From an email I have sent a few people today in response to notes about the RIM/Blackberry outage, here is the bear case on disrupting RIM. Folks think I’m undervaluing the complexity and effort required in replicating a BlackBerry-like network. Such people have it precisely backwards.
Markets discount futures, not today, and they only care about all the sunk investment RIM has made in complex network infrastructure insofar as the company continues to earn an attractive return on that ongoing investment. Markets rapidly do care, however, if an expensive and capital-consuming network no longer earns that return in the face of lower-cost competitors.
As an investor, I’m looking five years out, not at today. The current dismissal of things like Gmail mobile is typical of attitudes toward something disruptive, and I love it. Because these fringe services provide a fraction of the functionality at a far lower price, causing it to be dismissed by incumbents and pundits as a toy — right up until the toys have a material share of the market and the pundits/incumbents are wondering what the hell happened.