Can Zombies Save This Struggling Tech Giant?
It's a fact: People love zombies.
As a society, zombies hit a cultural sweet spot and never fail to draw our fascination for a number of reasons, beyond the reality that the gory action is downright entertaining. At a time when many of us take basic life necessities for granted, zombie tales always necessitate an element of survival. They remind us that underneath all of our everyday conveniences, we are all ultimately still subjected to Darwinist notions of "survival of the fittest."
The adverse circumstances have a way of humanizing the unfortunate characters who are left to fend for themselves in a way that we rarely see in daily modern living. They reflect the internal conflict and frustration many of us feel when trying to reason with someone or something that is utterly incapable of rationality.
They make you ask difficult questions. What do you do when a loved one joins the ranks of the undead? Do you spare them in the hopes that a cure will one day present itself, while risking your life in the process? Or do you put them out of their misery and ensure your own survival for another day?
Zombies to the rescue!
It's through this lens that we consider whether zombies can save Research In Motion's (NAS: RIMM) PlayBook, but not if the plants have a say in the matter. Electronic Arts-owned PopCap Games' dangerously addictive and contagious Plants Vs. Zombies will soon be coming to the tablet, along with thousands of other Google (NAS: GOOG) Android apps. Their arrival also follows the coming of Angry Birds on the Playbook.
PlayBook OS 2.0 was demoed recently at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and, along with basic native apps like email and calendar, will bring the long-heralded Android support. The official release of the OS is due out next month, and not all Android apps will be included. RIM ecosystem exec Alec Saunders said the company doesn't want an open marketplace like the entire Android Market, while developers must jump through a few hoops to bring their apps to the platform.
One bite is all it takes
By the time the upgrade is available, "some number of thousands" of Android apps will be obtainable. The multitasking capabilities will be somewhat limited, as users will be able to run only one Android app alongside a native app, according to Saunders.
Research In Motion will continue to court developers with "a rich palette of tools" in an attempt to bolster its app platform, which currently carries roughly only 50,000 apps in its BlackBerry App World. The selection hardly compares with the almost 550,000 available in Apple's (NAS: AAPL) App Store and nearly 350,000 in the Android Market.
Bringing "some number of thousands" of Android's total over should help in theory, but I'm not sure why someone would buy a PlayBook to run Android apps instead of just buying an Android tablet. Nevertheless, RIM is clearly hoping that Android will be the one bite it takes for the PlayBook to see success.
Unfortunately for RIM, the PlayBook itself is a zombie. Although one could argue that Hewlett-Packard's (NYS: HPQ) tablet dreams fit the bill more aptly, as webOS tablets are literally being resurrected from the dead, the PlayBook still qualifies.
On top of that, the company is run by a couple of zombies by the names of Mike Laziridis and Jim Balsillie. The pair has continued to display an absolute lack of rationality, despite the pleas of frustrated investors to come back to the land of the living. The only cure that may potentially be on the horizon is a board shakeup, but that antidote is far from a panacea and may just end up postponing the duo's insatiable hunger for gray matter.
Both the TouchPad and PlayBook have been victims of natural selection, since consumers have clearly selected the iPad as having superior genetic qualities worth reproducing. Their bloody dismemberments have been just as entertaining as AMC's The Walking Dead for outside observers.
Once upon a time, investors truly loved RIM as its shares rocketed to all-time highs just short of $150 in 2008. Investors who have held on since then may be at a crossroads. The shell of the company may remind them of all the fond memories, which makes it gut-wrenchingly poignant to realize that the dearly departed will never be the same.
Hanging on to the hope that Android support or a new independent chairwoman will restore and revitalize RIM will only further jeopardize the health of one's portfolio. As hard as it may be, deep down, RIM investors know that the right thing to do is sell. It's time to move on. Memories are just that: a remembrance of better days, of a world that is gone for good.
Save yourself. RIM is not fit for survival.
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At the time this article was published Fool contributorEvan Niu's wife has a healthy obsession with a good old-fashioned zombie saga and has earnestly pleaded with him to prepare a survival kit for an inevitable zombie apocalypse. He owns shares of Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out hisholdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Google and Apple and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.
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