All The Dumb Things RIM's CEOs Said While Apple And Android Ate Their Lunch

jim balsillie

Photo: AP

Since Steve Jobs debuted the iPhone in January 2007, Research In Motion’s stock has fallen by 65%.It’s not hard to figure out why. The company totally missed the boat on what Apple introduceda smartphone that would do so much more than email.

It’s not just that RIM missed out on what Apple released. It’s that it was slow to react. It was also wrong–loud wrong–about consumer reaction to touchscreens.

We’ve rounded up some of the quotes that illustrate the delusions of RIM’s top executives who all but sat pat watching Apple, and later Android, eat up their marketshare.

In May 2008, Mike Lazaridis called QWERTY keyboards the most exciting trend in mobile

No, seriously, he did. Check this out from ZDNet:

The most exciting mobile trend is ...

Full Qwerty keyboards. I'm sorry, it really is. I'm not making this up. People are running out of their two-year contracts and they're coming into the stores and they want to be able to do Facebook and they want to be able to do instant messaging and they want to be able to do e-mail and they ask for those features thinking that they're going to get another flip phone and they're walking out with a (BlackBerry) Curve or a Pearl because they're the best devices for doing those kinds of activities. And so what is the defining factor? The keyboard.

Jim Balsillie's first reaction to the iPhone on an earnings call was incomprehensible

The iPhone was great for BlackBerry! People came in looking for an iPhone and walked out with a BlackBerry

Lazaridis in 2008:

I think that BlackBerry was the first and best integrated and most secure smartphone solution in the world a decade ago. And it continues to be today. But I think what happened was the amount of marketing and the attention (Apple) generated in the market--the customers are now coming to the store and saying I didn't know you could do all that with a phone. And when they get there they realise there's a selection--there's not just one device. And so what it's actually done is increased our sales.

After the iPad launched Lazaridis wasn't sure if the tablet market made sense

Here are his comments at a conference in April 2010, we've bolded certain key parts:

So the question you have ask yourself is when it comes to tablet, what market or what opportunities still it's solving, what problem is it solving, and is it just a replacement laptop. I think that's a difficult one to judge. But I think again if you look at what's happening with smartphones are getting bigger, screens are getting bigger and getting more powerful and faster CPUs, more memory, we go in the 4G networks, we've got Wi-Fi, it's just got everything, the operating systems are becoming more, more powerful, the tools are becoming more, more powerful, more applications are being developed, and are being used in more and more both enterprise and consumer spaces. So, I think at this point if you have to take the whole thing into consideration, you can't say what's the market for tablets in exclusion of the other devices, you have to put the whole thing together and I don't think it's that clear yet.

Of course, RIM quickly changed its mind on tablets and claimed it would have something better than the iPad

Jim Balsillie's December 2010 earnings call:

I think the PlayBook redefines what a tablet should do. I think we've articulated some elements of it, and I think this idea of a proprietary SDK and unnecessary apps -- though there's a huge role for apps -- I think is going to shift in the market, and I think it's going to shift very, very quickly. And I think there's going to be a strong appetite for web fidelity and tool familiarity. And I think there's going to be a rapid desire for high performance. And I think we're way ahead on that. And I think CIO friendliness, we're way ahead on that.

...

So, I think the PlayBook clearly sets the bar WAY higher on performance, and you're going to see more. I think the enterprise stuff, we're seriously extending. I think the BlackBerry is still number one in social collaboration. And I think with the PlayBook and that environment we're going to set the new standard on performance and tools, very powerful tools. And we're growing very very fast. So, that's a lot.

So far, he's looking pretty wrong on this one:

'For those of us who live outside of Apple's distortion field, we know that 7' tablets will actually be a big portion of the market and we know that Adobe Flash support actually matters to customers who want a real web experience. We also know that while Apple's attempt to control the ecosystem and maintain a closed platform may be good for Apple, developers want more options and customers want to fully access the overwhelming majority of web sites that use Flash. We think many customers are getting tired of being told what to think by Apple. And by the way, RIM has achieved record shipments for five consecutive quarters and recently shared guidance of 13.8 - 14.4 million BlackBerry smartphones for the current quarter. Apple's preference to compare its September-ending quarter with RIM's August-ending quarter doesn't tell the whole story because it doesn't take into account that industry demand in September is typically stronger than summer months, nor does it explain why Apple only shipped 8.4 million devices in its prior quarter and whether Apple's Q4 results were padded by unfulfilled Q3 customer demand and channel orders. As usual, whether the subject is antennas, Flash or shipments, there is more to the story and sooner or later, even people inside the distortion field will begin to resent being told half a story.'

Truth of the matter is, the company's CEOs just aren't good at communication. Period.

Jim Balsillie went to the offices of BusinessWeek to talk about the PlayBook and this was first thing he said to reporters:

'There's tremendous turbulence in the ecosystem, of course, in mobility. And that's sort of an obvious thing, but also there's tremendous architectural contention at play. And so I'm going to really frame our mobile architectural distinction. We've taken two fundamentally different approaches in their causalness. It's a causal difference, not just nuance. It's not just a causal direction that I'm going to really articulate here--and feel free to go as deep as you want--it's really as fundamental as causalness.'

This is about more than just talk

We're not just randomly picking out quotes to simply embarrass the company. This muddled thinking at the top has its way of percolating down the rest of the organisation.

When your CEOs can't articulate what they're doing and what's happening around them, you're going to be victimized by more clear headed rivals like Apple and Google, which is what's happening to Research In Motion right now.

Speaking of smack talk, nobody does it better than RIM's rival

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