Perhaps the most popular criticism of Research In Motion during its failures is that the company rested on its laurels; that a company founded on pioneering innovative technology failed to innovate. And for years RIM denied this was the case, even as marketshares dropped, sales slowed, and competition unleashed a wave of superior rival devices.
But it seems that now, with RIM’s stock down 95% and all hopes pinned on the future—the future is named BlackBerry 10—the Canadian technology company is finally ready to admit that some serious self-inflicted wounds contributed to its fall from grace.
In an interview with Globe and Mail reporter Iain Marlow, RIM chief executice officer Thorsten Heins acknowledged some of his company’s more substantial errors.
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First, RIM ignored the emergence of fourth-generation wireless networks in the US. The company thought that 4G was a fluffy marketing term. They didn’t build any 4G devices and so, when wireless carriers started hyping up 4G like crazy, BlackBerrys were quickly pushed out of the limelight.
Second, RIM greatly underestimated the popularity of touchscreen smartphones (read: the iPhone). Thorsten said that he never thought users would be willing to sacrifice battery life for a touch interface.
Third, RIM failed to recognize the shift to BYOD, or the “bring your own device” to work trend. Companies sacrifice some security when they ditch BlackBerry’s enterprise servers—but as it turns out, BYOD can save costs as well as boost employee morale and productivity.
These mistakes were salient, and they were all made within a couple years of each other. It’s forced RIM into a tight spot in which all hopes are pinned on BB10, the next-gen mobile platform and its roster of BlackBerrys slated to launch early next year.
Thorsten is confident of a comeback, but as CEO, he has to be. The rest of us can only wait to see if RIM can once again lead the mobile world in innovation.