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Blackberry Businesses IT

RIM CEO On What Went Wrong 299

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the second-system-syndrome-is-a-killer dept.
AZA43 writes "After releasing some very ugly financial numbers in late June, BlackBerry-maker RIM went on a media blitz to downplay the significance of its latest earnings and counter increasingly negative media attention. ... But a new Q&A with BlackBerry chief Thorsten Heins offers a unique take on what exactly went wrong at RIM — Heins blames the company's downfall [partly] on LTE in the U.S. — and he actually seems genuine in his answers." A peek into the mind of RIM's upper management.
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RIM CEO On What Went Wrong

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  • by Terry Pearson (935552) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @08:57AM (#40613399) Homepage Journal
    Just thinking that Android had to put up with LTE and it did just fine. Maybe Blackberry's problem is user interface, tight control of apps, and now a crowded market with better products.
  • Apple happened (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oconnorcjo (242077) * on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @08:59AM (#40613415) Journal
    I always thought that the palm pilot was a great idea, but if it had phone functionality, it would be perfect. Blackberry never saw this idea too well. When Apple finally figured it out, Blackberry was dead man walking.
  • by david.emery (127135) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @09:03AM (#40613453)

    It's a pocket computer. -THAT's- the big shift that RIMM missed, and -is still missing-.

    Nice summary of what the iPhone changed here: http://daringfireball.net/2012/07/iphone_disruption_five_years_in [daringfireball.net]

  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @09:04AM (#40613459)

    "we missed on some innovation..."
    "we weren't ready for it..."
    "not being focused on the new, innovative technologies..."

    and finally: "I would not say that we failed to innovate."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @09:05AM (#40613477)

    RIM = Research In Motion

    They simply sat down and rested on their laurels and forgot what their company name originally meant. No research -> No development -> No innovation .... open the barn door for a new player .... Apple.

  • by SkydiverFL (310021) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @09:12AM (#40613561) Homepage

    The company was over confident, overly comfortable in the business space, and simply ignored the customer base... both current and potential. While touch screens were popping up all over the place they were still pushing their tiny physical keyboard. While the competition was bumping up processor speeds to up performance RIM simply slapped on a crude semi-touchscreen which was too big and cumbersome for the core of the device. And, they offered virtually NOTHING to the developer market to foster application creation or distribution. And, finally, they simply ignored their own infrastructure multiple times. In short, they were so confident that their position in the business space was so guaranteed that they turned a blind to everything important.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @09:19AM (#40613637)

    Either this CEO has no idea what he is talking about or does not want to address the elephant in the room. iPhone and Android support of ActiveSync is what did so much damage to RIM. Had BB supported that many people would have stuck with them just to avoid carrying around two devices, one for work one for play.

    It also freed IT departments from dealing with restarting the phone, repushing servicebooks restarting the BES server and all the other hassle that went with BES. I know companies that moved to iPhone/Android and either fired or repurposed an full time employee that had been previously dedicated to BES.

  • by noh8rz5 (2674523) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @09:19AM (#40613643)
    The problem is BYOD - bring your own device. people would rather use their own gear than RIM. Actually, the real problem is that consumer electronics have been growing leaps and bounds, and business electronics have been stuck in the past. It used to be that businesses could afford the real stuff, while consumers got the cheeps. Now, my computer at home is faster and more pleasing to use than my POS at work. RIM fell into the "POS at work" category. People's eyes were opened by the iPhone, and they began to have a higher standard.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @09:21AM (#40613663) Journal
    At least they managed to trim a bit of fat from the top, instead of keeping the jet and firing 150 minions as part of a 'strategic realignment'...
  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @09:21AM (#40613673)
    RIM ignored the generic consumer in favor of selling their products in the business space. At first it worked because no other phone could do well in the business space and back when the only choices were Windows Mobile (the old, slow, unstable Windows Mobile) or BlackBerry many chose BlackBerry even if it wasn't the ideal smartphone, it was better than the competition. Then Apple released the iPhone which was consumer focused, no longer could RIM keep the consumers who just wanted a smartphone because there was a better option. Soon Android started appearing everywhere and iPhones got a whole lot more business friendly. All the while RIM was selling outdated hardware, an outdated UI, next to no developer support, and any time they tried to innovate it was a half-hearted attempt that failed (remember the storm?).

    In a nutshell, why is RIM broke? Because no one wants to buy a BlackBerry because an iPhone/Android does the job a whole lot better.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @09:29AM (#40613789)

    It shows how clueless they actually are. LTE has nothing to do with it. The problem was after the iPhone the phone became a "computer in your pocket" and RIM still had "Email in your pocket" - which suddenly looks a lot less compelling.

    RIM can't just do "something like an iPhone" that isn't going to wash. They need something radically new, clearly communication needs to be at its core (what were they thinking with the Playbook v1 - no email?!) Probably they need something with a keyboard (though how do you make THAT exciting?) as so many of their customers want that. They need excellence in industrial design. Personally I think they need the "blinky light" that shows you have a message. They need a far better UI (using the current Blackberry UI is an exercise in irritation). Most of all, "covering the bases" isn't enough, they need a "killer app" - being "competitive" can't save them, they have no momentum.

    And they need integration with a mobile device (like an iPad or Ultrabook - Blackberry users are keen on those keyboards).

    Can they do it? Hmm... seems vanishingly unlikely.

  • by JohnnyBGod (1088549) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @09:34AM (#40613865)

    Do you think he doesn't know that? This is politics. So you're the CEO of a company. Are you really going to come out to your shareholders and say "We're in the shit 'cause our competitors have done better? We'll one-up up them now! Promise!" Of course not! This raises nasty questions like "Well, why didn't you do better before it was a problem?" or "Oh yeah? And how are you going to do that?", questions which either aren't productive or can't be answered without showing your cards to your competition. No... instead, you make up some silly excuse that sounds plausible to anyone who isn't in the know.

  • by charnov (183495) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @09:47AM (#40614039) Homepage Journal

    IT does nothing.. and I mean NOTHING... without it being crammed down our throats by management, legal, or regulatory departments. We would rather get back to playing CoD or Warcraft and considering our pay has been on average slashed by half in the last 8 years, that's all the living we get any more.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @09:53AM (#40614117)

    I am not sure the blind leading the blind is the best method for RIM to survive. If WP7/8 actually sold a large number of devices it might be worth it. Instead they need to support ActiveSync on their own devices and offer their software/services on non-BB devices as well.

  • by Karlt1 (231423) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @10:00AM (#40614203)

    then how is the worlds most profitable cell phone company selling only 3G phones?

  • Re:Apple happened (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xest (935314) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @10:02AM (#40614233)

    Because Compaq (then later on HP) never invented PDAs (this is what they were called before smartphone became the prominent term) with phone capability called the iPaq, nor was this name used even before the iPod. Palm pilots with phone functionality is basically exactly what newer model iPaqs were.

    Apple didn't "figure out" this concept, far from it, it was already well established in the marketplace. What Apple did succeed in doing however was to bring it to consumers - RIM, HP, and even Dell's devices were business oriented, and whilst some consumers liked business features enough to embrace these devices as a consumer oriented tool, they were never going to compete with devices that were targetted purely at consumers, rather than business.

    It's the same reason that the likes of Netbooks sold hundreds of millions of units and took the market by storm in just a year or two - because to that point, most laptops out there were focussed either towards businesses, or the expensive high end power user like gamers, and again, whilst plenty of people bought laptops, finding value in them as a personal tool regardless, the consumerisation of them as netbooks really made the whole market explode. Tablets are again no different - the iPad was nothing new, tablets had been done in a way similar to the iPad since at least 2002 with Windows XP Tablet Edition's introduction (of course there were precursors to even that, but this is the point at which they became viable in the way they are now), but they were never consumer oriented, and so never really took off.

  • by jbolden (176878) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @10:04AM (#40614257) Homepage

    Give up on the OS? RIM has the only real time kernel on the market. Everyone else is using a server kernel adjusted for the desktop and then readjusted for the phone. The OS is one of their few remaining strengths.

  • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @10:19AM (#40614377)
    RIM's immediate problem is BlackBerry faithful holding out for BB 10 devices. Up until this last quarter RIM hadn't had a sizable reduction in sales. Their stock has taken a beating because they hadn't grown at the same pace as the smartphone market leading to sensationalist headlines decrying their impending doom because they were losing market share. While technically true it is like saying the baker on the corner is going bankrupt because 500 people moved into the neighborhood and the baker is still selling the 100 cakes a week he had for the last decade while 2 other bakers opened up shop and are selling 200 cakes a week each. The iPhone opened the smart phone market up to a new demographic. RIM was created to serve a completely different demographic and their culture has struggled to reach the new market. That market has started to erode their core market so they are indeed in dire straights if they don't do a course correction and they are well aware of that. They are doing what needs to be done just slower than the market would like. There are a lot of factors that will determine if RIM remains relevant but to count them out would be foolish at this point. Did you bet against Apple in the 90's? I bet you did...
  • Re:Apple happened (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Scutter (18425) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @10:36AM (#40614577) Journal

    but come on, everyone knows that business people aren't allowed to enjoy themselves on flights. if the IT goons didn't lock down the phones so that you can't do anything on them the company will fall apart? imagine the horror of the director of something using his phone to download a non-IT approved app like Angry Birds to play while on a business trip? the client will freak and pull the business

    if you take the power away from the IT goons to lock everything down what will they do? how will they get their power trip on?

    Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why the "IT goons" lock things down? Do you REALLY think it's a power trip? Are you that much of a child that you believe that to be the case? Or are you just trolling? Have you ever actually just asked to have Angry Birds added to the approved app list, or do you just complain about it like a petulant schoolgirl?

    Given that you have a low user ID, I'm going to assume you've been on Slashdot for a long time and therefore are at least somewhat technical. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you truly are not a moron and that you know that things get locked down for one reason and one reason only: To protect the company from idiot users. If left to their own, users will invariably create huge regulatory compliance issues (which can easily result in fines in the millions of dollars), introduce malware into the network, lose data, the list goes on. IT is responsible for the company data. If you want to take responsibility for that data, then you can decide how to protect it.

  • by hendridm (302246) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @10:45AM (#40614689) Homepage

    That's a good point. It seems to me RIM would have been a much better fit for Windows Pwn than Nokia is.

    Buy RIM, fire everyone, sell RIM-style keyboard phones with WP on it to existing customer base branded as Microsoft BlackBerry, which will be pleasing because it integrates nicely with all the other Windows bullshit they already have (says the salesman).

    With Nokia, Microsoft just made a shitty company shittier*. With RIM, the scam might actually be believable.

    *Note to Nokia fanboys: Nokia phones suck. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you can heal.

  • by na1led (1030470) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @10:47AM (#40614719)
    It was a slue of features missing on BB phones that other venders provided with Android and iPhone. The Camera was leaps and bounds better on iPhone and Android, and that alone made many users jump the RIM wagon. When I look at BB phones today, it's like comparing them to the old HP Ipaq Pocket PC - to an iPad or Galaxy Tab.
  • Re:^^^ Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stokessd (89903) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @11:15AM (#40615049) Homepage

    Plus one way pagers are allowed into places that no cell phone would be allowed. like all tech, they have a place

    Sheldon

  • LTE (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phorm (591458) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @11:34AM (#40615271) Journal

    Maybe not LTE per-se, but faster networks played at part.
    When Blackberry was a shining star, most of their core functionality centered around (comparatively) low-bandwidth textual data exchange. Email, BBIM. Sometimes they might pump a bigger chunk of data but overall nothing compared to media-laden webpages and youtube, etc. Apps generally weren't all that huge either.

    Then you bring out Apple and Android. Web-browser, music store, media, and apps that can be 20+MB to download (plus a few hundred for "content" at times). If we had been stuck at 2G speeds then the best phone-browser would still have been a fairly irritating experience speed-wise. At 3G browsing is fine, but faster networks have enabled "smart" devices to become media hubs for video-conferencing, tethering, movies and live streaming.

    There's a lot more than just "fast networks" at play, but it may have been a contributing factor. That said, it was also a predictable one that RIM should have been prepared for.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @11:41AM (#40615339)

    I can assure you, without a shadow of a doubt, that the API for managing communications over the radios on BlackBerry devices is one of the stupidest things ever created. In particular, it requires the application developer to handle the idiosyncrasies of the hardware/physical layers while communicating over the transport layer.

    Need a TCP connection over cell network? Write this set of software. Need a TCP connection over WiFi? Oh, there's a completely different set of APIs for that. Neither Android nor iOS puts developers through those idiotic hoops.

    Net result: the software devs at RIM appear to be complete fools.

  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @12:26PM (#40615945)

    It's probably because IOS and Android+Linux were complete, general OS stacks designed for, you know, computers, whereas RIM s/w was designed to run on low-end electronics like pagers and early cellphones, so is much more limited and specialized, then added to in an adhoc fashion as the hardware got faster and more memory.

    What really happened here is that the cellphone got replaced by a portable computer that happens to be able to phone people. RIM and to be fair many others got caught napping when that happened.

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @02:35PM (#40617825)

    I actually think that is the case.
    Blackberry had 2 things going for it.
    1. A really good keyboard. I never owned a Blackberry, however I was handed on a after I had an iPhone, and I found that keyboard was really nice to use... Better then other phones with a physical keyboard, or good touch screen keyboard....

    2. A secure method of sending emails and other messages.

    Now #2 became more of a liability then an asset, because these portable computers that happen to have phone features, supported standard secure ways to transfer data. And you could choose Wi-Fi or your Data Plan. Then what really hurt was the random Outages at RIM that left customers messageless.

    For #1 They still have a good keyboard... They started to push phones without it, and failed (Because not getting a keyboard is a step back). And the phones with it, caused you to have less screen real estate making it harder to make mobile sites that work for iPhone and Blackberry. While we loved the keyboard, we found that we read more then what we typed. Having a good keyboard that takes up half your phone, isn't an efficient use of the device.

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