RIM ends the game with Zip

11 November 2012 by Steve Blum
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Remember the Iomega Zip drive? Back when laptops had 80 meg hard drives and a gig was just a dream, the 100 MB Zip super floppy was hot. But Iomega couldn’t push it beyond 750 MB.

ZipdriveI retired mine in 1997, and Iomega gradually moved it to the back of their catalog. Slowly. Even in the 2005 time frame, they still had Zip customers. Government agencies, mostly. Isolated from competitive pressures and soaked in a culture that often enshrines blame and ignores achievement, public sector IT life cycles are glacial.

That’s why I think RIM will survive a lot longer than industry analysts are predicting. Blackberry is the safe bet for government buyers, who see it as secure, safe for work and – most importantly – controllable.

RIM CIO Robin Bienfait leaned heavily on RIM’s reputation for security and centralized control during her keynote speech at last month’s MobileCon show in San Diego, calling it “our core DNA”. She believes that the Blackberry 10 platform will survive in a mobile ecosystem dominated by Android and iOS, where even Microsoft’s viability looks like a long odds bet.

RIM mobilecon2012RIM is expanding the Blackberry 10 platform to support Android and iOS, to give IT managers a familiar tool with a blame-proof brand that controls access for employees who bring their own devices to work and expect to be able to use them.

That puts RIM on a steep downsizing path. Its legacy hardware customers will hang on for years, probably longer even than Zip loyalists (though not as long as the IBM 370, which lives on to this day in public sector data centers). But the active roadmap leads to a technology-only company that provides interfaces between consumer-grade devices and risk averse IT departments.