Mike Lazaridis is having a bad week.
The engineering wizard who helped build Research In Motion Ltd. into a global wireless powerhouse is on a publicity campaign to personally promote the features of company's long awaited PlayBook tablet to select media outlets. So far, the results have been mixed.
Earlier this week, The New York Times portrayed him as an exasperated executive frustrated with "negative sentiment" about the company. On Wednesday, the BBC posted a short video of him abruptly terminating an interview after a reporter asked about government interference in India and the Middle East with RIM's widely admired BlackBerry network security.
[Watch the video here]
"That's just not fair," Mr. Lazaridis, RIM's co-chief executive officer, bristled in response to the question from reporter Rory Cellan-Jones. "First of all we have no security problem. … We've just been singled out here because we are so successful around the world. It's an iconic product."
When Mr. Cellan-Jones pressed again for a response, Mr. Lazaridis said: "It's over, the interview. You can't use that, it's not fair, it's national security. Turn that off."
The short one minute and 29 second clip went viral, ranking as the most viewed video on the BBC's website, ahead of videos about the capture of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo and U.S. President Barack Obama's deficit cutting plan.
"RIM is on record with our approach to lawful access issues and there are no recent developments to report," a spokeswoman for the company said in an e-mail. "Lawful access issues are now recognized as normal industry-wide issues and like others in the industry, we will continue to work with law enforcement and regulatory officials around the world as appropriate."
The fascination with Mr. Lazaridis's conduct reflects the enormous scrutiny RIM is under days ahead of its April 19 launch of the PlayBook in North American stores. The tablet will pit the Waterloo, Ont.-based company against the retail might of Apple Inc. and its iPad, which currently commands about three quarters of the tablet market.
Mr. Lazaridis is not the first technology innovator to stumble stepping out of the laboratory into the communications arena.
When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg tried to defend his company's controversial privacy practices during a filmed session with Wall Street Journal reporters last summer, he began sweating so profusely that he had to stop and remove his hooded jacket. The move revealed an internal company mission statement to be "more open."
"Oh my God, it's like a secret cult," reporter Kara Swisher quipped during the interview.
Apple founder Steve Jobs found himself in hot water last summer when he publicly responded to public complaints about the antenna on the company's iPhone 4 by complaining that customers were not holding the device properly. After weeks of technology blogs that skewered Apple for "Antenna Gate," the company agreed to change faulty cases on the phones.
Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page nearly derailed the company's IPO in 2004 when Playboy Magazine published an in-depth interview with them during a so-called quiet period when securities laws restrict public comments ahead of stock issues. The IPO was allowed to go ahead after the Securities and Exchange Commission delayed approval.