The Death Spiral Continues: RIM At Work On A Home Media Streamer

The latest news from the RIM rumor mill is that a media streamer is in the works. Codename Cyclone will pack the standard equipment of HDMI, WiFi, Netflix and is scheduled for a fall 2011 release. Waterloo has yet to make this official, but most rumors concerning RIM pan out. I would be seriously surprised if it did not exist — it fits perfectly within the company’s BlackBerry-centric ecosystem — but it will still probably be the latest RIM product to publicly crash and burn.

I’m a fan of Research in Motion. They make good smartphones that admittedly tend to lag a bit behind Android and iOS. That’s fine in my book. It shouldn’t matter as much in RIM’s familiar turf of the enterprise market, but the company seems stuck on competing in the consumer market with budget handsets rather producing quality kits for the corporate crowd. That’s where RIM is most loved and respected anyway. But back to this RIM streamer.

RIM wants to be just like Apple and they are besides missing the mojo. RIM controls the BlackBerry user experience from hardware to software. They control everything and thus have every right to operate just like Apple. If they don’t build a BlackBerry tablet, no one will. The same goes for a media streamer. If RIM wants to expand their brand, and who doesn’t, a media streamer is a fine way to bring the BlackBerry user experience to another market.

But this is a media streamer. And RIM doesn’t have a media distribution channel.  And the Blackberry App World isn’t the same as the App Store. The Cyclone would be a disaster but one that probably wouldn’t affect RIM’s bottom line

RIM’s product strategy is like Apple’s. Their goal as of late seems to involve evangelistically taking the BlackBerry brand to different markets. The struggling PlayBook is its primary missionary. But it’s not working. RIM is in effect preaching to its own user base, which according to most reports, is rapidly shrinking unlike Apple’s. The Apple TV is a fun surprise, not a desperate attempt to stay relevant like the Cyclone.

Little is known about the RIM streamer right now. Nerdberry reports it will a have an HDMI output, WiFi and access to YouTube and Netflix. So, you know, just another streamer.

The good news for RIM’s investors is that such a device is relatively inexpensive to make. There are tens of thousands of media devices on Alibaba [link] ready to be branded and sold as the RIM Cyclone. It’s a generic field now. The device would probably have a $100 price tag and be the perfect accessory for the dozen or so remaining addicted BlackBerry users.

By all accounts it will probably be a fine device. The QNX interface on the PlayBook is beautiful and it would be in RIM’s best interest to show it off.

But who would buy it? Not anyone that owns or is thinking about getting an Android, iOS, or webOS device. Even some current BlackBerry users are no doubt looking to the end of their contract to ditch their device and jump to another platform. Plus low cost media streamers hit the big time last year and devices such as the Roku boxes, Boxee Box, WD TV, and Apple TV already have a spot in millions of homes.

It’s never too late to release a quality product. This doesn’t seem like a quality product, though. It lacks anything to set itself apart from the rest and will therefore follow the same path to obscurity by the PlayBook, Storm and Torch — if it exists.