Research In Motion's ( RIMM) trusty old BlackBerry operating system is starting to look dumb in an advancing smartphone developers' race. With the arrival of the Palm ( PALM) Pre and its WebOS system, the continued success of Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone 3.0 update and the rise of Google's ( GOOG) Android, the bar on phone software has been raised. And RIM, for all its sleek hardware designs and killer email simplicity, is now looking to some like a laggard in mobile computing. The chorus of criticism is getting louder as people point to the BlackBerry operating system -- the brains of the phone -- as RIM's biggest vulnerability.
On the company's May 30 earnings conference call, Goldman Sachs analyst Simona Jankowski asked what was "holding up the pace of innovation ... to remain competitive with some of the newer operating systems out there?" And more pointedly, a BoyGeniusReport blog post Tuesday said RIM has 90% of the smartphone success solved "but that last 10% has become the most important," referring to the software. "It's inexcusable that people put up with a 2003 operating system with so many limitations and restrictions it would make Ahmadinejad jealous," BoyGenius wrote. So where exactly is RIM falling down? For starters, the iPhone, the Palm Pre and the Android phones are touchscreen devices that let users point, click and basically gesture their way through Web pages and icons to navigate the device. And like mini computers, these devices let users download and run big applications.