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How BlackBerry Blew It

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the what-happened dept.

Blackberry 278

schnell writes "The Globe and Mail is running a fascinating in-depth report on how BlackBerry went from the world leader in smartphones to a company on the brink of collapse. It paints a picture of a company with deep engineering talent but hamstrung by arrogance, indecision, slowness to embrace change, and a lack of internal accountability. From the story: '"The problem wasn't that we stopped listening to customers," said one former RIM insider. "We believed we knew better what customers needed long term than they did."'"

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Uhmm...BlewBerry? (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44996193)

So shouldn't they change brand to BlewBerry instead?

Re:Uhmm...BlewBerry? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996257)

Why not $200 blowberries or Zoidberg?

Re:Uhmm...BlewBerry? (3, Funny)

sabri (584428) | about a year ago | (#44996965)

From the article:

Late last year, Research In Motion Ltd. chief executive officer Thorsten Heins sat down with the board of directors at the companyâ(TM)s Waterloo, Ont., headquarters to review plans for the launch of a new phone designed to turn around the companyâ(TM)s fortunes.

So I guess this meeting became their.. Uhm... Waterloo [wikipedia.org] :-)

Re:Uhmm...BlewBerry? (4, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44996271)

So shouldn't they change brand to BlewBerry instead?

Too bad they weren't bought out by Microsoft. With Ballmer's lack of vision exceeded only by their own it could have been Ballmerberry.

comes pre-loaded with chair throwing app!

Re:Uhmm...BlewBerry? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996793)

You mean Blewball...mer

Re:Uhmm...BlewBerry? (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#44996273)

Just you wait: if Qualcomm buys them out we can have BREWberry, the world's most hostile mobile development environment!

Re:Uhmm...BlewBerry? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996291)

"Blewberry? That's ma favorite flavor!" — George W. Bush

"I like Melon!" — Bill Clinton

A Frank Caliendo bit...

Re:Uhmm...BlewBerry? (2, Insightful)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about a year ago | (#44996767)

Blackberry was killed by their failure to upgrade their infrastructure.

Do you guys remember when they lost all emails, not once but TWICE in a matter of a week? That was what got businesses to say "oh shit, this isn't something we can depend on" and get other phones working. I'll bet that they're still running all their services through that same fucked up server in Ontario, despite the failure they've had on the unit.

Once that seed of doubt got planted, compounded by the fact that people could start using their personal phones (i.e. free to corporate) for business, that was it. Stick a fork in them, they're done. The one thing they said they were good for they couldn't do anymore.

Of course, given that they were hilariously spied-on and infiltrated (not as much, but almost as badly as Nortel), who's to say if those failures were accidents or if they were pushed?

Re:Uhmm...BlewBerry? (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#44996827)

It probably didn't help that (at fundamental cost to battery life, and significant but theoretically solvable cost in fancy management) phones got powerful enough to just do email. No second set of not-exactly-mailservers in the loop (either for reliability or security concerns), on the corporate side you now need to sell a BES(and as the 'better than your existing mailserver alone' option rather than the 'well, do you want mobile email or not?' option), on the consumer side you need to sell a telco on giving you a cut of the action in exchange for a modest reduction in data transfer, and the handset customer on an increasingly uncompetitive device.

Even if it were perfect, RIM's fancy proprietary network was not exactly getting more viable with age. Any deviations from perfection were just nails in the coffin.

Re:Uhmm...BlewBerry? (4, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44996859)

they never were a world leader either. them being a world leader in smartphones either needs very clever defining of smartphones or very clever defining of what counts as "world".

they never penetrated certain markets, because they were tied to operators - their phones were never cheap enough to be world leader in unit numbers.

practically nobody bought blackberries with their own money for full price happily.

Could be.... (1)

Oil_Tan (854423) | about a year ago | (#44996203)

Retired US Senate and Congress.

"We believed we knew better what customers needed (4, Insightful)

hype7 (239530) | about a year ago | (#44996211)

"We believed we knew better what customers needed long term than they did."

Yeah, except Steve Jobs thought this too, and look where Apple is.

This piece is interesting as a historical account but, like all these journalistic articles on why something happened, it's all hindsight 20/20 bullshit. If you want to understand why you can't trust the press to really explain the cause and effect of events, I encourage you to check out this book: The Halo Effect [amazon-adsystem.com] . Tears it all apart.

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (5, Insightful)

e_armadillo (14304) | about a year ago | (#44996247)

Actually, Blackberry just thought they knew what the customers would need. Apple actually know what the customers would want.

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (1)

e_armadillo (14304) | about a year ago | (#44996255)

Doh! "knew" . . .

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (-1, Troll)

John Bokma (834313) | about a year ago | (#44996331)

Right... that explains why Apple has such a hard time selling iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C...

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (3, Informative)

Guspaz (556486) | about a year ago | (#44996393)

Not sure if you're trying to be sarcastic and misunderstanding GP's meaning, or if you actually think the 5S's crazy high sales figures represent some sort of difficulty?

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996501)

Not sure if you're trying to be sarcastic and misunderstanding GP's meaning, or if you actually think the 5S's crazy high sales figures represent some sort of difficulty?

Sarcasm. The clearest way to make a simple point.

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996339)

The rabbit hole is much deeper. Blackberry never considered any of Apple's users customers. That's the problem.

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996573)

> Apple actually know what the customers would want.

No, Apple used to know how they could the customer make believe that he wanted what apple wanted them to buy, otherwise known as reality distortion field.

It's not working so great of late.

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (2, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#44996669)

It's not working so great of late.

Apple sales have always been about consumers liking the product rather than being marketed to. Otherwise, Apple could not have marking that was simply showing the device running applications...

As for it "not working so great" you must have a mighty large rock you live under not to hear the results of launch day sales for the 5c/s...

Just because Android is also doing well does not mean Apple cannot do well too. And they are doing quite well indeed.

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (2)

Narcocide (102829) | about a year ago | (#44996681)

That's because the distortion field belonged to Steve Jobs and someone wasted the Mantle of Immortality on Santa Claus.

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (5, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year ago | (#44996315)

Indeed. The problem is deeper than daring to assume one knew better than the customer what the customer wanted. The failure, I think, was that Blackberry had boxed themselves into a corner by marketing themselves as a business solution. Fundamentally it was a failure of marketing. Apple's genius isn't really the devices or the operating system, though they're pretty well done, but rather in being able to use that acumen to guide customer choices. As much as we all like to think we're driven strictly by utilitarian requirements, the fact is that people like shiny bobbles over dull functional ones.

In many respects the first iPhone didn't have much to offer over your average Blackberry, but it looked cool, and more importantly, was built on top of hte marketing and technology of the iPod. Apple already had a leg up in having produced a killer device and knew how to extend that to the smartphone. Basically, the Blackberry become the staid competitor, functional to be sure, but lacking the "hip" factor. It became like a snowball for Apple. More customers meant more developers, more developers meant bigger app store, bigger app store meant more customers.

You still see the Crackberry types not getting it. They talk about things like real keyboards, about BES and other enterprise tools. They all became irrelevant, particularly when Apple licensed ActiveSync, completely undermining the whole enterprise justification for Blackberry. Now you could connect to your Exchange email and calendar. Sure, maybe it wasn't quite as nifty as the BB one, but it didn't matter. iOS became like many successful technologies; good enough for certain tasks to eliminate any particular handicap from lack of complete functionality.

Microsoft has suffered a similar fate with its mobile offerings. Too late to the party, wrongheaded marketing that indicates that not only the engineers and dev teams don't get what customers want, but neither does the marketing team.

Android's route to success has been somewhat different. Rather than trying to out-hip Apple, Google has managed to get Android on everything from high end smartdevices right down to bargain basement devices. By seizing the low-end, it has gained massive penetration.

Blackberry and Microsoft simply don't have a lot of room to smack into the market, and for Blackberry, that really doesn't have any other product besides its phones and BES, there isn't any other monster divisions to keep the whole show afloat until there is some penetration.

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996419)

Don't fall in to geek circlejerk trap that apple devices as shiny and pretty and vapid but un-functional. They are shiny and pretty and vapid absolutely extremely functional. Apple is the /king/ of functional.

We geeks can have a very very very warped idea of what functional is. Your laundry list of pet functions and features is not function. It's bloat. It's complication. It's wasted development time and money. Adding just one more feature increases complexity and cost in an exponential manner, not a linear one. Adding that FM radio, command line shell, and sweedish ball tickler makes the device less functional for everyone who's outside those function's use cases.

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (1, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44996467)

Adding just one more feature increases complexity and cost in an exponential manner, not a linear one.

If adding features increases complexity and cost in an exponential manner, it's an indication that you don't have proper separation of concerns.

Because that's where the extra cost comes from, integrating things together.

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (3, Insightful)

hawkbat05 (1952326) | about a year ago | (#44996655)

Licensing ActiveSync didn't completely undermine the enterprise need for BlackBerry. Ask a CIO what his biggest headaches are, I bet that managing BYOD is at or near the top of the list. And this is years after ActiveSync, according to you, solved all the enterprise issues of iOS. I agree that getting ActiveSync support opened the door for the iPhone to enter the enterprise but it was far from a silver bullet.

Apple succeeded purely BECAUSE of function (5, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#44996711)

As much as we all like to think we're driven strictly by utilitarian requirements, the fact is that people like shiny bobbles over dull functional ones.

This indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of what the iPhone was at launch.

And what that was, was simply the most FUNCTIONAL smartphone that existed at the time. But a huge margin.

Blackberry was more functional for email then, but that was it. For most other things for most users iOS was FAR more functional. Using maps was more functional. Web browsing was 1000000x more functional.

Even without the third party app support iOS enjoys now, the simple truth was that for the things most people wanted to do with a smart phone, iOS was more functional than all the other alternatives. That it was also shiny was utterly irrelevant, it just made it lots harder for others to catch up because they got lost in the shine and ignored the function (which remains true to this day, sadly).

Shiny things at best have a brief flare of success and then die. Truly successful products always have a core of solid functionality that brings people back for more instead of being driven away by novelty.

It's the Nortel middle managers. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996717)

Seriously.

All the buffoons who sunk Nortel got snapped up by Blackberry, then RIM.

Then we have Nortel 2.0 a few years later.

I haven't looked into it but I bet this theory has some legs under it. Moral of the story - watch where you expand your management team from.

RIM's inevitable doom was painfully obvious years ago. They turned their phones and their brand into cheap plastic garbage going after the consumer market in a race to the bottom.

C'est la vie. Let that be a lesson to the MBAs. Too bad they burned billions and billions of private capital on the way down.

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (3, Funny)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44996343)

> Yeah, except Steve Jobs thought this too, and look where Apple is.

Difference is, Jobs was right. At least, enough of the time.

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (4, Informative)

wjcofkc (964165) | about a year ago | (#44996449)

The difference is...

Blackberry thought they knew and were wrong.

Jobs thought he knew and was right.

Now Apple is at the height of their mobile success, a place BB once was. Only now they don't have Jobs...

Say what your want of him, the mind of Steve Jobs was the difference between the two companies. Regardless of the success of their latest release, in five-years we maybe be posting about an entry titled "How Apple Blew It".

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | about a year ago | (#44996557)

With Hindsight anything is easy to predict with 100% accuracy. Apple, while on the decline now, picked that consumers wanted simple interfaces and trendy items and would happily compromise on features for that. Myself and many others thought apple was wrong at the time. Consumers are very hard to predict as Blackberry found out and as Apple are finding out now.

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (3, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year ago | (#44996595)

Blackberry's problem was that it didn't even think about average consumers. It had enterprise offerings, concentrated on the market, not realizing that there is a positive feedback loop between what you use at home and what you use in the office. By the time it figured out that iPhone had gained penetration in the enterprise precisely because people wanted to use the same device at the office that they used at home, they had lost their momentum.

There Is Another (0)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#44996735)

Jobs thought he knew and was right.

Not just Jobs though...

Now Apple is at the height of their mobile success, a place BB once was. Only now they don't have Jobs...

But they do have Ives, the reason behind the design success of the iPhone - and Cook, the reason Apple can build them to massive scale.

Apple still has both of them and shows zero signs of slowing down. It's true Apple is short one No-Man, but they carry on with others quite well because all of the people actually building new things are still there.

It's rather funny to me that Apple detractors have built up Jobs to be more of a God than any Apple proponent ever has.

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (1)

eulernet (1132389) | about a year ago | (#44996765)

Blackberry thought they knew and were wrong.
  Jobs thought he knew and was right.

This is incorrect: nobody "knows".

Every company put their bet on their own concept.
Jobs was simply more successful than Blackberry, and I don't think that there is a simple answer why, but it's mostly luck.

Now that Jobs is gone, let's see who will be more successful.

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about a year ago | (#44996483)

I think Jobs took consumers to products they didn't know they wanted... yet. Blackberry seems to have simply started shoving customers over a cliff into products they didn't want or care about.

Re:"We believed we knew better what customers need (1, Insightful)

sootman (158191) | about a year ago | (#44996751)

"The problem wasn't that we stopped listening to customers," said one former RIM insider. "We believed we knew better what customers needed long term than they did."

The problem was being brain-dead in the face of fucking facts.

"Consumers would say, 'I want a faster browser.' We might say, 'You might think you want a faster browser, but you don't want to pay overage on your bill.'"

To which I would say "I'm paying $30/mo for unlimited data. Make your shit work."

"'Well, I want a super big very responsive touchscreen.' 'Well, you might think you want that, but you don't want your phone to die at 2 p.m.'"

To which I would say "My friend's iPhone lasts all day no problem. Make your shit work."

And now we're bleeding talent.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996217)

It's a boon for the industry to soak up these talented individuals. I just really hope they come and set up shop in the Kitchener-Waterloo region.

Too much management (4, Insightful)

mederbil (1756400) | about a year ago | (#44996219)

As a computer engineering student at the University of Waterloo, I have met many folks who have worked at BlackBerry. Their problem is that they have too much management and not enough development. The entire company consists of tiny teams being micro managed and not coordinating with other teams. They would have done better with large teams, with one very busy manager. This is how every other large and successful tech company I have worked for has been managed. This is the key here, in my opinion.

Re:Too much management (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996311)

Didn't have the grades to make it into the Math department?

Re:Too much management (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996555)

Their problem is that they have too much management and not enough development.

Show me an engineer at any organization who doesn't think he/she is over-managed, and I'll show you one who was just promoted to manager.

As Henry Ford said... (3, Interesting)

bre_dnd (686663) | about a year ago | (#44996227)

If I asked my customers what they wanted, they'd say they wanted a faster horse. Innovation comes from thinking out of the box.

I worked on some mobile e-mail product some 8 years ago. Call it a Blackberry competitor -- it ran on phones like the Palm Treo, Nokia E61 and various Windows Mobile devices. There was rumours of Apple making a phone -- and when it came out, it had no keys... I remember thinking -- how are you ever going to type a message without keys? Well...

Re:As Henry Ford said... (4, Funny)

Lproven (6030) | about a year ago | (#44996317)

> I remember thinking -- how are you ever going to
> type a message without keys? Well...

Wait, wait, I know this one.

"Slowly, and with difficulty," amirite?

Re:As Henry Ford said... (2)

neminem (561346) | about a year ago | (#44996399)

Yeah. No-keyboard phones blow. I understand you can make them more cheaply, but screw that, I'll pay for it. It's depressing how few of them get made anymore, because apparently there's "no market for them". Well, gee, nobody is buying phones with keyboards, maybe because they're *not being made*.

Re:As Henry Ford said... (4, Informative)

mythosaz (572040) | about a year ago | (#44996581)

I resisted virtual keyboards. It was natural, I assume. I had resisted T9 predictive text before that.

Today's good keyboards, like Swiftkey or Swype (which I prefer), are great. Dragon is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was years ago.

I don't miss having a physical keyboard on my phone.
I don't miss having T9 typing.
I adapted.
You can too.

Re:As Henry Ford said... (5, Funny)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about a year ago | (#44996721)

I've had great link with Swype.

Sometimes you get the wiring wood but it works out in the end if your friends know you'd on your pigging.

Re:As Henry Ford said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996865)

Fucking awesome. Wish I had mod points.

Re:As Henry Ford said... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year ago | (#44996611)

Blackberry has made lots of phones with keyboards. There is nearly a billion dollars in inventory, much of it with keyboards, and they can't move that inventory.

The keyboard didn't just become hard to find, it fell completely out of fashion.

Re:As Henry Ford said... (1)

neminem (561346) | about a year ago | (#44996647)

They're also Blackberries. I hate 16:9 screens, too, but if my laptop died, and I had a choice between buying a new laptop with a hated 16:9 screen, or buying a laptop that was 10 years old, I would be depressed, and then I would choose the former.

Blackberries suck compared to their competition for all kinds of other reasons than whether they have a keyboard.

Re:As Henry Ford said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996613)

Yeah. No-keyboard phones blow. I understand you can make them more cheaply, but screw that, I'll pay for it. It's depressing how few of them get made anymore, because apparently there's "no market for them". Well, gee, nobody is buying phones with keyboards, maybe because they're *not being made*.

I had a phone with both a keyboard and a touch screen. After using both for a while, I eventually quit using the keyboard. When you're used to both, a touch screen is faster. That was before swipe. I'm even faster now. Still a lot slower than a real full sized keyboard, but those little phone ones were never very good. You've become a niche market.

Re:As Henry Ford said... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996405)

If I asked my customers what they wanted, they'd say they wanted a faster horse.

And when they got a car, they found that it was better than the faster horse that they originally wanted, and now everyone on the block wants one.

When you get the latest blackberry, what is it better than?

Isn't this article about Microsoft? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996235)

'a company with deep engineering talent but hamstrung by arrogance, indecision, slowness to embrace change, and a lack of internal accountability. From the story: '"The problem wasn't that we stopped listening to customers," said one former RIM insider. "We believed we knew better what customers needed long term than they did." '

Yep, it's definitely Microsoft.

Re:Isn't this article about Microsoft? (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year ago | (#44996313)

'a company with deep engineering talent but hamstrung by arrogance, indecision, slowness to embrace change, and a lack of internal accountability. From the story: '"The problem wasn't that we stopped listening to customers," said one former RIM insider. "We believed we knew better what customers needed long term than they did." '

Yep, it's definitely Microsoft.

Now I hear some talk of Microsoft buying up Blackberry, be a perfect marriage. Both companies knowing what the customer wants instead of listening to them.

Hey Apple and Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996239)

"knew better what customers needed long term than they did"

"arrogance, indecision, slowness to embrace change"

The difference this time is of course the RIM is a Canadian company.

Wild-eyed optimism will do you in every time. (3, Interesting)

Dzimas (547818) | about a year ago | (#44996241)

Blackberry blew it the same way many companies do. Their original OS was antiquated, and so they abandoned it and adopted QNX as the foundation of BlackBerry 10.

That required them to write all of their core apps from the ground up, and they dramatically underestimated the effort required. The result was the disastrous release of the Playbook without an email client. Some say that the decision to release the Playbook instead of a BB10-equipped phone was also a critical error, but there's no way that the company could have released a phone instead -- it would have required some significant components that simply didn't exist when the PlayBook was first rolled out: a contact manager, dialing software, BBM, SMS, and of course email.

Re:Wild-eyed optimism will do you in every time. (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#44996435)

Blackberry blew it the same way many companies do. Their original OS was antiquated, and so they abandoned it ... That required them to write all of their core apps from the ground up, and they dramatically underestimated the effort required.

Apple blew it that way, too. More than once. The original Mac was a cool toy, but too slow, and lacked a hard drive. IBM built their PC market share selling DOS machines with a hard drive to businesses. The user interface was ugly, but there was no need to change floppies.

After Apple finally built up the Mac into a usable machine, with a hard drive and enough RAM to get something done, they had a few good years, then blew it again. The transition from the Motorola 68000 to the PowerPC broke all old applications that used floating point. Few of the engineering software vendors even bothered to port to PowerPC. Apple market share dropped to single digits. Then Apple tried to dump their antiquated MacOS for a new "OS 8", called Copeland. That required rewriting applications again. It wasn't realized within Apple that Apple no longer had the clout to tell developers what to do. Apple had to go with a different "OS 8" borrowed from NeXT, which cost them a year.

Apple's market share in desktops didn't break out of single digits again until after the mobile devices became popular.

Re:Wild-eyed optimism will do you in every time. (1)

Ichijo (607641) | about a year ago | (#44996469)

They should have built a "classic environment [wikipedia.org] " to run the old e-mail client in the new OS until a native version of the e-mail client was available.

Re:Wild-eyed optimism will do you in every time. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996599)

I'm a former BlackBerry OS developer; you don't know what you're talking about. The BB OS is still a cutting edge RTOS that was carefully honed for performance and battery life. In fact, QNX is worse in many, many ways.

When asked why the CEO made the switch to QNX, we were given a list of features. When informed that BB OS already had those features, a meek "I didn't know that" was followed by a quick subject change to restore the arrogance field.

If you want to call the Java Apps and the JVM old and slow, I'd agree. The rewrite problem was well known to those outside of the arrogance field, but again, who am I?

One word (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996243)

Commodore

Re:One word (0)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year ago | (#44996409)

Can somebody mod parent AC +several millions?

Dealt with them early on (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996245)

I dealt with them early on. They didn't think surfing the web would ever play a major role on a phone, and thus put no energy into building a decent browser. The BlackBerry browser was just horrible even years after the iPhone was introduced. They didn't invest in the future.

Re:Dealt with them early on (3, Interesting)

narcc (412956) | about a year ago | (#44996685)

Before Apple, they had one of the best mobile browsers. Today, it's the best on the market. Apple's browser, in contrast, is now years behind everyone else.

"The problem wasn't that we stopped listening to customers, [...] We believed we knew better what customers needed long term than they did."

Sounds an awful lot like Apple as well...

Really, Apple today looks an awful lot like RIM in 2008 -- except that they're doing even less. Apple has taken 'resting on their laurels' to a whole new level.

Can you predict what will happen to Apple over the next few years? I have a pretty good idea.

Not listening to the customer. (1)

Fwipp (1473271) | about a year ago | (#44996251)

He says,

“The problem wasn’t that we stopped listening to customers,” said one former RIM insider. “We believed we knew better what customers needed long term than they did. Consumers would say, ‘I want a faster browser.’ We might say, ‘You might think you want a faster browser, but you don’t want to pay overage on your bill.’ "

I'm not sure there's a meaningful difference between "not listening to" and "listening and then disregarding" what the customer wants.

Also, I wasn't aware that your carrier billed you more for using a browser that loads pages quickly and remains responsive on modern sites. He is Canadian, though - Rogers must be even worse than I thought.

Re:Not listening to the customer. (2)

oodaloop (1229816) | about a year ago | (#44996347)

I'm guessing the logic is that with a faster browser, you would load more pages in the same amount of time. I'm not agreeing with it, necessarily, but I do believe I use more data now with 4G LTE than I did with 3G.

Re:Not listening to the customer. (4, Interesting)

Dzimas (547818) | about a year ago | (#44996427)

I bought a deeply discounted PlayBook, and I think they did a lot of things right. The hardware was top-notch and the multitasking OS stood up well against Android and iOS at that point. If BB10 had been released a year earlier with proper core apps (email, contacts, BBM) and attracted top-tier apps, it could well have been a major competitor.

They copied Palm too well! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996261)

Right down to the resting on their laurels! Innovate or retire.

Re:They copied Palm too well! (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about a year ago | (#44996365)

My Palm Pre Plus w/ WebOS was amazing. If the iphone hadnt been so strong, the Pre would have been very hot. My wife still uses it.

Re:They copied Palm too well! (1)

narcc (412956) | about a year ago | (#44996835)

I blame HP.

In the hands of a competent company, and with some better hardware, WebOS could have killed Apple.

BlackBerry was wise to steal so many of their good ideas. The PlayBook and Z10 are a pleasure to use, due in no small part to the innovations pioneered by WebOS.

This seems...optimistic. (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#44996265)

Maybe all their genuinely cool stuff was taken out back and shot before it saw the light of day; but I'm not sure (based on what they actually sent to market) that "We believed we knew better what customers needed long term than they did."

There are companies where you can clearly say "Wow, Company X is under the insane delusion that $SOMETHING$ is the future, all evidence to the contrary, and damn are they ever stubbornly shoveling that something into the utter indifference of the marketplace!" This isn't a compliment, exactly; but being a high-functioning delusive beats being a dysfunctional one.

Blackberry, though? The greatest compliment you can pay to their earlier years, and the greatest condemnation of their later ones, is that they seemed frozen in time, only worse. They weren't quite frozen (had they been, you'd at least be able to read your text-only communications and basic voice for a zillion hours with modern battery and silicon tech); but they never went anywhere. Their OS just got slower and more confusing as it mutated toward no particular goal, battery-sapping quasi-smart features were grafted on, cargo-cult style, to a system that never really made anything of them.

Not the problem (2)

tmark (230091) | about a year ago | (#44996283)

"The problem wasn't that we stopped listening to customers, We believed we knew better what customers needed long term than they did".

Believing you know what customers wanted or needed is not necessarily the problem. Customers don't always know what they want. Apple (or, it appears, perhaps just Jobs) made hay giving what customers evidently wanted instead of listening to industry pundits and market research to figure that out. The problem here was that Blackberry just didn't know what their customers wanted, and moreover, couldn't deliver in a timely fashion.

Re:Not the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996607)

No, customers/consumers rarely actually know what they want. Apple was successful because they gave consumers what they needed despite what they claimed they wanted, they gave them less features than their competitors but did so in a clean and trendy way. If you listen to much to your customers you will also end up like blackberry as customers request incremental changes and more features rather than product shifts and then when something comes along that changes the paradigm you are left out in the cold.

Co-CEO says it all (2)

acoustix (123925) | about a year ago | (#44996295)

It's damn near impossible for a company to succeed with 2 CEO's.

One trick pony (4, Insightful)

wiredlogic (135348) | about a year ago | (#44996305)

Blackberry's business was built around mobile e-mail. Their transition from pager devices to smartphones brought along with it their original NIH, vendor lock-in strategy. They never *got* smartphones as flexible devices using open protocols because that's not how their business started and they didn't move fast enough to embrace changing market conditions.

Re:One trick pony (2)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44996401)

Blackberry's business was built around mobile e-mail. Their transition from pager devices to smartphones brought along with it their original NIH, vendor lock-in strategy. They never *got* smartphones as flexible devices using open protocols because that's not how their business started and they didn't move fast enough to embrace changing market conditions.

I....'m not sure I agree. Granted, the dependence on BES does seem like a lock-in strategy. And maybe it is. But it was pretty cool having unfettered access to my company's intranet from anywhere I could get cell coverage. I have yet to see that on other smartphones. (Assuming an enterprise class, locked-down intranet.) The security wasn't in protocols or an app on the smartphone, it was built into the BES server. As long as you had competent admins, it just worked.

I would submit it wasn't lack of industry standard protocols that did them in, it was not seeing the full screen touch craze in time to adapt to it. And I could see how they could think that a touch screen keyboard wouldn't catch on -- even though I've had an Android phone for years now, I can still pick up a BB and type faster than my best speed tapping on glass. For text entry, the Blackberry had, and still has, the best keyboard in the business. Apparently this isn't as important as it once was, and BB was too slow to adapt.

Re:One trick pony (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996575)

No, BEs didnt just "work" with competent admins. It was a clusterfuck of awful especially pre version 5. It had far too complex options and frankly Exchange ate it's lunch with Activesync - vastly easier and more logical to work with. I still have two BES installs that are thankfully getting less and less use with every person getting any option of any other smart phone. Still a right PITA if you have to do anythign with them.

Oh and if you have someone thast knows, you can provide Intranet via Exchange, no problem (securely even)

Really, they is simply no reason to consider Blackberrys or their rancid software. ESPECIALLY the software. Fuck me I am so glad to see the back of that shit.

Re:One trick pony (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#44996941)

When I said BES just worked, it was from a user perspective. I'm not a BES admin, don't even play one on TV.

Was not aware that Exchange allows access to the intranet. I've never worked for a company that had this configured. (Unless it needs a Windows phone, but I had one of those for awhile too, and it didn't have that feature.)

But along with what you're saying, I don't carry a BB anymore because (funny story...) 14 hours after the company outsourced IT to offshore, BES went down hard and stayed down for weeks. By the time it was up again, I had already moved to Android. And I think most of the company had made the same move. So, with one extended public outage, Blackberry was dead at this company.

And interestingly enough, awhile back Blackberry had a four day global world wide outage. They had trained us for years on instant email gratification ("crackberry") and then made us all go cold turkey. It's hard to recover from that.

So now that I think about it, there's a lot in what you say. I suppose one can say that a possible root cause is the difficulty of administration. I'm in no position to say either way, being a mere customer.

And finally, now that I think about it, non-BB "push" email became more and more common, even for Android, even, and this was no longer a distinguishing feature of Blackberry.

The smoke was clearly coming out from under the hood, but BB appeared to be oblivious to the clanking noises.

Re:One trick pony (2)

narcc (412956) | about a year ago | (#44996873)

Times have changed.

That "Sent from by BlackBerry" at the bottom of an email was a sign of status. It said to the recipient "This guy is busy and important".

The similar "Sent from my iPhone" message today reads like an apology.

Who were BB's customers? Carriers. (4, Insightful)

mveloso (325617) | about a year ago | (#44996319)

When BlackBerry listened, they listened to the carriers, not to the end-users.

"How did they get AT&T to allow [that]?"

Exactly.

BB was built for carriers - just like Windows is built for Enterprise customers. That's who their customers were. And apparently those customers were wrong. That's the problem when you listen to your customers - someone else might be talking to a totally different set of customers.

Re:Who were BB's customers? Carriers. (4, Interesting)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a year ago | (#44996381)

...but he was right. In North America, the *carriers* are the cell phone manufacturers' customers, not the end-users. In the USA, Samsung has something like six customers.

A little understood fact is the iPhone's secret to success is Jobs managed to get AT&T on board.

backward thinking (3, Informative)

slew (2918) | about a year ago | (#44996891)

...but he was right. In North America, the *carriers* are the cell phone manufacturers' customers, not the end-users. In the USA, Samsung has something like six customers.

When dealing with gatekeeper like this, you need to understand there are 2 directions, you can push products through the gatekeeper, and you help the end customer pull things through the gatekeeper. The iPhone is more of a pull-through product. Of course initially, BBry was push product, but its success created a pull-dynamic (employees kind of demanded it because their buddies in other companies had one and it was somewhat of a status symbol). I think somehow BBry forgot that lesson and decided to mostly focus their message on the corporate CIO gatekeepers (since it's easier to track from a business account salesperson bean-counter perspective) and tried to simply push their products through them taking for granted that it was the pull-side that really made them successful and they needed to foster that as well.

A little understood fact is the iPhone's secret to success is Jobs managed to get AT&T on board.

I don't know that it was little understood. Way back then, wired ran an interesting article [wired.com] on it. Here are some interesting excerpts...

Apple was prepared to consider an exclusive arrangement to get that deal done. But Apple was also prepared to buy wireless minutes wholesale and become a de facto carrier itself... For Cingular, Apple's ambitions were both tantalizing and nerve-racking. A cozy relationship with the maker of the iPod would bring sex appeal to the company's brand. And some other carrier was sure to sign with Jobs if Cingular turned him down — Jobs made it clear that he would shop his idea to anyone who would listen.

Sigman's team made a simple bet: The iPhone would result in a surge of data traffic that would more than make up for any revenue it lost on content deals.... It may appear that the carriers' nightmares have been realized, that the iPhone has given all the power to consumers, developers, and manufacturers, while turning wireless networks into dumb pipes. But by fostering more innovation, carriers' networks could get more valuable, not less. Consumers will spend more time on devices, and thus on networks, racking up bigger bills and generating more revenue for everyone.

Meh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996325)

Blackberry was the business tool.

Then they got drunk, maybe snorted a bit too much blow, and had no idea what the hell they were trying to do.

You don't shovel crap to appeal to the preteen market into a business tool. When you do, you appeal to neither business users, or the targeted kids.

Your developers flee; your competition's stores become filled with passable apps; and then finally your users say, "Eh, nuts to this clusterfuck of Exchange functionality and Angry Birds. I'm buying an (iPhone/Android)."

No new products (1)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about a year ago | (#44996345)

The didn't release new products, plain and simple.

Just like Steve Jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996367)

"The problem wasn't that we stopped listening to customers," said one former RIM insider. "We believed we knew better what customers needed long term than they did."

That was Steve Jobs's attitude, also. Quote:

"It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them." -- Steve Jobs

Thus, he avoided relying too much on market research, preferring to lead his customers, rather than to be lead by them.

So why did this approach work for Apple, but not for BlackBerry? Or did Steve Jobs just get incredibly lucky despite his arrogance?

Re:Just like Steve Jobs (1)

guruevi (827432) | about a year ago | (#44996487)

Jobs just got really good people that had some really good ideas. BlackBerry stuck to the concept of a physical keyboard, they stuck to letting corporations control the experience of BYOD (which so far has failed miserably in just about any corporation), they stuck to Exchange and other antiquated e-mail systems while foregoing decent integration of existing and open standards (IMAP) which Google was building, they made some interesting security snafu's, running the entire e-mail system through their own servers and letting governments (India, US, Canada, Germany...) have the keys.

Patent Trolls (0)

sconeu (64226) | about a year ago | (#44996373)

I'm sure that $600 Million that they had to pay to the paten troll NTP, even though the patent was invalid, had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Re:Patent Trolls (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996493)

I realize you're trying to be sarcastic, but I really doubt it had any effect. They lost a billion dollars last quarter alone, and this decline has been going on for years. They had plenty of time and money to build the right thing, but they kept building the wrong thing until it was too late.

No problem (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about a year ago | (#44996413)

The IP will be sold off and that deep talent will find a more productive home. The good survive. The useless move to be chief executives elsewhere.

How about the invalid patent they "violated"? (1)

Insanity Defense (1232008) | about a year ago | (#44996455)

What was the fine they had to pay in the U.S. over a patent that was found invalid? $600,000,000 or so wasn't it? That couldn't possibly have acted to slow them down and screw them up in their biggest market now could it? Not to mention the money and effort wasted there not available for actual work.

How Blackberry could remain relevant (3, Interesting)

Mr. Sketch (111112) | about a year ago | (#44996481)

Blackberry could succeed on their name, if they tweaked their brand a little and adopt a more 'Samsung' approach. Their name is already synonymous with enterprise level email, service and solutions, so capitalize on that, just with a different platform.

  • 1. Create an enterprise hardened version of Android
  • 2. Integrate with their existing Blackberry Enterprise Server (and of course other email providers, but provide a good business case for using their services like uptime, security, no NSA snooping, etc
  • 3. Provide a compatibility layer/VM for existing Blackberry apps on their devices

This would provide end users with a standard Android platform just with more security features (maybe fingerprint, retina scan, whatever, and market it for security conscious individuals), and it would provide enterprises with a trusted platform.

Individuals will still get an Android platform with all those apps, and Businesses will get a platform that plugin into a standard Android ecosystem.

Anyways, those are my thoughts about how they could still make it work

BTW, Blackberry, if you're looking for a new CEO or VP-level manager to implement this solution, I'm available.

Blackberry has become less secure (1)

johanw (1001493) | about a year ago | (#44996507)

I was considering the Q10 (I like the keyboard) as my next device. BB had a good reputation about security, anfd not being a US company was definitely a pre, but several issues with the Indian and Saudi gouvernments had eroded that trust a bit. Then the links with the NSA came known. Combined with this: http://yro.slashdot.org/story/13/07/18/1249236/blackberry-10-sends-full-email-account-credentials-to-rim [slashdot.org] and I decided to stick with my Nokia E72 for the time being.

That phone also tries to snoop your email password (to use it with a discontinued service) if you setup your mail but I can easily overcome that by misttyping my mail provider and switching to manual input.

It's ok to second guess the customer (1)

goffster (1104287) | about a year ago | (#44996513)

You simply have to be right.

Delays killed BlackBerry (4, Interesting)

Dynamoo (527749) | about a year ago | (#44996515)

The critical thing that killed BlackBerry was the huge delays in getting anything done. As the article points out, they spent a whole year arguing about their BB10 devices while competitors were eating there lunch, and when they finally got to market it was TWO YEARS too late. They'd been in a dead end for years with no strategy to get out of it.. and when they finally did the smart thing and bought QNX it took *forever* to get a decent working product out.

And if it wasn't late.. it wasn't finished properly. Like the Storm. And then the PlayBook was both late *and* not finished properly.

Nokia found itself in the same dead end, but at least it had some sort of strategy when it jumped off the infamous "burning platform". I think that Apple is at risk of the same pitfalls.. they are a much more defensive, conservative company than they were six years ago. The only people who really seem to have a clue are Samsung, and they've got all the appeal of the Borg collective as far as I'm concerned..

BES was awful (2)

desertrat_it (650209) | about a year ago | (#44996525)

the company I worked for in 2001 - 2005 trialled BES on Windows 2000 Server and Exchange $whatever, configured especially for BES.

In that environment, BES blew goats. It constantly locked up, lost email, required reboots of the server, etc etc. The company *ran* back to GROUPWISE as a superior alternative to BES.

Re:BES was awful (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44996969)

It sounds like your BES administration was awful, really.

you did (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996589)

People are just stupid and easily distracted by shiny. Until they started sharing crypto keys around like a 2 dollar hussie they stood for something.

Their problem is the definition of: (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996617)

Socialism!

YES !! MICROSOFT'S !! STORY !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996625)

Deep pockets last only so long as you have cows filling !! R.I.Agony-erium !!

Just Blackberry? (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about a year ago | (#44996639)

This might as well be how Blackberry, Nokia, and Palm blew it. And I'm probably leaving off a few companies.

IMO it all comes down to arrogance about your own platform. In Nokia's case that was Symbian.

You pulled an HP... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44996719)

You tried to ignore the reality of the market away, got a totally inept CEO from germany that killed of much of the business and jumped ship with a golden parachute...

Simply moved too slowly (4, Insightful)

realmolo (574068) | about a year ago | (#44996749)

When the iPhone was released, RIM should've *immediately* began creating a new operating system for their phones, and *paying* developers to make apps for it.

Their problem, as the article alludes to, is that they got so used to people paying for the Blackberry *service*, that they couldn't imagine simply making money on the devices and taking a cut of the app market. I'm sure it seemed risky, and it would've been.

But they had no choice, really. And now they're fucked. They deserved it, frankly. They had ALL the cards, and they blew it entirely. It's Netscape all over again, really.

Simple (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44996963)

They under estimated how desire to have a pretty product would end up over ruling entrench security.

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