If Canadians talked on BlackBerrys as much as they talk about the devices, the company that makes them might well be in the black today. But Canadians don’t, and it’s not, and The Globe and Mail’s readers had a lot to chew over this week, what with BlackBerry Ltd. on the brink of being sold to the highest low bidder. The Globe’s investigative report into the demise of BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion Ltd.) was one of the best-read and most-commented-upon stories of the week.
One common theme among readers was that, while BlackBerry was ahead of its time with its e-mail technology, it failed to foresee the logical next step. “The downfall started June 29, 2007, the day the iPhone was introduced,” one commenter wrote. Another went deeper: “While RIM before the iPhone was very successful, it and other device makers at that time were not making truly smart phones. Smart means a real general-purpose computer system lurking inside. The triple genius of Steve Jobs was 1) he took Apple Mac OS, redeveloped it into a new iOS, 2) designed a real tiny but powerful computer + cellphone crammed with insane chips to run it, and 3) created an innovative marketing plan to sell them.”
Many readers saw a business parable in the story – one about corporate cultures that are unable to progress along with their sales. “Technical missteps aside, the RIM debacle is a leadership lesson about how high-growth companies fail,” one reader wrote. “It’s common (and natural) for founders to not want to give up control in a company evolution. It requires leadership that is open to change for the good of their company, shareholders and employees. … Today, it’s quite clear that BlackBerry had neither.”
One commenter who claimed to be a BlackBerry employee was particularly damning about the “do-nothing, make-work types” that infiltrated the company as it expanded rapidly. “The real exposé is that it was a miracle every time BlackBerry managed to produce something that kind-of worked.”
So many lessons in the fall from grace of one former Canadian tech darling. But also some real outrage, especially about the $55-million payout that chief executive officer Thorsten Heins may well pocket if and when the company is sold. “The potential payout to Heins … just adds insult to injury,” one commenter lamented.
Letter writer Mary Jane Wood of Burlington, Ont., proposed an alternative deal: “I think the board should give him the boot – and pay him in unsold Z10s [the latest BlackBerry device].”