How The Mighty Have Fallen. Could RIM Get Its Mojo Back?

In around five weeks, the world is going to watch as one of the smartphone giants from the past two decades attempts to stay relevant. For years now, RIM's hardware just hasn't livd up to modern expectations, and despite a loyal following, BlackBerry's market share has slipped tremendously as BB users have slid over to iOS or Android. But on Jan. 30, 2013, RIM will officially take the wraps off of BB 10, it's next-generation operating system. Pundits hammered on RIM when it announced earlier this year that BB 10 would have to wait until 2013, but what if it's actually worth the wait? What if the doomsday talk is overblown? What if RIM actually takes the time to get BB 10 right, and it rekindles interest in the platform that has been waning for so long?

It's easy to assume that RIM is dead and washed up. It's easy to assume that Android and iOS have such a commanding lead, that nothing RIM does at this stage will reverse its fortunes. But everyone loves a good comeback story, and RIM couldn't have asked for a better situation to foster such a story. For one, it'll be the only major platform launching new software in Q1 2013, so that stage is going to be completely owned by RIM. Moreover, many power users have complained that Android and iOS have grown a bit long in the tooth, with the "grid of apps" look getting a bit dated. Third, everyone in the smartphone arena is apt to give RIM at least one more passing glance, and if they truly ship a revolutionary product, it may pull back more than just enterprise users.

BlackBerry 10 Prototype

But here's the other thing: international sales. While the U.S. market have may moved on, many other nations in Europe, Asia and Africa see RIM differently. Even older BlackBerry handsets are selling at a premium in Africa, and RIM may be able to conquer markets outside of North America in order to maintain its position. Will it ever return to dominance? That depends on how you're judging things. One thing's for sure: we're all going to watching in Q1 to see what kind of rabbit RIM pulls out of its hat.