedown related to its inventory valuation of BlackBerry PlayBook tablets. So not only did RIM not leverage its ecosystem and sell as many tablets as it could have in a potentially big market during a busy time of year, it now has to take a writedown for what it did produce. Yikes!
In a statement, RIM's co-CEOs were jointly quoted as saying, “RIM continues to have strong technology, unique service capabilities and a large installed base of customers, and we are more determined than ever to capitalize on our strengths to overcome the recent execution challenges surrounding product launches and the resulting financial performance.”
From where I'm sitting, that statement means very little, and once again does little to instill near-term confidence. Pray tell, which RIM strengths are you specifically talking about? What is RIM delivering to its customer base? And what are executives actually doing to address the execution challenges you mentioned? We're all waiting, and patience is growing thin.
In the absence of clear, definitive, strategic goals, Web watchers have had a ball these last few days speculating on what's next for the Canadian company.
A Reuters wire story that was picked up and cited in other places points out that some key investors believe the company should go beyond ditching its PlayBook tablet strategy (something that has come up in the past few months on EBN and elsewhere) and consider getting out of the BlackBerry handset and hardware business all together.
And, as a post on Asymco notes, RIM officials said they don’t expect new BlackBerry 10 devices until late next year, which continues to feed a notion that the company has no credible plan for sustaining itself.
So, back to my original thought process. Watching big guys fall may be hard at first, and then it becomes maddening, and then it slips into absurdity. While RIM's recent execution strategy isn't really a joke, it should serve as an example to others who prefer to stick their heads in the sand instead of dealing with problems head-on.