updated 11:35 am EDT, Mon April 11, 2011
RIM's CEOs say critics focus on wrong areas
RIM's co-CEOs in an interview published Monday went on the defensive against critics of their performance in smartphones. Mike Lazaridis didn't "fully understand" the reactions and instead wanted to steer people to high profits, growth, and international expansion that was taking the BlackBerry to 170 countries. The only answer was to "prove it over and over and over," he told the New York Times.
His counterpart Jim Balsillie argued that market share alone wasn't the issue and that RIM could thrive in the next five years just by continuing to grow and be successful. "You don't have to be all things to all people," he said.
He added that the platform transition RIM was performing, to switch from the legacy BlackBerry platform to the QNX roots used first in the BlackBerry PlayBook and later to go into BlackBerry 7. Apple has been one of the few companies to successfully switch over to a completely new OS or hardware platform, having moved first to Mac OS X and later from PowerPC to Intel.
"It's almost never done, and it's way harder than you realize," Balsillie explained. "This transition is where tech companies go to die."
Both responses mostly sidestepped the reason for concern. The BlackBerry has been losing share quickly in its core US market and has also been ceding ground in its home country of Canada as well as parts of Europe. The worldwide growth highlighted by Lazaridis has focused mostly on lower-end phones like the BlackBerry Curve 3G and sometimes on prepaid users, neither of which makes as much money per person as high-end, subscription BlackBerry users.
Premium smartphones have been a major weak point for RIM as Apple's iPhone and Android phones from HTC, Motorola, Samsung and others have consistently outperformed recent BlackBerry phones, even at the low end.
RIM may bounce back in mid-year once it launches the Torch 2, Bold Touch and other parts of a new lineup. All of the phones known so far are much faster and have higher resolution displays, 720p HD video, NFC, and other technologies that should bring them up to date.