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RIM exec to CEOs: start trying iPhone, stop selling on Flash

updated 11:50 am EDT, Thu June 30, 2011

RIM exec open letter challenges CEOs to act

A rare open letter from a RIM executive Thursday has challenged the company's co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis to take more dramatic steps to solve its worsening market share problems. The executive, remaining anonymous with BGR to avoid reprisals from the CEOs and their supporters, accused the company of being isolationist in its strategy and refusing to try competitors' products to see how they work. Instead of simply trying to match feature checklists or please middlemen, RIM management should be using Android and iPhone devices for a week and understanding what they're doing better, the source said.

"We often make product decisions based on strategic alignment, partner requests or even legal advice -- the end user doesn't care," he said. "We simply have to admit that Apple is nailing this and it is one of the reasons they have people lining up overnight at stores around the world, and products sold out for months. These people aren't hypnotized zombies, they simply love beautifully designed products that are user centric and work how they are supposed to work."

The unnamed veteran also savaged the emphasis on RIM, and indirectly for Android makers as well, on using Flash as a selling point for devices like the BlackBerry PlayBook. At 25 million iPad users, it was clear the public didn't care about Adobe's plugin and that marketing it was just evidence that there were few differentiators that would convince others to buy. Anchoring so tightly to Flash and AIR was even a liability, since many native PlayBook apps looked like a "Fisher Price toy," he said. Apple had much better tools for iOS, and RIM was not only producing rough toolsets but discouraging criticism.

RIM's tendency to rush projects to meet arbitrary quarterly goals, such as dropping vital support for native e-mail on the PlayBook, also needed to stop.

A lack of communication was characterized as RIM's fundamental corporate problem. Software management was an issue as the company was "demotivated" and slipping behind through a lack of decisiveness. At a deeper level, though, executives weren't communicating to the rest of the staff or taking efforts to improve workplace morale, particularly in the light of new layoffs. "Some of our offices feel like Soviet-era government workplaces," the letter writer said.

He went so far as to directly blame Balsillie and Lazaridis and didn't believe their justification that only they could take the company through its transition to the QNX platform used in the PlayBook. Neither CEO took the iPhone seriously, so their wisdom in salvaging the company was questionable. The executive wanted a new CEO not locked into RIM's conventional mode of thought and for the two current leaders to focus on delivering the innovation and carrier deals a new CEO would want.

"We missed not boldly reacting to the threat of iPhone when we saw it in January over four years ago," he said. "We laughed and said they are trying to put a computer on a phone, that it won't work. We should have made the QNX-like transition then. We are now 3-4 years too late. That is the painful truth... it was a major strategic oversight and we know who is responsible."

by MacNN Staff



  1. Geoduck

    Joined: Dec 1969



    At least SOMEBODY at RIM has a clue. Too bad they aren't the ones running things.

  1. Alfiejr

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Death Spiral

    Those co-CEO's wont quit and can't change. they will get dumped some time next year, but it will be too late. RIM is the next Palm. only question is who buys the carcass at bargain price. my bet: Facebook.

  1. iphonerulez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Since they won't dump Adobe Flash support

    I think those RIMtards should get what they deserve. Flash doesn't run superbly on RIM devices, nor does it run well on WebOS devices. These companies need to get a clue and stop pandering to Adobe and Flash. Kill Flash off when it comes to mobile devices. Only Flashtards want Flash and the general consumer doesn't give a damn as long as they get their content. That means that web sites need to dump Flash completely or provide an reasonable alternative.

    When you've got company leaders in complete denial, there's really no way to help them.

  1. facebook_Mangy

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Jun 2011


    none of this is surprising

    RIM's fatal handicap is hubris. Given the lack of respect with which Balsillie and Lazardis trash talked Apple and others, it's not surprising in the least they didn't bother testing their competitors' products. It never occurred to them the tech industry might change.

  1. cloudDigit

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Couldn't agree more

    I agree completely with this open letter. RIM has always taken the stance that they know their stuff and they understand their users. But the reality is that their business model only seemed to have worked well in the Early to Mid 2000s. It such a shame that they bury their heads in the sand hoping that feature lists will bail them out.

    I can completely relate to what this guy is saying as a former employee myself.

  1. SockRolid

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Keep your enemies closer

    Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.
    - Sun-tzu - Chinese general & military strategist (~400 BC)

  1. SockRolid

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Smartphone vs. App Phone

    RIM fell behind because the BlackBerry was a pure smartphone. It was the well-established market leader. The iPhone 2G, as slick as it was, was still just a smartphone.

    But a year later, Apple rolled out the iPhone App Store and permanently moved the bar much higher. iPhone became an app phone, and it bumped traditional smartphones down to the second tier. Yes, traditional smartphones could run 3rd party apps. But no, it was nowhere as easy to find, buy, and install apps as it was in iPhone.

    You could also argue that adding multi-touch and removing the physical keyboard (and stylus) emphasized iPhone's OS and apps over the hardware. The iPhone simply became whatever app it is running, with no distractions. The hardware and OS just get out of the way.

  1. donmontalvo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The unnamed RIM exec should be promoted to CEO

    Only then will RIM have a chance.

    Don Montalvo, TX

  1. viktorob

    Joined: Dec 1969


    So far so good..

    Ok, at this moment, we think RIM makes crappy devices, RIM executives know they make crappy devices, why the H E L L some users still believe RIM products are the best in the world?

  1. chas_m



    Best. Quote. EVER!

    "These people aren’t hypnotized zombies, they simply love beautifully designed products that are user centric and work how they are supposed to work."

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