RIM needs to take a page from Apple’s history – too bad they can’t

The management of Research in Motion have pretty much driven their company into the ground.  While RIM may have been the market leader two years ago in the smartphone market, the concept of ‘what is a smartphone’ has dramatically been altered by Apple and Google.  Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis indeed had a very innovative product – 10 years ago.  Unfortunately, they have shown nothing but arrogance and stubborn resistance to any consideration that maybe their innovation is no longer as relevant as it once was.

When Apple announced the iPhone in 2007, the reaction from RIM was incredulous.  They refused to believe that the product actually existed and stated that there was no way any company, let alone Apple. could create such a marvel and bring to market technology so sophisticated, yet reasonably priced.  When the project became available to consumers, they had no choice but to downplay it and belittle choices Apple made in their product designs.  Comments such as “no real businessman would choose a touch keyboard over our keyboard.  Business prefers Blackberry and will always prefer Blackberry.”

RIM sat on its’ laurels for over a year and a half releasing a comparably inferior product, the Blackberry Storm in December 2008.  After dismal failure, their response was to release a slightly improved Blackberry Storm 2 in October 2009.  Another failure.

Their first ‘innovation’ was the Blackberry Playbook, launched in April 2011.  It too received an extremely luke-warm reception from business and consumers alike.  If you look at the products currently available from RIM today, they have a plethora of slightly different devices for different markets.  Whereas Apple, since 2009 has three successful offerings – iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, RIM has over ten Blackberry mobile phones apparently to serve both the consumer and business markets.  This is a failing strategy.

In 1997, Apple was at the brink of bankruptcy.  A company truly in trouble.  The difference though between Apple and Research in Motion;

  • The Board of Directors had the courage and conviction to fire the then current CEO of Apple, Gil Amelio and have Steve Jobs return to direct the company
  • Steve Jobs had the focus to cancel many, many product lines and streamline the company.  Instead of developing failures, Steve Jobs drove the company to focus on less products, but make them successes
  • Steve Jobs had the vision and confidence to recognize areas of innovation.  Areas where Apple could truly become ‘the next great thing’
  • Apple, thankfully kept the mindshare of its’ talented people.  The company was rescued at the most opportune time.

RIM on the other hand has none of these qualities.  It is a company, badly managed by bad managers.  Based on the numbers of people that have left and are leaving the company, they are losing their most vital resource – people.  Sadly, this once great Canadian company is entirely based on the ‘one hit wonder’ factor – the Blackberry.  They do not have the innovation nor the culture that would permit truly innovative ideas to come forward.

— Disclosure —

I have no position in Research in Motion.

About Grant Fengstad

I’m a technology professional in the travel and transportation sector and have been very involved with the Internet for over 20 years.