Fill it to the RIM -- With Fail

I know the company changed its name to BlackBerry, but the old headline is too good to give up. Anyway, here’s the latest on the troubled Canadian smartphone maker:

BlackBerry’s once-lucrative services business and hardware unit would have zero value in a breakup as phone losses erode fee-based revenue earned from each subscriber, according to Raymond James Ltd. If a buyer closed the hardware unit in favor of its own technology, it would cost about $800 million, said BMO Capital Markets. BlackBerry’s patents, software and a secure network are each worth more than $1 billion, BMO said, and the company has about $2.8 billion in cash.

That’s a nice cash cushion — for a company now worth as little as BlackBerry is. But it’s nothing compared to the cash hoards of BB’s competitors.

What happened to BlackBerry reminds me of what happened to Volvo. The Swedish carmaker’s claim to fame was safety, in the era before mandatory airbags and aluminum spaceframes and crumple zones and all the rest. But by the mid-’90s, what used to make Volvo special had become nearly universal. Safety became one of the minimum requirements for any car, and Volvo never did find a new differentiator. So many of Volvo’s customers went elsewhere.

BlackBerry’s thing was secure email for corporate users. But iOS and Android quickly caught up with BlackBerry on security, and the company never found a new differentiator. Even now, the all-new BlackBerry 10 lags behind last year’s OS upgrades from Google and Apple. And the hardware? Meh. Apple and Samsung both do it better.

BlackBerry has had since 2007 to shake things up and figure things out, but now it’s far too late.