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January 22, 2012 8:16 PM   Subscribe

After 20 years together at the helm of Research In Motion Ltd. [previousy, previously], Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, the company's co-chief executives, turned over the top job late Sunday to a little-known insider as part of a board and management shuffle.
posted by unSane (43 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 


LOL. That about sums it up.
posted by unSane at 8:19 PM on January 22, 2012


This should have been dated January 22, 2010.
posted by Chekhovian at 8:20 PM on January 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


RIM is in for a whole world of hurt. They're losing the smartphone battle so hard.
posted by Sphinx at 8:20 PM on January 22, 2012


Maybe in North America, but RIM's one advantage is that the phones require very little bandwidth to transmit data, which makes their devices great for countries with large, increasingly affluent populations, but poor telecom infrastructure, such as Indonesia.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:29 PM on January 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


They require such little bandwidth because nobody uses them as a web browser because they are horrible at it. If I only used my iPad, or Android phone, etc, for email, I could use it in Indonesia just fine too.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:32 PM on January 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


RIM's one advantage is that the phones require very little bandwidth to transmit data, which makes their devices great for countries with large, increasingly affluent populations, but poor telecom infrastructure, such as Indonesia.

A colleague just returned from Indonesia, where (he reported) everyone has two devices: whatever they're using for a mobile phone, and a Blackberry for text messages.
posted by fatbird at 8:36 PM on January 22, 2012


I had a little yellow "alert" box on the yahoo page that said something like
Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis bow to pressure, hand job to insider

Wasn't interesting or news until the hand job part.
posted by ashbury at 8:47 PM on January 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


This new guy better become RIM's equivalent of Jobs or else they're gonna go the way of Palm (if they're even that lucky.)
posted by Anima Mundi at 8:47 PM on January 22, 2012


I wouldn't write them off just yet. I was a guest speaker at a couple of high school classes a couple weeks ago, and I did an impromptu "raise your hand poll" to see what handsets students had. Of the 40-50 students, 25-30 owned a Blackberry, a handful had Android devices and there was just a single iPhone.

I expected there to be more BBs than average because of the popularity of BBM among young people, but the disparity was staggering.
posted by HighLife at 8:53 PM on January 22, 2012


Did this high school happen to be in 2006?
posted by splatta at 9:00 PM on January 22, 2012 [21 favorites]


HighLife: "I expected there to be more BBs than average because of the popularity of BBM among young people, but the disparity was staggering."

In the United States? I'd have to double check our mobile stats but my gut check says false.
posted by pwnguin at 9:04 PM on January 22, 2012


Anecdotally, BB are still popular int he UK amongst kids for BBM. I loved my BB when I had one in the US, but the browser sucked big time. However, would have it back in a heartbeat compared to the POC Nokia I have here in China. I hope RIM comes out fighting as the market will benefit from the competition.
posted by arcticseal at 9:07 PM on January 22, 2012


RIM certainly does find itself in a bind. Fortunately, it has some demonstrated expertise at chewing through restraints.
posted by bicyclefish at 9:07 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


> I expected there to be more BBs than average because of the popularity of BBM among young people, but the disparity was staggering.

Or it might be because when you are looking for a free smart phone with contract, your only options (until recently) was either blackberry or android. And teenagers being put on their family plans are probably going to get a free phone instead of a $200 iPhone with contracts that include at minimum an additional $20/month for data.

Chances are, there was also a big number of kids with iPod touches in the audience as well, who will more likely become iPhone users when they have the money to buy their own phones and contracts.

And considering that RIM's primary market is enterprise products, being popular among highschool students isn't exactly a great marketable quantity.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:10 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


RIM's one advantage is that the phones require very little bandwidth to transmit data, which makes their devices great for countries with large, increasingly affluent populations, but poor telecom infrastructure, such as Indonesia.

A colleague just returned from Indonesia, where (he reported) everyone has two devices: whatever they're using for a mobile phone, and a Blackberry for text messages.


Indonesia's Blackberry stampede, 2011
posted by Bwithh at 9:11 PM on January 22, 2012


Wasn't there a whole thing during the London riots about how many of the rioters had Blackberries. I could swear I read something about how lots of working-class urban kids in both the UK and the US have Blackberries.
posted by craichead at 9:15 PM on January 22, 2012


Found it
Using BlackBerry handsets – the smartphone of choice for the majority (37%) of British teens, according to last week's Ofcom study – BBM allows users to send one-to-many messages to their network of contacts, who are connected by "BBM PINs". For many teens armed with a BlackBerry, BBM has replaced text messaging because it is free, instant and more part of a much larger community than regular SMS.

And unlike Twitter or Facebook, many BBM messages are untraceable by the authorities (which is why, in large part, BBM is so favoured by Emirati teens to spread illicit gossip about officialdom).
posted by craichead at 9:18 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had several blackberries circa 2005-2008? And I got my Pearl replaced several times because a linear combination of trackball dirt accumulation (which could not be user cleaned and eventually rendered the phone unusable) and USB charge port detachment. I was always super careful about not straining the plug-phone system, but apparently they just couldn't get the damn things soldered securely.

Anyway, yeah, I always wanted to BBM, but I knew literally NO ONE that had a BB as well. I guess I missed some kind of market up swing. It seemed so cool for exactly the reasons craichead lists, but it was totally useless to me at the time.

My prediction: RIM will turn its BBM into android and ios apps. That's the their path forward. Its their only killer feature and its just an app on a real smart phone. Apple is kind of already doing that with their new iOS 5 messaging system, well sans the military grade security I guess.
posted by Chekhovian at 9:35 PM on January 22, 2012


I enjoy making fun of RIM as much as the next iPhone user does. (Its injuries do have an appealingly self-inflicted tenor.) But I think there's reason for optimism.

Right now RIM isn't competitive in the market that many of us here are in: Smartphone-wielding westerners who want phones that compete with the best Apple and Samsung have to offer. However, we're not the only market.

RIM has had a calamitous year and is almost comedically behind. (Did you hear that PlayBook 2.0 has e-mail?) Yet this isn't a company that is out of ideas, or has nothing in the pipeline. It has some fantastic industrial design going (the latest Bolds are the first piece of handset hardware I've seen in years that's actually occasioned envy), and while a solid new OS doesn't guarantee anything (hello there, Palm), the new PlayBook OS is being well-reviewed.

(In fact, the PlayBook debacle could have an unintended upside: By the time the OS makes it to RIM's actual core products, it'll have been well broken-in.)

The essential ingredients for a future are there. All depends on how well they execute this transition. If they do well, then those "peripheral" markets they've been nurturing could pay off in spades - not as dumping-grounds for leftover technology, but as loyal customers of generations of competitive products to come.
posted by bicyclefish at 9:40 PM on January 22, 2012




So amateur hour is over now right?
posted by dumbland at 10:17 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am now using a Virgin Mobile Android phone that costs $150 to buy without subsidy, and $45 a month for 1200 minutes, unlimited texts and 3G data. Within a couple of years, there will be no such thing as a feature phone anymore.

RIM has zero chance. They simply can't compete at those prices. Sure, their hardware is good, but it doesn't make up for paying 5x more for less functionality.
posted by miyabo at 10:34 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does this mean Hamilton is finally getting an NHL team?
posted by mannequito at 12:06 AM on January 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


I have a friend who has a Playbook, got it at a good price since they haven't been selling well, and it is very well put together. Build is good and the form factor is nice, as well as the software seeming to run fast enough compared to some dodgy Android tablets I've seen. Not an iPad, but pretty good nevertheless.
posted by arcticseal at 12:34 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


astroturfing

If so, you canucks need to try harder, eh?

has a Playbook...Not an iPad, but pretty good nevertheless.

I take it your friend is not a fan of email?
posted by Chekhovian at 12:36 AM on January 23, 2012


He has enough email on his work BB. But yes, he has had to wrestle his corporate IT and is expectantly waiting for the email "add-on" (oh, the irony that email is not standard on it). He's pretty high up in his company so he can push them to support it even though it's painful.
posted by arcticseal at 12:51 AM on January 23, 2012


"See, we didn't drive the company into the ground. We weren't at the helm. It was that other guy. He's the one who sucks."
posted by narcoleptic at 3:20 AM on January 23, 2012


My wife got a Blackberry bold and hated it. She used another upgrade on the plan to go to the iPhone. When we consolidated plans, I "inherited" the Bold, after using an HTC Magic for something like three years. Even though the Bold is considerably newer, it feels like a downgrade: it crashes constantly, the browsing is abysmal, phone reception (and sound quality) is ridiculous. I cannot understand the process that would lead to this product existing.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:33 AM on January 23, 2012


Another anecdote, my eighteen year old niece got a Blackberry recently and when I asked her about the choice, she said that all her friends had them for the cheap messaging.
posted by octothorpe at 5:02 AM on January 23, 2012


the smartphone of choice for the majority (37%) of British teens

:facepalm:
posted by hangashore at 5:21 AM on January 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


sonic meat machine- I find that surprising. I had a Bold 9000, and now have a Bold 9900. Both are the best phones I've ever had. When I was shopping for the 9000, I was agnostic on what phone to get. I played with the stuff in the store, and as soon as I picked it up after fiddling with the iPhone, I knew it was the phone for me. The iPhone was more advanced in many ways, but it just didn't "grab" me as being useful. And the Blackberry did. It had more bling, but I was looking for convenience and usability.

The Bold 9000's web browser was pretty crappy on non-mobile sites, but the 9900's browser is just fine. (*) It even has "tabs"! Sound quality is great, and its music player hooks into my car's Bluetooth and sounds just as good as the XM radio. I rarely if ever have dropped calls, but part of that is the AT&T network, which is pretty good where I live. Now, the screen size is a little small, but that's to be expected and a trade off for having a real keyboard. I do whatever I want on the phone, and my monthly data usage is measured in MB, not GB.

I read an article, perhaps here, about the RIM management, and it bemoaned that the guys in charge were quasi-autistic perfectionists. That's what I WANT in my mobile phone makers. I want them to obsess about the small stuff and not rush to market. I had to wait a long summer for the 9900 to finally get released, but in then end it wasn't so bad because the 9000 just kept working. Nearly three years of daily, hard usage, the only battle scars being that the chrome ring was getting worn down, and the screen looked funny because I accidentally spilled a solvent on it.

Sadly, I do fear that RIM isn't long for the world. They seem ripe for some other company to buy them up, squeeze all the value out of the brand and end up being another crappy, commodity Android phone. I don't think the marketplace cares about the same stuff they (and I) care about in a phone. The fact that when I bought the new phone I was able to get all my accounts back on the phone over the air, just by logging onto their BIS website, was just awesome. I was able to get EVERYTHING back by using the Desktop manager program to back up the old and restore to the new. And I mean everything- all my mail, all my text messages, all my media files, all my customizations like ringtone and sound profiles and even volume settings- was on the new phone in a matter of minutes. Without having to visit a genius or look anything up or call anyone. They have my devotion as long as they keep focused on those kinds of details.

I would love to know the story behind their tablet, because it seems like a spectacular failure. Perhaps not a failure of implementation, but one of imagination, where they thought they understood what the marketplace wanted. I think I "get" what they were going for- the tablet was meant to be part of a system with the phone, like a sort of docking station. Users wouldn't have to deal with buying a second data account. But in doing so, they ignored the rest of the marketplace that might have wanted the device as a stand-alone. They thought they could pull an Apple and release the first one with some warts, with a second one not far behind that fixed everything. But as good as they are, they aren't Apple.

(*) With one exception, and this might be universal- trying to navigate a drag-to-navigate map embedded in a webpage is challenging when its controls are the same as the browser's controls. (swipes and pinches affecting the map and not the webpage, and vice versa) If I accidentally zoom in too much, I get stuck in the map and haven't figured out how to escape.
posted by gjc at 5:42 AM on January 23, 2012


the smartphone of choice for the majority (37%) of British teens

:facepalm:
posted by hangashore


They mean plurality, right? I hope?
posted by gjc at 5:44 AM on January 23, 2012


Anyway, yeah, I always wanted to BBM, but I knew literally NO ONE that had a BB as well. I guess I missed some kind of market up swing. It seemed so cool for exactly the reasons craichead lists, but it was totally useless to me at the time.

What they need to do is build a BBM app for the other OSs, perhaps charging some nominal fee for it and/or crippling it in some non-intrusive way. People could then use it with other phones, and have a small incentive to move to a RIM device when their contract is up.

bicyclefish- I think you are right. I suspect their sudden popularity with the non-corporate crowd a few years ago knocked their strategy off kilter. They got sucked into the "wow, look at all the friends I suddenly have" mindset that any object of a fashion trend will tend to get, and failed to prepare for when the trend would necessarily end. They chased new customers ("increasing market share") rather than keeping up on building solid features.

Which reminded me of the two disappointments I had with the new Bold, and might be indicative of them not keeping their eye on the prize. One, the Bold 9900's camera doesn't have autofocus like some of the previous Bolds did. Two, they changed the behavior of the "next" and "previous" shortcuts in the email application. In the old one, "next" meant what it should mean, which is to go to the next newer message. In the new one, it means go to the next older message. Neither is a huge deal, but annoying.
posted by gjc at 6:10 AM on January 23, 2012


They thought they could pull an Apple and release the first one with some warts, with a second one not far behind that fixed everything.

Except that's exactly how Apple does not do things.

They do everything they can to release products with warts. Either the feature works well -- it might be tweaked later -- or it simply isn't included. This has been the Jobsian Way since he came back to Apple.

The problem RIM has is that, after they realized being a simple email terminal and phone wasn't going to cut it, is that they shoved a bunch of half baked "features" onto the device, which rapidly convinced people that they wanted an iPhone, and by the time Android came along, most of the damage was done, but now you had a non-Apple answer. See the BlackBerry Browser vs. Mobile Safari, etc. What this convinced people, when they saw someone browsing on an iPhone, is that BB can't do the web, iPhone, can.

(Smart move #6, I think, for Android was using WebKit for the browser. Why did they know WebKit would work? It's almost as if some other mobile OS was already using it...**)

Apple discovered -- and dominated -- the market with the concept that if they couldn't do something well, they should arguably not do it, and that releasing incomplete features was arguably worse than not releasing the feature at all. Thus, the decision to postpone both individual apps (security and process framework not ready, app store not ready) and cut-and-paste (no good metaphor on the interface*.

This doesn't mean that Apple gets it right every time -- notifications on iOS had real issues until iOS 5. But Apple strives to put out useful, working features on every release, and will simply drop them if at all possible if they're not ready for primetime. The only feature in the history of iOS that I can think of that was explicitly shipped beta was Siri.

What they need to do is build a BBM app for the other OSs...

See Amazon, who built a Kindle app for iOS (and I believe Android.) The question is how compelling is BBM, and is there a way to actually make money off the service. I don't know BBM very well, but if it's a free service offered as an add-on to the paid BB service, and you get rid of the paid BB service, how do you make any money off of BBM?





* And arguably, still not very good.

** This is actually slightly unfair snark. Google has contributed a fair amount to WebKit, and more to WebKit 2. I'm also glad, in this realm, that the initial bitter split between KDE and Apple was resolved by Apple integrating with KDE's release procedures better (using CVS rather than Patches of Doom) and the result was successful enough for KDE to add WebKit alongside KHTML in KDE 4.5, because I think the KDE team not only built a base strong enough to be built upon, but has been a very valuable contributor to what has (arguably) become one of the most important pieces of FOSS out there.

It is completely fair snark at RIM, who could have used a web framework that worked, as iOS and Android did.
posted by eriko at 6:18 AM on January 23, 2012


I've done a couple of Projects for RIM. They need to get rid of more than just their CEOs. The whole organization is unable to make a decision for fear of it being the wrong one.
posted by Mick at 7:05 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


This new guy better become RIM's equivalent of Jobs or else they're gonna go the way of Palm (if they're even that lucky.)

So it's either a RIM Jobs or a sticky Palm kind of situation?
posted by Shepherd at 7:40 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


*rimshot*
posted by likeso at 7:46 AM on January 23, 2012


sonic meat machine: Even though the Bold is considerably newer, it feels like a downgrade: it crashes constantly, the browsing is abysmal, phone reception (and sound quality) is ridiculous. I cannot understand the process that would lead to this product existing.

The product was made to the carriers needs, not the users because the carrier is the customer. So long as the carrier can continue to ram the phones down peoples throats, that system worked well for RIM, Nokia, etc. When someone finally came along and wrestled control away (somewhat, anyway) from the carriers and started a conversation directly with the users, the whole market shifted. RIM didn't. If there is anything that makes me thing that Windows Phone might have a long term (if not short term) future, it's that MS also seems to be bent on protecting the users interests. This has made things a little acrimonious with the carriers, but I think if they stick by it, they can gain real traction.
posted by Bovine Love at 8:54 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Every time an article mentioned their CEOs, I thought of this clip from The Office. I'm going to miss that.
posted by Gary at 10:17 AM on January 23, 2012


I had a Bold 9000, and now have a Bold 9900. Both are the best phones I've ever had. When I was shopping for the 9000, I was agnostic on what phone to get. I played with the stuff in the store, and as soon as I picked it up after fiddling with the iPhone, I knew it was the phone for me. The iPhone was more advanced in many ways, but it just didn't "grab" me as being useful. And the Blackberry did. It had more bling, but I was looking for convenience and usability.

But the problem is you're in the minority. I don't think, side by side, RIM has a chance with most people when compared side by side with an iPhone or decent Android. I'm an iPhone user, but I would go straight to Android if Apple were to vanish. I wouldn't give RIM a chance.

The fact that when I bought the new phone I was able to get all my accounts back on the phone over the air, just by logging onto their BIS website, was just awesome. I was able to get EVERYTHING back by using the Desktop manager program to back up the old and restore to the new. And I mean everything- all my mail, all my text messages, all my media files, all my customizations like ringtone and sound profiles and even volume settings- was on the new phone in a matter of minutes.

Google accounts, i Cloud...

I read an article, perhaps here, about the RIM management, and it bemoaned that the guys in charge were quasi-autistic perfectionists. That's what I WANT in my mobile phone makers. I want them to obsess about the small stuff and not rush to market.

You're framing this wrong. RIM hasn't fallen back because they're perfectionist. Waiting for features to be perfect before implementing is Apples thing. RIM has fallen back because they sat on their asses believing their users would never leave while other phones pushed the field forward.

And now they're playing catch-up. And it's a shame. Because obviously, they do have a fan base, they do have users like you that prefer their brand, and choice is good. So I'm rooting for them.

I wouldn't write them off just yet. I was a guest speaker at a couple of high school classes a couple weeks ago, and I did an impromptu "raise your hand poll" to see what handsets students had. Of the 40-50 students, 25-30 owned a Blackberry, a handful had Android devices and there was just a single iPhone.

I don't speak to high schools. But just looking ate younger family members and their friends (basically on facebook) I see the complete opposite. I see Androids and iPhones. I don't think most of the kids even know what a BB is.

I see RIM much more popular with the older crowd, mainly because of the keyboard. Over the last year I've seen several move on to Android or iPhone, though one did return to BB because she couldn't get use to the iPhone keyboard.
posted by justgary at 10:53 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only time I come across to people with Blackberries is when they ask me if they should get Android or an iPhone. True story.
posted by unSane at 11:27 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meet Thorsten Heins.

(oh dear...)
posted by progosk at 3:16 PM on January 23, 2012


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