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Should RIM Fire the Lawyers and Hire Developers?


One of the most interesting parts about yesterdays earning call and fiscal stats was that RIM announced a “Cost Optimization Program” that spells bad news for some of RIM’s 17,000+ employees. Cost Optimization according to RIM will involve streamlining operations across RIM and will include a headcount reduction. While reading what RIM meant by this I could not help but think of a certain department at RIM that I always love to hate. Read RIMs goals for the Cost Optimization Program and tell me what you think:

  1. Streamline operations across RIM
  2. Taking out redundancies
  3. Reallocation of resources to focus on high growth opportunities and strategic objectives
  4. Accelerate new product introductions
  5. Headcount reduction based on these changes

I have been hearing from contacts at RIM for awhile now that this sort of headcount reduction was in the cards simply to trim the non-performing departments. The thing is that every time I read that list of goals for RIM I can think of one department at RIM is notorious for running counter to all of those goals. I am sure by now you realize I mean RIM’s legal department.

While I concede that RIM’s NTP $612 million settlement was a setback it really set RIM on the wrong path. I have not heard of one project or initiative at RIM that was not held up in some way by RIM legal. When you hear RIM employees talk about the bureaucracy and red tape for a product launch or service update once again we usually have RIM legal to thank.

That makes me wonder if maybe the first department RIM should “Streamline” is their overeager legal department. Sometimes I think that department gets paid by the word to write disclaimers and user agreements in every language. I am not trying to advocate these people losing their jobs or say that all of RIM legal is expendable but that is definitely in the top three in need of streamlining. RIM seems to have three classes of lawyers. The CYA (Cover Your Ass), patent application, and litigation defense. I understand the latter two but they really need to break out of the CYA model. Its one thing to protect the company but maybe they would be better off teaching the lawyers how to develop BlackBerry apps… to accelerate new product introductions.

Feel free to discuss it more in this forum thread. Another great example of RIM legal at work is their attempts to take down which you can read about at this link.

16 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. Its a fine line with legal. Sure reduced legal restrictions can push out a product faster or an update faster.. but if you miss something the legal should have found.. its gonna cost you more in the long run…. its tough…

  2. RIM needs to buy the Nortel Patents to secure some of the best patents to lead us into the new age.

    • They’ve been trying 🙁

      They were blocked from having multiple bids on Nortel tech a few years ago when nortel went under.

      everyone wanted to loot nortels tech after they died, but didn’t show interest when nortel was still alive 🙁

  3. Sadly, with all the lawsuits going on in the mobile world these days they need to make sure they are protected. One suit gone wrong could really hurt them.

  4. I can’t believe it, people are saying keep the lawyers! RIM just lost 15% of it’s share price in a single day.

    Given the choice between having people who can make you something (developers), and people who can protect something which you’ve already made (lawyers), I’d go with the former any day.

  5. Hi Glad you put this up. I was going to put up a forum post soliciting people’s thoughts about what has gone wrong at RIM.

    I recall a rant by programmers that said RIM was making it very hard for developers to bring apps to the playbook. Maybe it was signing or something and one response was that RIM’s corporate background and security credentials meant that they were very legalistic about dealing with developers. This stuff can kill companies.

    Once can think programmers will still come because you don’t want to ignore a market of postentially millions of people (playbook owners in a year or so) but many prgramming outfits are very small. They tend not to act fully rationally. They can say awww forget it!! And that can really hurt because the next big big app could come from a kid working in his bedroom, or a very small outfit.

    However, having absorbed the news of yesterday I can’ help but think that the issues RIM has come from the top and are indeed classic in business.

    Here is my two cents. RIM is a company that has exprienced phenominal growth over a relatively short period. A key driver in that growth has been their very solid partnership with carriers. RIM until recently has never even had to advertise their product. Carriers did it for them. Carriers loved their product because they caused people to buy data plans.

    In product development RIM looked to what carriers wanted. Data sipping devices for which people purchased data plans. They were also in a situation in which companies purchased phones for employees, so this made thinking about consumers very foreign to RIM.

    Then iPhone….. bam… people began to care about phones. They brought music and fund and the internet. In short alot more than simple communication. RIM should have reacted but did not.

    They felt the carriers and businesses would back them up. They didn’t need to compete with iPhone because carriers would push people to blackberries to save on data bandwidth. I mean how often did we hear Mike L talk about this stuff. A ton!

    But that didn’t happen because Google saw the internet in your hand and didn’t want Apple to control it, so they bought Android and gave it away…. bam… One carrier has iPhone and the competitor doesn’t go for blackberry they go for Android.

    The carriers may not like the data overload but they need to give consumers what they want. Suddenly they tell RIM, ya thanks for the data sipping, but sorry people don’t really care about that. And while we’d like to charge people high prices for data which would drive people to blackberries we can’t collude on data prices so data is going to be cheap and people are going to want zippy smart phones. So sorry we really don’t want your phones anymore.

    Suddenly RIM finds out carriers don’t want to take their slow phones. Recall Verizon rejecting the refresh on the storm 2 altogether.

    The classic error was that RIM looked to carrier desires without realizing that carriers must fall in line with end consumers.

    I recall the classic line about GM when they were rising high in the 60s. We don’t ask consumers what they want to drive we tell them what they want to drive. Well it didn’t work for GM, and being unresponsive to consumer demand hasn’t worked for RIM either.

    I really enjoy the playbook, but I see similar problems here as well. Just one example, how could they bring it out without Skype? I mean great cameras, great sound, no Skype. It makes no sense.

    I also love BB phones, I like BBM and I like the keyboards.

    In the 9900 RIM produced (is producing) a phone that it’s users want. The monaco looks sexy, they need that.

    I hope getting caught with their pants down because they were ignorning end consumers, thinking that carriers could control product demand, will allow them to break from carrier dependence. Apple should be the lesson. If you have a product consumers want you are the one that ends up with the power vis a vis carriers.

    So yes fire the lawyers, also cut back on the managers telling you to look to the carriers. Hire programmers hire designers who are going to give consumers products they desire. The good news it with recent acquisitions it looks like RIM is getting it.

    Sorry for the long post I hope some will read it and post what you think.

    • Sorry for the spelling errors, I don’t type well and just wanted to get my thoughts down.

    • Well said kiddo. Yeah for years I have been saying RIM needs to stand up for the end user instead of carriers. Hopefully they are finally listening.

      • Its a double edged sword guys. Tough road to follow.

        Personally I don’t think these issues are as big as are being presented.

        No one would be complaining about these issues if QNX was out on a phone in 2011, NO ONE

        I think overall we are underestimating the MASSIVE undertaking it is to make the switch to QNX on phones and still retain all the things that got RIM to where they are.

        They only bought QNX 14 months ago!

        Looking more at the details, I think it was unreasonable to expect QNX in 2011

        I think the specs of the 9900 are actually MORE than what is needed to run what the 9900 is capable of running

        They could have thrown a 1 Ghz cpu in it and it would run almost the same.

        I may be drinking the RIM kool-aid , but, I believe Mike and Jim’s explanation of things yesterday, MADE SENSE.

        Kevin at crackberry just wrote a post on why OS 7 is being held up by carriers and it makes sense. You guys should go read it.

        I know we all want it sooner, but, I think in the end RIM is right on track with the transition…

        incoherent rant over

        • I think my point is they should have bought QNX earlier.

          They should have been on the hunt as soon as iPhone dropped.

          I understand that we have 20/20 hindsight here. My view is that what destroyed RIM’s strategy was not iPhone but Android, which gave carriers an alternative to the iPhone that was not a Blackberry.

          The best spin one can put on it is that RIM bet on satisfying carriers and lost. That isn’t a guess. Mike L has given keynotes where he predicts restriction in bandwidth and predicts BB as the solution. That is NOT going to happen.

          What he didn’t get was consumers will put up with crappy bandwidth, and most of the time they can “play” on wifi.

          Mike L has even recently said BB phone are great look what they can do on very low processing and limited connectivity. Yes, we get it those phone do well in developing countries, but they didn’t have a strategy for developed countries fast enough and this is because they were not looking at consumer wants. This mindset MUST be broken.

          Let me give one small example. Huffington Post just passed to NYT website to become the most popular news website in the US. Amazingly HuffPo is already on the Playbook. It works fine and I like it, but it is far from perfect (it doesn’t load comments), navigation could be improved.

          RIM should work with HuffPo to make the experience on the playbook second to none. I’m not saying they aren’t doing this but they need to be nimble and quick with stuff like this.

          I’m not for dumping on RIM. I say Go RIM Go! but when things aren’t going well it’s interesting to learn the lessons from it.

          • The first Iphone dropped on June 29, 2007.

            QNX was Bought April 2010.

            3 years basically.

            Now.. . when the Iphone came out, NO ONE thought it would catch on like it did. Apple probably didn’t even think that. Its well documented that most players in the industry didn’t think it would catch on.

            When the Iphone 3G dropped that should have been when the realized what they were up against. That was July 11, 2008.

            I doubt RIM’s first blush was to go find another OS, but, to see what they could do with their own OS.

            I would assume they would do that for a year… that would bring them to July 2009… now… they realize app market has exploded….. they realize their Java OS can’t do it…. they begin to think where do we go next

            By October 2009 I think they decided it was too difficult to make a new OS, so, they have to go buy one.

            Now QNX was bought April 2010, but, one knows that the main parts of the sale would likely have been worked out months before… lets say… February 2010…

            SO that means from October 2009 to February 2010, they needed to research, do due diligence and negotiate a HUGE purchase. Thats only 5-6 months… not bad imo.

            Based on my timeline.. there isn’t that much room to speed things up… maybe by 3-4 months… 5-6 months tops…

            hope that made sense.. i know it does in my brain!

            • And one cannot look at Android as someone who was ahead of curve.

              Android was being developed way back in November 2007. One can say that its only NOW emerging as a viable OS with capabilities… thats 3.5 years!!!

              Google could invest 3.5 years in getting an OS going as they weren’t already in the game

              One cannot compare Google to RIM

            • RIM was hindered by litigation issues with bogus NTP Inc. for about 2 years. The iPhone came out the following year. It was great to have Apple put out a challenge for RIM. Unfortunately, RIM decided to work with big V to develop the Storm and they rushed it. The Storm itself wasn’t too bad but the original 4.7 snailOS turned people off. v5.0 was much better on the Storm but the initial take by consumers and reviewers was poor.

              RIM needs to bypass the carriers and push updates to their devices themselves. This is what their lawyers should force upon carriers. It’s rubbish that the carriers want people to switch phones every few months because that’s how often Android phones are appearing. Apple manages to push updates, so should RIM.

    • Well said chap, some excellent points and an enjoyable read.

  6. Lawyers as much as we hate them are a necessary evil. What RIMM needs to do is retool their advertising campaign and to speed up the manufacturing process to get these products to market. They have the potential – look at QNX, its far ahead of the competetion.

  7. Great comments all and all RIM was too comfortable at first

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