Research in Motion reported an expected loss this past week but the press still hammered them with crazy headlines like "RIM Shocks (Again!)." I just watched the movie "The Grey" last night and one thing is for certain: When a pack of wolves decide that you're supper, say goodnight. Yet in business, the end isn't always that clear cut. Sometimes, against all odds, a company is quite able to rebound and prosper. In today's report we take a look at a few recent patent applications from Research in Motion that may in fact reveal a few future features for the BlackBerry. Could this one-time tech titan become the next underdog to pull off a historic comeback? Only time will tell.
Corporate and Product Reinvention is Always Possible
At times, watching a technology company in crisis mode is a beautiful thing to behold. Once the biased blogosphere and press see a bad financial trend, the knives are drawn and they hack away at a company's confidence which starts a death spiral. Once upon a time there was a company called Apple Computer that was down for the count in late 1996 and everyone outside of the Mac Community wrote them off and piled on to report every move of the collapsing iconic company. Jim Cramer, who is now a huge Apple fan, used to be in the Microsoft camp and spit on Apple at every occasion he possibly could on MSNBC. Oh how times change.
Corporate desperation is a double edged sword. The company will either implode through internal defections or the company will boldly reinvent itself by making bolder moves so as to excite their existing base and pump up their troops. If the troubling company had ever tasted from the vine of victory, then they're loyal troops are likely to quickly regroup, rethink and reinvent themselves.
In the early nineties after the PowerPC revolution failed to materialize, the rumors of Apple's demise were nonstop. It went on year after year after year ad nauseum. Apple never really got much market traction under Steve Jobs until 2001 or five years after being on the ropes and their stock only broke the $40 mark with any conviction in the summer of 2005.
During Apple's time of reinvention, they introduced the color bubbled iMac in 1998. It was so insanely stupid that I had to close my eyes as a shareholder knowing that Steve was doing his absolute best under very difficult circumstances. More painful was their follow-up 1999 iBook product which was another design disaster. Apple continued their Industrial design loses with the G4 Cube in 2000 which quickly died off. This was Apple in transition and it wasn't always pretty. Yet at the end of the day, against all the negative rumors, Apple pulled off a major comeback like no other.
Today, the market's cloud of doom is surrounding RIM. Will they live, die, shrink or resurrect? Only time will tell if RIM has what it takes to successfully mount a comeback – but there's evidence that their teams are, at the very least, trying to reinvent their BlackBerry line-up and beyond.
At times, patent applications act as a form of time tunnel showing us where a particular engineering team was at a particular point in time. At this point in time it's difficult to predict with any certainty if this current round of new device designs have already died on the vine or whether they'll debut with RIM's next operating system due out in Q4 2012. Suffice to say that a new operating system backed by shiny new hardware could serve as the needed catalyst to reinvent RIM's branding.
In today's report we'll take a quick look at a series of new patent applications from Research in Motion (RIM) that were recently published by the US Patent and Trademark Office. In their totality they won't move RIM's stock one iota but at least they'll demonstrate that behind the scenes, RIM still has a heartbeat and maybe a little gusto too.
Research in Motion: Time to Think Bolder
In the first patent applications from Research in Motion that we're quickly reviewing, we take a peek at a conceptual BlackBerry-Like device that integrates a split screen design.
The adage that a picture is worth a thousand words aptly applies to this conceptual design of a next generation smartphone with a split screen. The design resembles that of a future BlackBerry Bold-like smartphone that will appeal to both die-hard BlackBerry fans and to a wider audience.
In standard mode the user will use their BlackBerry Bold-like smartphone as they do today. When the user wants or needs to surf the net, deal with a work related document or PDF, play a game, view a movie trailer or any other activity requiring a larger display, the user will simply rotate the bottom keyboard-half of their device. As the patent figure illustrates above, the keyboard that shifts to the back is replaced by a secondary display on the face.
The lower-half display will match the upper-half display and almost appear as one contiguous display. A specialized controller will be able to adjust the content to the larger display format or allow the user to run two different apps, one on the top and one on the bottom displays.
RIM states that "a nominal force may be utilized to release the locks, which force is sufficient to prevent inadvertent release. A release mechanism such as a sliding bar or rotating member may also be utilized to disengage the locks."
RIM's Flexible Display Option
Another aspect to RIM's conceptual smartphone is that it could utilize a flexible touch sensitive display such as electronic paper or an OLED (organic light emitting diode) display that includes a flexible substrate to facilitate flexing or bending of the display. According to RIM, the use of flexible displays will allow the gap between the two displays to be minimal.
The display technology utilized in this next generation smartphone may encompass several touch-sensitive display technologies including capacitive, resistive, infrared, surface acoustic wave (SAW) touch-sensitive display, strain gauge, optical imaging, dispersive signal technology and acoustic pulse recognition. The displays will also work with a modern stylus.
The Booklet Concept
In a second patent application filed by Research in Motion they present us with a booklet styled smartphone/PDA. The booklet design is RIM's second design that will rely heavily on next generation flexible displays.
The Multi-Display Device Concept
RIM's last device design is a complete departure from their BlackBerry. It's a new form factor that consists of a series of mini displays that works with a retractable arm to form varying configurations that are configured by the end user.
In describing one aspect of this new design, RIM states that the user may interact with the three display screens simultaneously (see patent figure 6C above to view the three displays discussed - 318, 320 and 326). This will facilitate power user multitasking. For example, one display screen may be used as a virtual keyboard while the other two display screens may be used to view output of the mobile device. Meaning that the user may view a web page on one display screen while composing an e-mail message at the same time on a different display screen, or an initial message can be viewed in one display screen while a response is composed in another display screen
Doubles as a Portable Picture Frame
Another angle to this design is described by RIM as being a digital picture frame mode that is automatically triggered when the unit is in the state of charging. This is accomplished via various sensors that could detect various device display orientations.
When the mobile device is in digital picture frame mode it could be configured to lock and disable phone functionality until the mobile device is unlocked via entering a password. This may permit a user to allow others to view the displayed pictures and to leave the mobile device 300 on their desk without risking that others will make unauthorized use of the mobile device 300.
Retractable Arm and Slider Magnets
RIM's conceptual smartphone is shown below utilizing a unique retractable arm.
Additionally, RIM reveals that one or more magnets could be provided on the sliding portion the smartphone which is noted in patent graphic under #360. The magnets would be used to hold the retractable arm back in its upright position when the user so choses to do so.
RIM's patent application was originally filed in Q4 2010 and published by the US Patent and Trademark Office this month.
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The Patent Bolt blog presents a detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for full and accurate details. Revelations found in patent applications shouldn't be interpreted as rumor or fast-tracked according to rumor timetables. About Comments: Patent Bolt reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.