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September 2013


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.


Celebrating iTunes Festival 2013

Yesterday, Apple released a short video highlighting their annual iTunes Festival event at the Roundhouse in the UK. They again have solidified their passion for great music. Perhaps it is another way of complimenting the launch of iTunes Radio (only in the US initially).

This year saw the likes of Lady Gaga, Elton John, Paramore, Arctic Monkeys and Bastille with Justin Timberlake and Katy Perry coming up. Essentially, it is a 30 day event (all of September) featuring 60 of the best acts in the world. And the best thing is that tickets are free via the iTunes Festival lottery system and can be watched online on iTunes.

It would be an absolute dream to attend all 30 days!


Smartphone OS Shootout

Which mobile OS is the biggest productivity booster?

“Apple has managed to create a new operating system that looks from any other on the market, and that is immediately easy and intuitive to use — and that is identical on any iOS device the company produces. In terms of user experience, iOS 7 clearly remains the market leader.”

Pfeiffer’s report is extensive and thoroughly compares iOS 7, iOS 6, Android, BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8. It is fascinating to see all of the pros and cons for each platform. This is a must read.


September 26, 2013

BlackBerry to go private?

Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. a Canadian insurance firm, signed a letter of intent with the BlackBerry board under which it could pay $9 a share in cash for the 90% of BlackBerry shares it doesn’t already own. The hastily arranged deal came over the weekend, according to people familiar with the effort, after BlackBerry announced on Friday it had nearly $1 billion in unsold phones and would slash 40% of its workforce. The stock plunged 17% that day to below $9.

The man leading this buy out is Prem Watsa. He owns around 10% of BlackBerry already and is now looking to take it all. In one way I am glad that someone sees value in this Canadian company. On the other hand, I think that Watsa low-balled them a bit only offering 9 bucks a share. BlackBerry has about 6 weeks to sign the deal. Will someone else step up to the plate? I am hoping that company co-founder Mike Lazaridis makes a bid. BlackBerry could have their “Steve Jobs” moment with the founder making a come back.

Valve announce SteamOS

Valve founder Gabe Newell has previously attacked the Windows 8 operating system, calling it “a catastrophe”. Microsoft’s latest OS provides its own digital gaming service, designed along similar lines to the Apple app store – but Newell suggested this potential monopoly would hit margins for developers and PC manufacturers and drive many from the market. In contrast, the SteamOS is more similar to Google’s Android proposition: a blueprint that can be adapted by hardware manufacturers and end users. From the announcement:

“With SteamOS, ‘openness’ means that the hardware industry can iterate in the living room at a much faster pace than they’ve been able to. Content creators can connect directly to their customers. Users can alter or replace any part of the software or hardware they want. Gamers are empowered to join in the creation of the games they love.”

I like that the gaming industry is pushing back against Microsoft’s vice-grip on them. Is SteamPhone and SteamPad around the corner?

Microsoft reveal Surface RT 2 and Surface Pro 2

However, there’s another, vastly important aspect of the Surface success equation: the software. Some of the most critical problems with the original slates were core aspects of Windows 8. The operating system is far and away the most finger-friendly Windows yet, but the need to frequently drop into desktop mode on the Pro raised a host of troublesome scaling issues. Those issues were less of a problem on the RT, but only thanks to the incompatibility with legacy apps.

Seriously? So much for learning lessons from recent past mistakes. Stop crippling your software on the lower-end models. There is no excuse for that.