Black and BlueBerry Part 2

BlackBerry’s corporate problems were well documented in last Saturday’s Globe and Mail. The themes identified certainly jibe with what I’ve been hearing from Waterloo in recent months. The only problem the writers missed – and it’s a major cause of the corporate calamity – is the antagonism that grew between former co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. The rift began in 2006 when Research In Motion paid US$612.5 million to patent troll NTP Inc. Everybody blamed anybody else.

The schism between the two men gathered speed when the stock options back-dating issue was settled with the Ontario Securities Commission in 2007 after fines and general embarrassment. Why didn’t Jim have this matter in hand, wondered Mike? Why didn’t Mike share more of the blame, wondered Jim? Next, there was even a physical separation. In the early years, the two worked across the hall from each other. When I interviewed them for my book on BlackBerry, published in 2010, they were in separate buildings, but only a five-minute walk apart. Shortly thereafter, Jim and the business division up and moved near RIM Park, about six kilometers away. They talked less and less to each other. I’m told that when one met with employees he’d often have a different message than they’d heard recently from the other. The alienation between the two was obvious when they were in the same room, say good sources.

But 20/20 hindsight is so clear. Autopsies are easy. What about us Q10 and Z10 owners suffering collateral damage because we’re stuck with poor-performing models from a company that now says it no longer cares about consumers? I bought the Q10 in May and have become increasingly frustrated with its lacklustre performance. After more than five months there has been only one software upgrade. We’re still at 10.1 even though I’m told the 10.2 version has been ready for a while. My Q10 still does not sync with my Outlook 2013 email.

Compare the Q10 to my iPad where updates flow regularly and automatically. I learned all I need to know about how to operate it from my grandchildren, who are both in elementary school. It took about seven minutes. There’s hardly a week goes by that I don’t stumble around trying to solve some new issue with the Q10.

I talked recently with an executive, another long-time BlackBerry fan. He didn’t like either the Z10 or the Q10. He solved his problem by buying two iPhones, one for personal use, the other for business. I guess he must have a helpful expense account. According to Rogers, if I switch to an iPhone, I’ll have to pay over $600 (plus tax) half of which is a penalty for breaking my three-year Q10 contract.

Thanks, BlackBerry. If only I could get one of those $500 million tax refunds like you did.

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