Research in Motion, the Canadian company that invented the smartphone but has seen its stock and reputation slide in the past two years, will release a long-awaited new phone with new software inside it on Wednesday. Early indications are that it will be a serious refreshment of a device that has lagged behind its competitors. We will have to see, but one thing bodes well: In a world where customers and stock markets are relentless in their demand for constant innovation, RIM has done something strikingly original: It has taken its time.
Perhaps it’s a stretch to say the Waterloo, Ont., company actually wanted to wait so long to release the BlackBerry 10. No doubt it would have preferred to have kept pace with the revolution wrought by the release of the first Apple iPhone in 2007. RIM has seen its stock fall from dizzying heights, and it has gone through a painful management shakeup that saw the co-CEOs, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, step aside. The once-innovative company failed to make a mark in the lucrative tablet sector with the BlackBerry PlayBook, and it has had to lay off employees to protect its earnings.
Perhaps its greatest sin, in the eyes of some, has been to repeatedly delay the launch of a new phone with an operating system that takes the pioneering device beyond its origins as a secure e-mail reader attached to a telephone. Smartphones have since become all-in-one pocket-sized personal computers, miniature televisions, cameras, video recorders and social media handsets. Competitors like Apple and Samsung have kept up a frenetic pace of new releases and innovations, and have raised expectations through the roof. It’s telling that Apple has seen its stock price fall dramatically since it announced record sales of its new iPhone 5 that still failed to meet analysts’ expectations. All of a sudden, the worry is that Apple has lost its touch and won’t be able to innovate at the pace required in such a competitive marketplace.
Now, coming up slowly from behind, is RIM. The BlackBerry 10 has been promised for almost a year, but the company has resisted moving too quickly. It knows it needs to do this right, and that taking the time required is the only way of ensuring success. It has survived falling stock prices and internal upheaval to arrive here. The new phone will be featured in a television ad during the Super Bowl game this weekend, and early reviews of the device are glowing.
It will be good to have RIM back in the game, and we wish them well. It is a company that has created immense wealth in Canada and enhanced the country’s reputation. And now, with luck and good marketing, combined with a promising new product, it can show a rapacious, speed-addicted world that, sometimes, there is value in going slowly.