An Uncomfortably Intimate Look at RIM's Fall from Grace

Illustration for article titled An Uncomfortably Intimate Look at RIM's Fall from Grace

Our friends over at BGR were able to talk to several former RIM executives to get a look behind the curtain of RIM's fall from grace.

It's not news that RIM has struggled to adapt to the evolving demands on consumers. But how it is that a company run by very smart people found itself in such a terrible position is fascinating. The company let its success in the corporate world dictate its future, to the point that it defined itself by features it wouldn't adopt, instead of innovations it would:

"BlackBerry smartphones will never have cameras because the No. 1 customer of ours is the U.S. government," [RIM Co-CEO] Mike Lazaridis would say in meetings. "There will never be a BlackBerry with an MP3 player or camera." ... "A BlackBerry with a name is ridiculous."

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They eventually did implement all of those features, of course, but so late and so grudgingly that they didn't stand a chance against the iPhones and Androids of the world. Now they're at the precipice, pinning their hopes on courting carriers with promises of a cut of app store and service revenue.

What's striking about the executives' accounts, though, is how strongly the virtues of Mike Lazaridis come across, even when misguided:

Mike was always focused on small, granular features like how to make the speakerphone in a BlackBerry the best speakerphone on the market. Mike would say that people were going to buy a BlackBerry because of the speakerphone… "because they wouldn't need a Polycom anymore."

He was dedicated to quality hardware, and like a Samurai endlessly whetting his blade, he was going to make the best goddamn speakerphone on the planet. Silly as it sounds in retrospect, there's something sadly honorable—even endearing—about that.

And there's more—like Lazaridis's peculiar host of bodyguards and the NHL digging for "TMZ dirt" on Jim Balsillie. Check out the full account over at BGR. [BGR]

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DISCUSSION

Even though North America is a huge market for RIM, people there are moving on to the next thing, mainly the Android and iPhone. BUT, put aside America's assumption that it is the center of the world and that a small minority of people there are predicting the death of a company, RIM is still very successful in other countries (3rd world, europe). I have had an iPhone 4 for almost a year now, I still sometimes miss my Tour. I even develop iOS apps. But I still sometimes miss my Tour. I love the red activity indicator when I get a BBM message or an email. I love the way you can change tracks by holding down the volume buttons when it was locked. I loved the battery life. RIM's got something Apple will never have and that is taking the risk of sacrificing a little ease of use and sleekness for a whole bunch of usability and making a handset that is practical.