NEW YORK (TheStreet) - In 2007, "Mad Money," TheStreet founder Jim Cramer announced with authority the arrival of a new breed of technology companies that would lead the markets in the 21st century. He called them the "Four Horsemen."
Not only would these companies take over as the dominant leaders of Wall Street, but they were declared the replacements to
Although many were quick to laugh at the time, it seems Cramer knew what he was talking about. These "horsemen" were none other than
Research in Motion
Well, if you are thinking Cramer was perhaps only 75% right because of RIM, you need to have a bit of perspective. Although RIM is down today, more than a year after his declaration the stock hit $140.
The question is, how did a $140 horse become a mule that now trades at less than $10?
That question is not that hard to answer when one considers the status of the other three horses. RIM's current situation affirms my belief the only guarantee of a market leader on Wall Street is that it does not remain a market leader forever -- and that there is no such thing as infinite wealth. Some people understand this. Those who don't are still suffering from the delusion that RIM is somehow still capable of making a comeback.
But I've got news for you, not only has that ship sailed, it has sunk.
The reality is, in order for Apple, Google and Amazon to rise to prominence, one or more of the horsemen had to fall. Unfortunately for RIM, it drew the short stick. However, I tend to think it goes beyond just fate. RIM was also short on intelligence as it allowed Apple to
even though both companies had two separate and distinctive focuses.
The genius of Apple was that it chose to focus primarily on giving consumers what they wanted, even showing consumers things they didn't realize they needed yet. RIM, on the other hand, opted to focus its attention solely on the enterprise environment, except it forgot to factor in that one day the enterprise and consumer segments at some point were going to merge.
This is what Apple had already figured out well ahead of other rivals including
and Microsoft, which were all knee-deep in enterprise policies. They, like RIM, were destined to fail. However, the decline for RIM was not as drastic as it may now appear. The enterprise was a great business to the extent that RIM had a monopoly within the space and its biggest challenge was to preserve it. It simply could not meet that challenge.
The very reason RIM grew to prominence is the same reason it is now grossly irrelevant. Today, corporate IT departments have started to consider alternatives to RIM's BlackBerry that include iPhones and Android devices. Furthermore, consumers are speaking with their wallets.
Meanwhile, investors are shouting as they dump their positions in the stock and come to terms with the reality that RIM is a has-been and a mule at best among the real horses racing to the finish line.
This enterprise trend toward iPhones and Android devices was further exacerbated by RIM's faulty hardware, poor software and an egregious mistake by failing to join the wave of new developers until five years after it had already fallen behind. All of this has now resulted in an eroding enterprise customer base, its once-prized possession. There are no sign that things are going to get better.
However, as the stock continues to erode, I think this opens the obligatory discussions about an acquisition. I think this is the most likely outcome because as much as RIM is dealing with its own execution, the fact remains that it is still a decent cash-flow generator.
Also, its current enterprise footprint would be of considerable value to any company that wants to either enter the space or strengthen its existing market share.
continues to be social media giant
, particularly as recent discussions suggest it is now interested in building its own phone to further its mobile strategy.
Facebook, whose stock has been recovering somewhat, has been looking for a way to add a "tangible" product to its revenue stream since many still struggle with assessing the value of social media. However, the company forgets it knows nothing about hardware. So in this situation Facebook needs RIM as much as RIM needs Facebook.
Furthermore, in RIM, not only will Facebook get a better enterprise presence, it will acquire assets such as RIM's BB10 software, a growing music service and Mobile Fusion, a product that supports the collaboration of enterprise mobile devices, even that of competing models such as iPhones and Android devices.
Though I'm willing to refer to RIM as a mule at this point, I understand this might be somewhat disrespectful to mules. Not that I am an expert on the subject, but what I do know is that mules are often referred to as hard-working.
In this case, I don't think RIM has worked hard enough except in areas where it shouldn't -- such as focusing on an operating system and betting the company's entire future on it while it could have devoted better resources towards R&D and getting product launches out on time.
Sadly, it is now time to put RIM out of its misery so we can stop beating this dead horse -- or in this case, this dead mule.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
At the time of publication, the author was long AAPL and held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned, although positions may change at any time.