Is IBM's Defection Another Sign of RIM's Demise?
Is the recent announcement by IBM to drop support for its Lotus collaboration software client on Research in Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry yet another signal that RIM (news, site) is about to meet its demise? It sure seems that way.

Editor's Note: IBM's public relations firms contacted us to dispute this news, saying it has not dropped support for the BlackBerry at all. See IBM's statement.

The Decline of BlackBerry

IBM has announced that is withdrawing support for the BlackBerry client for Lotus software as of July 13. Once support is withdrawn, customers will no longer be able to get the product from IBM. Neither company has indicated whether RIM will continue to support the client independently of IBM, or if BlackBerry will lose support for Lotus.

Is IBM’s elimination of support for BlackBerry yet another sign that enterprise support for the once leading-edge phone is faltering? Several studies show overall smartphone use is growing, but not for RIM’s BlackBerry. According to analyst firm comScore’s most recent statistics for U.S. mobile trends, the market share for RIM has dropped significantly this year.

Editor's Note: IBM has denied they are dropping support for the BlackBerry. In a statement to CMSWire via email:

-- IBM is not dropping support for its collaboration products on RIM BlackBerry devices. Mobile access to applications is a strategic initiative for IBM, and a key investment area. RIM has been an important partner for IBM and its customers, and will remain so as IBM executes its mobile roadmap. RIM is an important participant in the IBM Social Business Initiative, including IBM Connections and Quickr, and will continue to deliver native client support for IBM Lotus Notes and IBM Sametime.

Based on customer requirements for best-of-breed mobile support, IBM is targeting the native capabilities of popular mobile platforms from RIM, Android and Apple. Microbrowser support for BlackBerry 6+ devices was added in IBM Connections 3.0.1. Going forward, the IBM plan is to deliver mobile clients to provide additional social collaboration support across these popular mobile platforms. These offerings will be made available through the respective distribution channels of the platforms. Details on these clients will be announced at a future time.



Smartphone market share (source: comShare)

Smartphone market share (source: comShare)

Remember the 'Crackberry'?

Although RIM remains in the top five most popular mobile environments, the number of subscribers has been exceeded by both Google and Apple. RIM’s BlackBerry was a pioneer in allowing access to corporate email without a PC -- ushering in the now familiar behavior of working from everywhere. BlackBerry use was once so popular that it received the moniker “Crackberry” because of users’ tendency to compulsively check office email on the device. But, it seems that RIM is buckling to smartphone competitors such as Android and Apple’s iPhone, which now offer more innovative features, like touch screens, than BlackBerry. The recent decline was likely also sped by a large number of consumer complaints about malfunctions in the BlackBerry such as the user interface freezing.

RIM’s stock price is falling with its market share. The company’s stock was US$ 38.11 as of June and is currently priced at US$ 27.84. If RIM wants to regrow its user community, it should consider abandoning its attempt to focus on the extremely competitive consumer market and instead return to its corporate origins.