RIM upgrades the BlackBerry, but not much--the case for opening up

RIM needs to foster a community around its products.

Though Research in Motion continues to keep the BlackBerry a frustratingly closed platform (with precious few applications--my biggest complaint about an otherwise great device/service), it is upgrading its software to add some interesting new features, the Wall Street Journal reports:

With the aim of making mobile e-mailing more like e-mailing from a desktop computer, RIM said BlackBerry users will soon be able to edit documents directly from the handheld device and to view messages in their original formatting...[RIM] also said the changes will enable users to retrieve e-mail messages that aren't stored on the device and to check the availability of a colleague before sending a meeting request.

To wait so long...for so little. At this pace, Apple's iPhone will leapfrog the BlackBerry. Already, I've noticed scads of new iPhones being used in corporate settings. But for the lack of a keyboard, I'd be on an iPhone, too.

RIM makes great hardware and decent software. It needs to recognize, however, that it's not the center of all original thinking. Once it came up with its idea and implemented it, it hasn't done much in the way of innovation.

Now is the perfect time to jumpstart innovation by allowing its community of users and developers to grow RIM's value. Look at Microsoft. Proprietary though it may be, the company has done an exceptional job of opening its platform (if only just enough) to enable third-party developers to turn vanilla Windows into center stage in application innovation.

This is RIM's opportunity, too. It's not that it should sit back and let "the community" do everything for it. That doesn't work. But if it will just allow more minds outside Waterloo, where it's headquartered, to assist the minds inside of Waterloo, it will provide more value to customers like me and ensure its longevity.


Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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