updated 11:50 am EDT, Thu June 30, 2011
RIM exec open letter challenges CEOs to act
A rare open letter from a RIM executive Thursday has challenged the company's co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis to take more dramatic steps to solve its worsening market share problems. The executive, remaining anonymous with BGR to avoid reprisals from the CEOs and their supporters, accused the company of being isolationist in its strategy and refusing to try competitors' products to see how they work. Instead of simply trying to match feature checklists or please middlemen, RIM management should be using Android and iPhone devices for a week and understanding what they're doing better, the source said.
"We often make product decisions based on strategic alignment, partner requests or even legal advice -- the end user doesn't care," he said. "We simply have to admit that Apple is nailing this and it is one of the reasons they have people lining up overnight at stores around the world, and products sold out for months. These people aren't hypnotized zombies, they simply love beautifully designed products that are user centric and work how they are supposed to work."
The unnamed veteran also savaged the emphasis on RIM, and indirectly for Android makers as well, on using Flash as a selling point for devices like the BlackBerry PlayBook. At 25 million iPad users, it was clear the public didn't care about Adobe's plugin and that marketing it was just evidence that there were few differentiators that would convince others to buy. Anchoring so tightly to Flash and AIR was even a liability, since many native PlayBook apps looked like a "Fisher Price toy," he said. Apple had much better tools for iOS, and RIM was not only producing rough toolsets but discouraging criticism.
RIM's tendency to rush projects to meet arbitrary quarterly goals, such as dropping vital support for native e-mail on the PlayBook, also needed to stop.
A lack of communication was characterized as RIM's fundamental corporate problem. Software management was an issue as the company was "demotivated" and slipping behind through a lack of decisiveness. At a deeper level, though, executives weren't communicating to the rest of the staff or taking efforts to improve workplace morale, particularly in the light of new layoffs. "Some of our offices feel like Soviet-era government workplaces," the letter writer said.
He went so far as to directly blame Balsillie and Lazaridis and didn't believe their justification that only they could take the company through its transition to the QNX platform used in the PlayBook. Neither CEO took the iPhone seriously, so their wisdom in salvaging the company was questionable. The executive wanted a new CEO not locked into RIM's conventional mode of thought and for the two current leaders to focus on delivering the innovation and carrier deals a new CEO would want.
"We missed not boldly reacting to the threat of iPhone when we saw it in January over four years ago," he said. "We laughed and said they are trying to put a computer on a phone, that it won't work. We should have made the QNX-like transition then. We are now 3-4 years too late. That is the painful truth... it was a major strategic oversight and we know who is responsible."