Timeline: RIM's rapid decline

As hard as it may be to believe, it was just over two years ago that Research in Motion was still considered one of the premiere innovators of the smartphone industry.

Oh sure, the iPhone was considered to be much cooler than RIM's assorted BlackBerry devices, but it didn't have the same corporate email capabilities, it was only on one carrier and there was only one model of it. And besides, Google's Android operating system hadn't really produced any hit devices yet, so where else could non-AT&T smartphone users go?

BACKGROUND: How RIM is getting left behind

Needless to say a lot has changed in the past two years. In this timeline we'll take a look at how RIM fell from its peak in the spring of 2009 to where it stands today.

April 2009: This was a really good month for RIM. How good? Well, the company reported record quarterly revenues, it sold its 50 millionth BlackBerry device and it unveiled its BlackBerry App World store that was designed to compete with Apple's App Store. And while the iPhone was still the talk of the tech world, RIM's BlackBerry Storm and BlackBerry Curve devices were quite popular with consumers as well. RIM, it seemed, was still on the up-and-up.

June 2009: Here's where the storm clouds started to accumulate, as RIM posted a rare drop in its subscriber additions from the previous quarter, despite the fact that analysts had actually projected stronger subscriber growth. What's more, as Mitchel Ashley wrote for Network World at the time, the company was experiencing a blowback from the BlackBerry Storm as many users declared that it was too buggy upon being released and that RIM put it on the market before it was ready for primetime.

August 2009: In a tacit acknowledgement that it will need to boost its browser experience to keep up with the iPhone, RIM acquired Torch Mobile, a company that specialized in developing mobile Web browsers, RSS readers and widget platforms. The company's flagship product was its Iris Browser that was specifically designed for mobile phones, set-top boxes and ultra-mobile PCs.

November 2009: Motorola's Droid became the first Android-based device available on the Verizon network.

December 2009: Market data from IDC showed that RIM had a very strong overall year in 2009, increasing its overall share of the global smartphone market to 19.8% from the 15.6% share it held in 2008. Apple was gaining ground fast, however, as the company expanded its share of the smartphone market from 9.1% in 2008 to 14.4% in 2009.

Spring 2010: The success of Apple's iPad took the tech world by surprise, leaving other major device vendors scrambling around to build comparable tablet computers.

June 2010: Apple released the iPhone 4, which now featured multitasking, a display screen with a 960x640 pixel resolution, a 1GHz Apple A4 processor and improved battery life. Some 1.7 million units were sold within its first three days of release.

August 2010: RIM released the BlackBerry Torch, an impressively designed device that was RIM's best attempt yet at balancing its strong qwerty keyboards with touchscreen capabilities. The trouble for RIM is that the device featured dated hardware for its time, such as a 624MHz processor and a screen resolution of 480x360 pixels.

September 2010: RIM announced that its first tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook, would be available in 2011. Early signs were promising, as the device featured some top-notch hardware including a 1GHz dual-core processor and a 7-inch LCD display with a 1024x600 pixel resolution.

November 2010: Apple surpassed RIM to become the second-largest smartphone vendor in the world, according to IDC.

April 2011: RIM released the PlayBook weeks after Apple released its second iteration of its iPad device. As released, the device was not ready for primetime as it lacked stand-alone email, contact or calendar capabilities and had to rely on having a "bridge" connection with a BlackBerry smartphone in order to have these critical applications. RIM also warned investors that its first-quarter earnings were going to be lower than analysts had expected.

June 2011: RIM announced that it was going to delay releasing its new BlackBerry Bold smartphone to upgrade its hardware. To date, RIM has released no new smartphones in 2011. An anonymous RIM executive released an open letter to the Boy Genius Report where he detailed the sources of the company's recent struggles. IDC said that BlackBerry OS ranks fourth among smartphone operating systems and is expected to stay there through 2015.

July 2011: RIM said it will lay off 2,000 employees, or roughly 11% of its workforce.

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Brad Reed

Network World
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