What could RIM have done differently? Sometimes, its hard to beat another company coming along to disrupt the overall market. However, there are things that can be done to protect the business without suing all the competition. There are two basic principles that applies here which are (1) satisfy the core customer segments and (2) innovate.
One of the benefits that the iPhone brought along was that Apple had a large fan base to work with. In some ways, its almost like a cult and that gave them a core market to start with. Once that core market is satisfied, others will see the benefit and jump on board.
Again, how could RIM avoid the large subsequent loses that followed? Well, they started to build a Mobile phone OS that was suppose to be better than both Android and IOS. That was probably the first mistake in the process. Looking at the spec sheet, that OS was actually better than those others but their biggest challenge would be to recruit mobile app developers to embrace this new ecosystem. Following the rules of segmentation, RIM needed to ensure that their core business customers were being served and fill the gaps they had with the current market.
Here are some options that RIM could have explored back then.
1. Port their BBM platform to IOS and Android to allow communication across all platforms - Its seems that WhatsApp is now filling that void.
2. Offer phones running the Android OS. While one could argue that this would undermine the core OS that the company had, it goes a far way to satisfy Customer needs and that is the essence of business.
3. Add new hardware features to their existing core products. For example adding touch screen to the popular Blackberry classic. Many other features to consider for incremental improvement.
4. Double down on their security strengths especially for corporate users while adding the incremental features to give them flexibility.
There are many other iterations of what could be done but the bottom line is to speak with customers and really have a feel for what will sell. The iPhone is not perfect but it does the job for a core group and consequently most people. The lesson, we can all learn is that customer focus is very important while innovating around those customers. There is no point in trying to please everyone in the market but select a core set of customers and give them the thrill.