Memories are made of this

Along with a lot of other Canadians, I was saddened to hear that BlackBerry will no longer make smartphones. To be sure, the company has been irrelevant for some time. In February 2012, I was in Arizona, thumbing away on my BlackBerry when someone said to me, “You must be the last man in America with a BlackBerry.” Only two years before, when my book on BlackBerry came out, Research In Motion was flying high with 50 percent of the U.S. smartphone market. I remained loyal, and bought the Q10 in 2014, but most didn’t. Market share is now barely measurable.

I wish BlackBerry well as the company tries to stay alive by selling software. The worst part about all this is that we will probably never again see a Canadian product such as Mike Lazaridis invented and Jim Balsillie sold. Canada has had so few global manufacturing firms in its 150-year history that you can count them on one hand and still have fingers left over: Massey-Ferguson, Nortel, and Research In Motion. All gone to graveyards every one.

To be sure, Lazaridis and Balsillie were not without their faults. Lazaridis didn’t think iPhone would catch on. He was convinced everybody was like him and preferred a keyboard over glass. As for Balsillie, he got distracted and spent too much time on other pursuits.

More important, Lazaridis and Balsillie have directly and indirectly caused the birth of scores of hi-tech companies in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Lazaridis also created the Perimeter Institute and the Quantum-Nano Centre. Balsillie was behind the Centre for International Governance Innovation as well as the Balsillie School of International Affairs. Such lasting contributions to society are what yields immortality, not some product, no matter how popular it became for a time.


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