As Research In Motion’s woes deepen amid lay offs, outrageous losses five times bigger than projected and news that its long-expected BlackBerry 10 software won’t arrive until next year, a significant number of high-profile and profitable corporate customers are readying contingency plans, a tell tale sign that, unfortunately, the window of opportunity for the BlackBerry as we know it is closing fast…

Scott Moritz and Olga Kharif, reporting for Bloomberg:

Research In Motion Ltd. customers from GoDaddy Group Inc. to asset manager Thames River Capital UK Ltd. are preparing for the worst: the loss of the BlackBerry service their employees depend on to communicate.

Here are some of the quotes (it doesn’t get any worse for RIM’s pride than this).

Lopez Research founder Maribel Lopez:

In the past three months there’s been a lot of concern that the BlackBerry platform won’t be around in the future. It’s not unheard of for a large phone manufacturer to go out of business.

MobileIron CEO Bob Tinker:

CIO’s are now asking us: ‘What do we do if RIM gets acquired or if they restructure’.

GoDaddy CIO Auguste Goldman:

GoDaddy, an Internet domain-name and hosting company, could switch users to iPhone or Android devices “within hours,” said Auguste Goldman. In the event of a “significant outage” for BlackBerry devices, GoDaddy has a plan to migrate users to other platforms, Goldman said in an interview.

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. tech director Robert Burkhart:

You could see that RIM started to decline. We are well on our way to having a dual environment, so if RIM did go out, we’d be okay. If people are starting contingency plans now, they are behind the eight ball. They should have been looking at this all along.

Thames River Capital is one of the many corporate customers cited in the article that expects much of its staff to switch to the iPhone or Android devices and is readying contingency plans should BlackBerry service be shut down, disrupted, or if a competitor snaps up the company.


A mockup of phones running yet-to-be-released BlackBerry 10 OS

This terrible news couldn’t have come at a worst time for RIM, a company that literally kick-started the smartphone industry. However, a series missteps by its stubborn co-CEOs and their refusal to accept the iPhone (and later Android) challenge and respond to it appropriately has cost the company precious time.

That, and Mike Lazaridis’ and Jim Balsillie’s awfully misguided bet that touchscreens were a fad and that business people would continue wanting to type email messages on the clickety-clack physical keyboard that BlackBerry devices are famous for.

Put simply, RIM fell behind the market realities so badly that it’s now virtually impossible to turn the company around. Here’s a quick video tour of BlackBerry 10, courtesy of The Verge.

I’m giving them a couple quarters until the management announces a sale of assets. RIM recently hired bankers to “explore options”. I doubt there will be a buyer for its BlackBerry devices division: who wants a shrinking handset biz based on the aging software platform or the yet unproven BlackBerry 10 software?

Besides, I doubt RIM can withstand the impact of Windows 8 that Microsoft today confirmed will launch in October. As for RIM’s messaging and corporate software, Microsoft or even Oracle could make some use of it, but any potential buyer will likely employ the waiting tactics until RIM gets devalued to the point that its assets could be bought for peanuts.

Thoughts?