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Globe & Mail Exposé On BlackBerrys Last Few Conflicted Years

DevCon 2010

While I was getting home from visiting my parents in San Diego this week quite a few readers sent in this great exposé done by the Globe and Mail. It is titled “Inside the fall of BlackBerry: How the smartphone inventor failed to adapt” and does a great job of giving you the back story on what was happening as BlackBerry struggled from 2010 until now. I can confirm quite a bit of the story that we heard from other sources over the years but some of the other revelations really put things in perspective.

I highly recommend checking it out and reading it. The article is quite long but once you read it you will understand what lead to the conflicted uncoordinated last few years from BlackBerry as they pulled in different directions. Its also nice to learn a bit more about former co-CEO Jim Balsillie’s plan for using BBM as SMS 2.0 and how Heins was supposedly out to kill it since it would harm the handset division that he was part of.

While the article is in no way flattering to BlackBerry it does give you a bit of the back story and an understanding that BlackBerry actually foresaw much of what has transpired. Let us know what you think are the best parts!

3 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. It’s a long, but very worthwhile read (though it was a bit depressing since we know what the end result was).

    Most BlackBerry fans will likely hit a few spots where they lament that they were saying the same things in terms of what could’ve helped BlackBerry and what hindered them.

    It was also interesting to think about what would’ve happened if the two co-founders hadn’t used up their influence by botching things earlier, and had been able to push their agendas through.

    If Lazaridis had been successful in pushing for a keyboard model OS10 release first that would’ve pushed the initial sales numbers and built more momentum. All their marketing spending would’ve seen a higher rate of return as more handsets would’ve been in the hands of users earlier, and it would’ve been more visible. That may not have been enough to ‘save’ the company, but it would have given them a better chance.

    If Balsillie had been able to get SMS 2.0 to be the first priority, that may well have been a huge revenue generator (though it would’ve pissed off core fans who were tired of waiting for OS10 and would have had to wait longer). Considering how much a simple texting plan costs a month, consumers would likely have been willing to pay a monthly fee for cross-platform BBM, and if he could’ve gotten carriers on board that would’ve put BlackBerry in a position of changing and leading the mobile industry again.

    They had so many opportunities to change their future for the better, and squandered so many (like just leaving that China deal hanging in the air until it died).

    • There is far more to those stories than can be told in a report. It is all not so simple – nothing ever is. Ask any exec how much politics (internal and external) goes into every thing discussed, let alone decided upon!
      For example, only a few carriers even considered Balsillie’s SMS 2.0 so it wouldn’t have garnered support to go anywhere when SMS was actually a “free” & already paid service that the carriers were cashing in on and gouging customers. Also, other governments would have to approve the China deal.

  2. Thanks, dude, I am familiar with the politics of business. Usually you need a strong hand and shared goals to keep it in check.

    While the BBM strategy would’ve been a bit of a risk, I still have to disagree with you. The fact that Balsillie even got a few carriers to consider it speaks volumes. Ultimately the carriers want money, and they get that by providing consumers what they want. If BlackBerry could show there was money to be made with BBM, carriers would want in. BBM is it’s own social network, which texting or simple messaging applications just can’t compete with. Even if other carriers hadn’t jumped on board initially, BlackBerry could’ve marketed it initially as ‘exclusive’ to those that did until it’s value was known and other carriers wanted in (kind of like what the Apple did with the iPhone, though the carriers were clamouring for the iPhone out of the gate).

    Think about it: if the cross-platform launch of BBM that was supposed to happen 10 days or so ago had gone as planned, and millions of people had signed up, but it wasn’t available on certain carriers, how believable or smart would that carrier have sounded if they said, “Yeah, we could’ve had it, but we didn’t want it.”

    As far as the China deal goes, I personally wouldn’t have liked to see them go in as minority partners and expose their technology, but it would’ve established them as a firm player in a huge market, and the ongoing revenue that would’ve come from that would’ve helped fund their global goals. The deal involved them having minority ownership so I don’t think it would have as many hurdles as you might be thinking. Hammering out a deal, and then going radio silent on their partner until the deal died on the table is incredibly bad business, and needlessly burns bridges. Even a quick and simple, “Sorry, we can’t do this at this point in time,” would’ve been better.

    There’s a lot that needs to be addressed in the internal structure of BlackBerry, and, while the Fairfax offer isn’t a sweetheart deal, going private and having a firm leader to focus all those brilliant minds in one direction maybe worth it.

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