Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 12:19 pm.

RIM’s rise and decline: A 10-year view

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is a classic example of a company that had one great idea, grew huge because of it, but couldn’t save itself as the industry moved on. And now for the first time ever, RIM’s sales will probably shrink this fiscal year — despite continued rapid growth in the smartphone industry.

Its past is an impressive one: From $300 million in sales during fiscal 2003 to $3 billion four years later. RIM even continued to grow after Apple stunned the industry with its iPhone in 2007, peaking at almost $20 billion in sales during fiscal 2011, which ended this past February.

But behind the scenes, things were falling apart. RIM’s growth was downshifting, and its new sales were coming from lower-end devices in emerging markets. Now, almost 60% of RIM’s sales come from countries other than the U.S., U.K., and Canada — a dramatic change from just a few years ago.

It will take a miracle to save RIM now — it still hasn’t been able to develop any compelling new products, and the industry continues to move on, led by Apple and Google.

Most impressively, RIM is still quite profitable, and just reached 75 million subscribers. And as its value shrinks, there’s a chance RIM will be acquired for its customer base, intellectual property, and/or infrastructure. But either way, it’s probably going to be a sad end to what was once such an impressive growth story.

RIM 10-year charts

More reading: “The Parable of RIM” at Asymco

Related: The big problem with buying RIM is that there isn’t only one big problem