The Fall Of BlackBerry
Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail published an article yesterday entitled “How BlackBerry blew it: The Inside Story“.
This is quite an extensive inside look at the demise of this former tech giant. 9 pages in total. It tells a story of how divided focus among executives is extremely hurtful to a company. The best summary of the struggle of power I found was by a commenter koolrosh at CrackBerry.
The way I see it, they all had good strategies, but because they were so divided, they didn’t do anything right. It took them forever to execute on one thing, but did not follow a clear cut strategy.
Lasaridis=> Wanted to focus on Enterprise. Understood that they needed a better OS, but wanted to build a keyboard device only. Wanted to launch BB10 first with keyboard device.
Balsillie=> Saw the smartphone market as commoditised, so wanted to focus on services and cross-platform BBM. He also wanted Blackberry to start offering other services through Carriers, like cloud storage.
Thorsten=> Saw BB10 as the only way to save Blackberry and put all his focus on the launch. Cancelled all other projects and focused on delivering BB10. Wanted to launch with a touch screen first because he thought keyboard phones were dead and there was money to be made selling a superior touchscreen OS.
I think if any one of them was able to execute on their strategy from the beginning, BlackBerry would be in a better situation.
After reading this article, I was actually surprised. I was in shock of how wrong most people are about Jim Balsillie. Everyone, their mothers and even CrackBerry it self seemed to always make Balsillie look to be the rotten egg in the management team. However, I personally feel that he had right ideas. It turns out he had a better vision of the future of BlackBerry than the others.
I think that SMS 2.0 might have been a real game changer for them. Oh wait, Thorsten Heins is just realizing the significance of this now and failed again. One can actually see the huge difference in execution here. Balsillie wanted to make BBM into a service seamless and on the back-end via the carriers making it an industry standard, hence SMS 2.0. Heins on the other hand wanted to distribute it as an app for free many years too late. It’s all in the execution.
Also, I found Apple’s exclusive deal with AT&T in the early days noteworthy. This is because it made Verizon worry and they quickly approached BlackBerry to create an “iPhone killer” in retaliation. The result was a rushed and half-baked BlackBerry Storm which failed in many ways including its awkward SureType touch screen. This poor product launch forced Verizon to see out another company to build the ‘iPhone killer”, Google. In essence, BlackBerry’s failure led to a brand new competition in the Android operating system. Which went on to dominate the low-end market, hurting BlackBerry, Nokia, Palm and Microsoft.
If one thing is for certain, it’s that BlackBerry will be forever remembered in case studies at business schools all over the world in the future.