I am juggling between watching the movie “R.I.P.D.” and writing this blog post when it struck me that I should adopt the same title here.

Rest in Peace, Devices!

Just two weeks after Microsoft announced its acquisition of Nokia’s Devices and Services business, Research in Motion is writing down almost a billion dollars for its smartphones that lost charisma among consumers. Almost everywhere, RIM is considered “unofficially” dead.

Their epitaph reads:

Nokia and Blackberry: the two biggest brands before the iPhone era.  Taught fingers how to do the talking. Left the world with a million fingers talking about them.

Nokia and RIM could have survived if not for being too self-consumed by their own respective “mobile phone world.” Apple went out, proved to be, and remains to be the differentiator.

RIM panicked in 2007 after the first iPhone was launched but was too confident that Blackberry’s business users would stick to the email-focused device with an exclusive messaging service. It was too late for RIM to realize that sales would be driven more by apps than by hardware features. Before it decided to let go of the physical QWERTY keypad and make the BBM application available to iOS and Android users as well, RIM’s market share has sunk to unrecoverable depth.

Nokia was too confused which way to go. It got rid of Symbian OS in favor of Meego. After creating one great Meego phone, it went for Windows while the rest of the non-iOS world moved to Android.

Unfortunately, these wrong moves were lethal for Nokia and RIM.

Those who are afraid to die have been keenly looking at Apple. Google bought Motorola. Microsoft got Nokia. Apple made them realize that it wins by taking full control of the hardware and the OS. Now, Samsung is reported to be porting all its future devices to its own operating system, Tizen. It’s arguably built out of fear as Google has started creating smartphones with a proprietary version of Android.

Each of these tech giants are not myopic about innovation. All of them have made their marketing teams a lot of things to brag about. But the primary success factor in the mobile device industry in the last few years has been consumer-conscious innovation. It is delivering new ways that enhances how consumers use their devices, not just new technologies to bluff about which in the end do not get utilized at all.

The competition keeps getting more exciting. Two down, and more to go.

Hey Samsung, how’s Tizen doing so far? Make sure it’s not a re-branded Bada or else you’ll be next in the RIPD list.


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