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RIM director likens ex-CEOs to Steve Jobs in odd defense

updated 04:00 pm EST, Mon February 13, 2012

RIM director Martin justifies slow turnaround

RIM director Roger Martin in an unusual interview with the Globe and Mail defended RIM's decision to hold for years before bringing in a new CEO. He saw there being no option for an outside CEO until RIM had groomed one from the inside, with outsiders being "morons from the outside" who would inevitably gut the BlackBerry designer. Martin went so far as to liken the departing Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis to the late Steve Jobs, insisting that only the two were talented enough and that RIM couldn't afforded an involuntarily exodus.

"So we should go bankrupt and fire our founders and bring in a moron?" Martin asked. "That's what we should do?"

The commentary ignored the specific conditions of Apple and of RIM's current state. Apple never went bankrupt, and while it came close, it was bringing in Jobs about 12 years after he had been forced out, only after multiple successive failed CEOs and by which point Jobs was once again an outsider. RIM has so far been declining in share over the past few years with its founding executives in charge, making them the cause of, and not solution to, the problem.

Addressing device strategy, the board member went on to echo Lazaridis' insistence that data compression and battery life were the main factors customers chose in phones. RIM wanted to make devices on the level of the iPhone, but wasn't willing to make any sacrifices in these two points to get there. "People were saying we can't make powerful phones like Apple, Martin said. "Yes, we can, but we couldn't believe consumers would put up with that kind of battery inefficiency and that kind of network inefficiency."

The position followed concerns that having a relative insider CEO like Thorsten Heins, as well as keeping many of the existing board members, risked maintaining the same problems that had led to RIM losing most of its market share. Rather than use 3G or risk shorter battery life on 4G, RIM is waiting until late 2012 to have new devices, leaving it with no direct answer to modern iPhones or Android devices for most of 2012. The dominance so far of Apple and Google has suggested that most real customers aren't as concerned with efficiency as they are with ease of use and performance.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Jeronimo2000

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Oh please.

    Roger, you're embarrassing yourself.

  1. ronmiller88

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Data Compression???

    Is he serious about the data compression statement? I can understand battery life, but I don't think anyone cares about data compression ... I'm sure most people don't even understand what that means!

    Shows how out of touch RIM is.

  1. Leatherropes

    Joined: Dec 1969



    RIM's perception of itself is downright bizarre. Data compression and battery? OMG. This guy is from a different planet.

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Someone should translate.

    Here, I'll start.
    "People were saying we can’t make powerful phones like Apple, Martin said. "Yes, we can, but we couldn’t believe consumers would put up with that kind of battery inefficiency and that kind of network inefficiency."

    We are totally lost in the consumer space. We have almost no idea what people want, or how we can innovate our way out of this horrific slide. We've been in the business oriented side for so long, we can't seem to break out of the "minuscule update every few years" cycle.

    We were wrong. Terribly wrong about what people want.

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969



    What the hll is he talking about?

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    And another.

    "Martin went so far as to liken the departing Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis to the late Steve Jobs, insisting that..." neither has a fully functional grey cell between them anymore.

  1. bitwrangler

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Bad summary

    The summary above is a very poor representation of the actual interview itself. For instance, RM never mentions "data compression" as being important to users. He does say that Lazaridis was focused on making the comms more "efficient", which would make tremendous sense in a world where carriers ruled the roost. If RIMM is guilty of anything on that point it would be that they missed the boat on the great shift away from carrier control to user control. The summary above makes RM's statement about Lazaridis seem far worse.

    Ditto for quotes about outsiders coming in to run the company. He uses Apple itself as an example of how damaging it could be to bring in folks to run the company that don't have the insiders perspective. If anything, he pretty heavily dissed Sculley as the "moron" statement seemed pretty squarely pointed at him and folks like Amelio et. al.

    I enjoy watching RIM flounder as much as the next guy, and some of RM's statements didn't really hold water, but much of what he says makes a lot of sense.

    If you haven't already, read the actual interview and make your own conclusions, just going by this summary is a disservice to journalism.

  1. Foe Hammer

    Joined: Dec 1969


    They're Exactly Like Steve Jobs ...

    ... just without all that vision/insight/drive/success stuff.

  1. jfgilbert

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Makes perfect sense

    The stock has lost about 75% of its value in the last 12 months. The directors of RIM are at risk of being sued by shareholders for having squandered the value of the company, in part by keeping the ineffective CEOs in place for much too long. This is a preemptive defense, an attempt at justifying the board's inaction before the lawsuits start.

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