Skip to main content

Microsoft and RIM battle for third place, but is four a crowd?

Microsoft and RIM battle for third place, but is four a crowd?

/

With Microsoft and RIM battling for third place in the smartphone market share race, the question remains: can the industry support both?

Share this story

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

BlackBerry logo CES stock (1020)
BlackBerry logo CES stock (1020)

There is a business principle that you may be familiar with. The leader in the market, for one reason or another, is always the most successful. The second person can be quite successful, the third one has to struggle, and anybody beyond that probably ought to get out of the business.

Martin Cooper

RIM's in dire straits; BlackBerry 10, the company's would-be savior, has been pushed into 2013. Microsoft has yet to score a blockbuster Windows Phone. New global market share numbers published in recent days by IDC and Gartner still show no evidence that the industry can profitably support a third mobile ecosystem, much less a fourth. So which of these two next-gen platforms — both from mobile giants who've lost significant traction — can cement its status as a viable player over the long haul? For RIM, it seems that the window to parlay its two-odd decades of mobile computing experience into a new generation of products that can compete favorably against iOS and the world's best Android devices may be closing.

A look into Gartner's global smartphone market share numbers over the last dozen or so quarters reveals that BlackBerry and Windows Mobile / Windows Phone have suffered similar patterns of decline, with one very important difference — Microsoft has started to claw itself back out of the pit:

Gartner-smartphone-market-share

If the market can't realistically support more than three viable, profitable mobile platforms, there are early indications that Microsoft has already jumped into an early lead that will be difficult for RIM to counteract. Windows Phone finally started to see a meaningful uptick in the second quarter of this year, while BlackBerry — dogged by aging product and BlackBerry 10's Osborne Effect — has been losing share hand over fist every quarter since Q4 '09. If both platforms continue in their current trajectories, they'll be neck-and-neck in the very next quarter, and a strong push brought about by Windows Phone 8 and associated products from Nokia, HTC, and others in the fourth quarter will almost certainly push it over the edge going into 2013.

"...we are not trying to copy or to target one competitor in particular."

But is RIM specifically going after Windows Phone in a bid to cement BlackBerry 10's survival? Frank Boulben, RIM's recently-appointed chief marketing officer, wouldn't say so. "The number one thing we are doing is developing and designing a user experience that is truly distinctive. And through that, to have our fair share of the market. So we are not trying to copy or to target one competitor in particular," he told us. "BlackBerry has always been known for a unique proposition in terms of device and services, and that's what we intend to continue and do with BlackBerry 10 with a completely new user experience and user interface and through our applications."

Regardless, Microsoft is in a far better position to win a war of attrition where profitability could still be years away: at last tally, Ballmer's war chest included some $63 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments — a far cry from RIM's $1.9 billion — and there's no sign that the company has any intention of giving up on mobile (look no further than Surface, Windows RT, and Windows Phone 8 for evidence of that). It has already taken billions of dollars spent on engineering, advertising, and forging carrier partnerships around the world just to give Redmond the smallest uptick in market share, a nearly imperceptible sign of life in a brutal industry where iOS and Android reign supreme. "In the best case scenario, BlackBerry 10 will be badly behind Apple, Google, and Microsoft in terms of apps, and RIM is not even trying to compete on entertainment and cloud services," says Avi Greengart, research director for consumer devices at Current Analysis. "RIM's challenge is to create a platform that is so obviously superior to the competition in a handful of areas that some users are willing to give up the benefits of larger ecosystems."

"We think there is certainly opportunity for at least three platform offerings in the space."

Microsoft's Greg Sullivan wouldn't comment on RIM's fortunes specifically, but he acknowledged what a difficult market this can be if you're not in (or near) the lead. "There may be no arbitrary limit on the number of viable platforms supported by the hundreds of millions — and potentially billions — of users, but there are certainly diminishing returns past a certain point. We think there is certainly opportunity for at least three platform offerings in the space." Clearly, he believes Windows Phone makes the cut.

Thorsten-heins-555

"It's far too early to call 'game over' for anyone," notes Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg. "Much depends on RIM's ability to deliver BlackBerry 10 with table stakes features, compelling hardware design and a differentiated user experience." Greengart also gave Waterloo's weakened tech giant a sliver of hope: "[CEO] Thorsten Heins told me that RIM 'is keeping certain things close to its vest,' and RIM still has strong assets in enterprise mobility and BBM." With Windows Phone on the uptick, though — and a manic fourth quarter for Microsoft in the making — Redmond won't be making it any easier for Heins to right the ship.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 12:00 AM UTC Dimorphos didn’t even see it coming

R
Twitter
Richard Lawler12:00 AM UTC
A direct strike at 14,000 mph.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) scored a hit on the asteroid Dimorphos, but as Mary Beth Griggs explains, the real science work is just beginning.

Now planetary scientists will wait to see how the impact changed the asteroid’s orbit, and to download pictures from DART’s LICIACube satellite which had a front-row seat to the crash.


M
The Verge
We’re about an hour away from a space crash.

At 7:14PM ET, a NASA spacecraft is going to smash into an asteroid! Coverage of the collision — called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test — is now live.


E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 26
There’s a surprise in the sky tonight.

Jupiter will be about 367 million miles away from Earth this evening. While that may seem like a long way, it’s the closest it’s been to our home planet since 1963.

During this time, Jupiter will be visible to the naked eye (but binoculars can help). You can check where and when you can get a glimpse of the gas giant from this website.


Asian America learns how to hit back

The desperate, confused, righteous campaign to stop Asian hate

Esther WangSep 26
E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 26
Missing classic Mario?

One fan, who goes by the name Metroid Mike 64 on Twitter, just built a full-on 2D Mario game inside Super Mario Maker 2 complete with 40 levels and eight worlds.

Looking at the gameplay shared on Twitter is enough to make me want to break out my SNES, or at least buy Super Mario Maker 2 so I can play this epic retro revamp.


R
External Link
Russell BrandomSep 26
The US might still force TikTok into a data security deal with Oracle.

The New York Times says the White House is still working on TikTok’s Trump-era data security deal, which has been in a weird limbo for nearly two years now. The terms are basically the same: Oracle plays babysitter but the app doesn’t get banned. Maybe it will happen now, though?


R
Youtube
Richard LawlerSep 26
Don’t miss this dive into Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio flick.

Andrew Webster and Charles Pulliam-Moore covered Netflix’s Tudum reveals (yes, it’s going to keep using that brand name) over the weekend as the streamer showed off things that haven’t been canceled yet.

Beyond The Way of the Househusband season two news and timing information about two The Witcher projects, you should make time for this incredible behind-the-scenes video showing the process of making Pinocchio.


R
External Link
Russell BrandomSep 26
Edward Snowden has been granted Russian citizenship.

The NSA whistleblower has been living in Russia for the 9 years — first as a refugee, then on a series of temporary residency permits. He applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020, but has said he won’t renounce his status as a U.S. citizen.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 26
Netflix’s gaming bet gets even bigger.

Even though fewer than one percent of Netflix subscribers have tried its mobile games, Netflix just opened up another studio in Finland after acquiring the Helsinki-based Next Games earlier this year.

The former vice president of Zynga Games, Marko Lastikka, will serve as the studio director. His track record includes working on SimCity BuildIt for EA and FarmVille 3.


A
External Link
Vietnam’s EV aspirant is giving big Potemkin village vibes

Idle equipment, absent workers, deserted villages, an empty swimming pool. VinFast is Vietnam’s answer to Tesla, with the goal of making 1 million EVs in the next 5-6 years to sell to customers US, Canada and Europe. With these lofty goals, the company invited a bunch of social media influencers, as well as some auto journalists, on a “a four-day, multicity extravaganza” that seemed more weird than convincing, according to Bloomberg.


J
James VincentSep 26
Today, 39 years ago, the world didn’t end.

And it’s thanks to one man: Stanislav Petrov, a USSR military officer who, on September 26th, 1983, took the decision not to launch a retaliatory nuclear attack against the US. Petrov correctly guessed that satellite readings showing inbound nukes were faulty, and so likely saved the world from nuclear war. As journalist Tom Chivers put it on Twitter, “Happy Stanislav Petrov Day to those who celebrate!” Read more about Petrov’s life here.


Soviet Colonel who prevented 1983 nuclear response
Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images
J
The Verge
James VincentSep 26
Deepfakes were made for Disney.

You might have seen the news this weekend that the voice of James Earl Jones is being cloned using AI so his performance as Darth Vader in Star Wars can live on forever.

Reading the story, it struck me how perfect deepfakes are for Disney — a company that profits from original characters, fans' nostalgia, and an uncanny ability to twist copyright law to its liking. And now, with deepfakes, Disney’s most iconic performances will live on forever, ensuring the magic never dies.


E
External Link
Hurricane Fiona ratcheted up tensions about crypto bros in Puerto Rico.

“An official emergency has been declared, which means in the tax program, your physical presence time is suspended,” a crypto investor posted on TikTok. “So I am headed out of the island.” Perhaps predictably, locals are furious.


R
The Verge
Richard LawlerSep 26
Teen hacking suspect linked to GTA 6 leak and Uber security breach charged in London.

City of London police tweeted Saturday that the teenager arrested on suspicion of hacking has been charged with “two counts of breach of bail conditions and two counts of computer misuse.”

They haven’t confirmed any connection with the GTA 6 leak or Uber hack, but the details line up with those incidents, as well as a suspect arrested this spring for the Lapsus$ breaches.