Worst of the Week: The rise and fall


Hello! And welcome to our Friday column, Worst of the Week. There’s a lot of nutty stuff that goes on in this industry, so this column is a chance for us at RCRWireless.com to rant and rave about whatever rubs us the wrong way. We hope you enjoy it!

And without further ado:

Watching a once powerful industry icon falter is becoming a sad tale that has nearly lost its luster. Nearly.

The latest casualty of this “can’t help but stare” phenomenon in the mobile space is Research In Motion, which this week saw its bread-and-butter server operations take a(nother) worldwide dump. Now, something bad happening to RIM is not necessarily a new-new thing as the once proud BlackBerry maker has seen its once sterling shine lose some of its luster in recent years thanks to falling market share, uninspiring devices that seem a step (or three) behind and previous bouts of service outages.

However, this week’s events again showed the sheer awesomeness of how difficult it really is to remain top dog in any environment, especially one as fickle and fast moving as the mobile space.

The RIM issues seemed to have originate somewhere deep in Canada where my sources tell me they were caused by an angry pack of anarchist beavers and polar bears with too much free time on their hands. (This is also the cause for most traffic jams in Canada.)

RIM was eventually able to clear out the ruckus, but not before its once crystalline reputation took another hit. More devastating for RIM is that its core audience of top-level corporate execs that rely on the security of its e-mail servers and teenage girls that love the various Curve colors, are the two market segments that control the world’s economy. (I will let you decide which of the two have the most power.)

Of course, RIM is not the only mobile player to have seen its once soaring fortunes hit a rough patch. Another prime example is Nokia, which while still a powerhouse in many developing countries and is still the No. 1 device seller around the world, has seen its technological leadership position thrown asunder. There are many that still remember Nokia’s attempts at showing its technical prowess through its “lipstick” phone that lacked a keypad but did have a makeup mirror, as well as the N-Gage platform that somehow made mobile gaming less appealing than playing real games.

I would also bring up the example of Sprint Nextel, but that one seems to be just getting good and to delve into it now would appear to be a bit premature if I wanted to include the real juicy stuff.

All of this got me thinking about the current powers that be in the mobile space and their potential for screwing up.

Apple is an obvious target as the device maker has since the launch of the iPhone dominated just about every discussion on the topics of mobility, dating and the reason for our existence. But, with the howls that emanated from its legions of fans following the launch of its latest 4S device, some have begun to wonder if the current king of consumer electronics has hit the apogee of its flight over the shark tank.

Obviously, looking at Apple’s current position and not seeing continued unbridled success would seem foolish. But, who five years ago would have thought that RIM’s only true worry was how it was going to incorporate a BlackBerry device onto the Canadian flag; or 10 years ago thought that Nokia would perhaps find itself having to align with Microsoft in order to remain viable in the mobile space?

The most troubling part for Apple’s current predicament is that a new iPhone (perhaps with the iPhone 5 name that everyone was just so sure would be what was announced this time around) would not be expected to break cover for at least a year, or perhaps longer as the company recently extended its update timing for the 4S to nearly 16 months. (Did it really need 16 months to throw in a new chip and upgrade the camera to 8-megapixel?)

Now, I am not saying that consumers are going to start swooning over Android or Windows Phone 7-powered devices over the next year and a half like they do for anything Apple, but the pace of new device launches from those vendors supporting those platforms is breakneck. For the tech-o-philes this is a boon as they get to see new devices sporting incrementally faster processors, more detailed screens and faster mobile connections on a near weekly basis. But, for the average consumer, an update from a 1.3 GHz processor to a 1.5 GHz processor is probably not enough to cause a stampede down at the local wireless retailer.

However, with the speed of innovation in the mobile space seeming to increase on an hourly basis, Apple will need to remain vigilant if it expects to remain the golden glow in the eye of consumers. Also, they might want to keep an eye on those beavers and polar bears.

OK, enough of that.
Thanks for checking out this week’s Worst of the Week column. And now for some extras:

–The folks at Harris Interactive somehow managed to crawl into my head and figure out the exact subject line for an e-mail that would make me instinctively open in the midst of the mind-numbing events of this week’s CTIA Enterprise and Applications event in San Diego. And that subject line:

“Harris: 88% of Americans care about the launch of a new smartphone – from tech heads to prostitutes!”

That’s right, “smartphones” and “prostitutes” with an exclamation point!

Now a real reporter would take this subject line with a grain of salt and dig further into the heart of the e-mail to figure out exactly what Harris Interactive had managed to uncover. Me? I felt I got all I needed out of that subject line.

–The best item from this year’s CTIA E&A event was the orderly demonstration to a group of young people carrying anarchist paraphernalia that took place across the street from the San Diego Convention Center. Nothing like seeing those opposed to any sort of organizing partaking in an organized demonstration that included a police escort.

I welcome your comments. Please send me an e-mail at: dmeyer@rcrwireless.com.

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About Author

Dan Meyer

Editor-in-Chief, Telecom Software, Policy, Wireless Carriers
Dan Meyer started at RCR Wireless News in 1999 covering wireless carriers and wireless technologies. As editor-in-chief, Dan oversees editorial direction, reports on news from the wireless industry, including telecom software, policy and wireless carriers, and provides opinion stories on topics of concern to the market such as his popular Friday column “Worst of the Week.”