updated 01:45 pm EDT, Wed July 13, 2011
RIM retrospective talks of no future-forward plans
A new retrospective of RIM from anonymous, former executives has painted an image of a company with a long-term difficulty anticipating phone trends. Trouble anticipating demand for personal-oriented smartphones reportedly not only extended to just after the iPhone launch but as far back as 2005, BGR said. Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis not only dismissed now commonplace features like cameras and music playback but basics like easy-to-remember names, dismissing Motorola's RAZR and others only to give in a few years later with the Pearl, Curve, and all its lineup.
"A BlackBerry with a name is ridiculous," he reportedly said.
Lazardis' reactions at the time are allegedly reflective of his current pattern and of a systemic unwillingness to focus on the future. He has supposedly been focused on refining existing designs, including at one point an obsession with speakerphones, over adding genuinely new features. RIM was a "reactionary company" that jumped in only when it was clear it was missing a feature, one executive said.
Battery life, low data use, and security have been the focuses virtually from the start, and Lazaridis "couldn't imagine" concepts that broke those molds, such as truly accurate web browsing or streaming video.
Lazaridis and Balsillie are both cast as very intelligent but not necessarily anticipatory or even in agreement. Despite saying that only they can lead the company, the two reportedly have large and often very conspicuous arguments on campus, many of which Lazaridis often wins because of his academic background, according to one executive. The two have also supposedly been distracted by non-RIM fields such as Balsillie's pursuit of an NHL team and Lazaridis' research.
The company as a whole is also seeing disintegration in its focus on selling to carriers over real people. RIM is said to "channel stuff" with very large required order volumes that then coast through the rest of the year. This has worked in the developing world and other hot growth areas but struggles in established areas where they can't count on sustained demand.
RIM was directly accused of taking far more drastic efforts to get acceptance for its first tablet. The first 500,000 PlayBooks were reportedly sold at less than the intended profit margin. In its carrier deals, co-chief Jim Balsillie also purportedly told carriers there was no native e-mail at the last minute, effectively forcing networks to accept the BlackBerry Bridge tethering strategy.
RIM had been assuming it would finish that initial supply quickly and get "millions" of extra orders, but that hasn't happened, one source said, implying that many of the PlayBooks hadn't actually been bought by customers. Lazaridis supposedly believes that the multitasking and Flash support would naturally lead people to buy the PlayBook and is surprised that they're not working.
Although the company claims to want constructive criticism, one tipster claimed that RIM is internally blocking certain websites and social networks where employees might see negative perceptions of the company. Speculation is that, despite outward claims of strong performance, it might have to implement more substantial job cuts within the next several months.
RIM hasn't responded to the statements but has usually repeated official views as a response.