This week marks the ten year anniversary of Research in Motion’s BlackBerry. It is hard to believe that in ten short years the product has evolved from the monochrome RIM 950 running on a Mobitex network to the current touch screen BlackBerry Storm sold worldwide. The wirless device has evolved rapidly becoming the first Canadian product to make the Millward Brown Optimor list of the worlds 100 most valuable brands. The brands value rose 300% this year to become the 51st most valuable brand in the world.
The small Waterloo based company was in business for 15 years before they released the BlackBerry. RIM spent its early years developing wireless PC cards, pagers, and even modems for vending machines. When RIM released their first BlackBerry in January 1999 the companies founders had no idea how successful their product would soon become. The BlackBerry provided a huge competitive advantage to businesses. A 2007 Ipsos Reid survey found that the average BlackBerry user converted 63 minutes of downtime into work related tasks. It freed up time that would otherwise be wasted and helped create a ‘always connected’ business culture. Only one year after its release the BlackBerry made Time magazines “Best of 2000” list, two years after its release the U.S. Congress purchased a BlackBerry for each of its members, three years into its existence the BlackBerry won Oprah’s approval. Today its biggest endorsement comes from President Obama and his highly publicized fight to hang onto his BlackBerry.
RIM’s BlackBerry has truly transformed the world so it should come as no surprise that the transformations have been incredibly visible in the company’s home town Waterloo. RIM has firmly put Waterloo Region on the map playing a key role in promoting the region as tech friendly area. The company has over 8,000 local employees and has helped attract top talent from around the world. The influx of such highly skilled labor has benefitted all the technology companies in the area and multiple tech start ups have been created by former RIM employees.
Aside from the massive influx of people, RIM’s success has played a vital role in revitalizing the city and shaping the regions cultural institutions. Current and former RIM executives have been responsible for the financing of world class institutions such as the Centre for International Governance Innovation, the Waterloo Children’s Museum and the Institute for Quantum Computing. Perhaps the most high profile contribution has been the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics funded by a $100 Million contribution from RIM’s founder Mike Lazaridis. Recently it was announced that Stephen Hawking will hold a Distinguished Research Chair and spend ‘extended periods’ at the institute each year.
In only ten years a small local company has become one of the world’s most prominent wireless communication leaders. RIM has been given incredible product endorsements by world leaders, they have fought and lost hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits, and created a product so addictive it has earned the unofficial nick name ‘CrackBerry’. As competition begins to heat up the BlackBerry has faced greater challenges to its marketshare, but if the first ten years are any indication of the next ten, RIM will continue to innovate and outperform any competitor.