updated 04:00 pm EST, Mon February 13, 2012
RIM director Martin justifies slow turnaround
RIM director Roger Martin in an unusual interview with the Globe and Mail defended RIM's decision to hold for years before bringing in a new CEO. He saw there being no option for an outside CEO until RIM had groomed one from the inside, with outsiders being "morons from the outside" who would inevitably gut the BlackBerry designer. Martin went so far as to liken the departing Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis to the late Steve Jobs, insisting that only the two were talented enough and that RIM couldn't afforded an involuntarily exodus.
"So we should go bankrupt and fire our founders and bring in a moron?" Martin asked. "That's what we should do?"
The commentary ignored the specific conditions of Apple and of RIM's current state. Apple never went bankrupt, and while it came close, it was bringing in Jobs about 12 years after he had been forced out, only after multiple successive failed CEOs and by which point Jobs was once again an outsider. RIM has so far been declining in share over the past few years with its founding executives in charge, making them the cause of, and not solution to, the problem.
Addressing device strategy, the board member went on to echo Lazaridis' insistence that data compression and battery life were the main factors customers chose in phones. RIM wanted to make devices on the level of the iPhone, but wasn't willing to make any sacrifices in these two points to get there. "People were saying we can't make powerful phones like Apple, Martin said. "Yes, we can, but we couldn't believe consumers would put up with that kind of battery inefficiency and that kind of network inefficiency."
The position followed concerns that having a relative insider CEO like Thorsten Heins, as well as keeping many of the existing board members, risked maintaining the same problems that had led to RIM losing most of its market share. Rather than use 3G or risk shorter battery life on 4G, RIM is waiting until late 2012 to have new devices, leaving it with no direct answer to modern iPhones or Android devices for most of 2012. The dominance so far of Apple and Google has suggested that most real customers aren't as concerned with efficiency as they are with ease of use and performance.