How BlackBerry fell

Vauhini Vara for The New Yorker:

“In terms of a sort of a sea change for BlackBerry,” the company’s co-C.E.O Jim Balsillie said at the time, referring to the iPhone’s impact on the industry, “I would think that’s overstating it.”

To me, the reason that BlackBerry fell is the attitude of it’s co-CEOs at the time. That was the company’s downfall and it went on so long, they may never be able to recover.



  • tedcranmore

    You’ve got it right. I’ve talked to people who were in meetings with Jim in those years, they weren’t even allowed to reference or mention the iPhone. By the time they figured it out, it was too late.

    I will grant that it is very easy to see change from the outside, and difficult from the inside, where ignoring naysayers was what they did for so many years to achieve their early success. Generals always keeping fighting the last war because that is how they achieved their success. Easy from the outside for us in the iPhone world, but so hard from the inside.

    The “don’t even talk about them” attitude meant they would never be able realize the smell of the coffee was changing in time. They were driving their strategy with their eyes firmly affixed on the rear view mirror.

  • Mikey

    Any company that, in 2013, uses the physical keyboard as a standout feature on its flagship product has buried itself in an ever-shrinking customer base. This is akin to launching a “better” buggy after the automobile was clearly the consumer choice. At least Microsoft has seen that.

  • Allen Lanning

    That’s hilarious. #FootInMouth #EatingCrow

  • satcomer

    To me Blackberry (RIM) “failed” is because they didn’t realize when Apple bought Active Sync from Microsoft so iPhones, iPads could be managed, erased, etc. in 2008s2 or better. This meant companies could “upgrade” their Microsoft Server and natively manage iPhones, iPads from the server software Domain. Then there was no reason to have a blackberry server inside their network.

    • DanPierce

      You’re right, in the corporate world, Apple licensing ActiveSync from Microsoft was huge. I think Google did the same for Android shortly thereafter.

      For consumers, though, the other advantage was that iPhones and Android phones could natively access email. In 2007, you received email on your BlackBerry after it was routed thru the RIM server in Canada. If that server went down, and it did go down, you couldn’t receive any email on your phone. That kind of single point of failure design was unsustainable for future growth.

  • BC2009

    I think the lack of vision from the co-CEO’s destroyed the company. The level to which Blackberry/RIM ignored the iPhone and stuck their fingers in their ears is amazing. It is one thing to do what Steve Jobs did and dismiss the competition to the public and internally take them seriously and then surprise everybody and come out with a better version of what the competition did, it’s another thing to dismiss them publicly and internally.

  • Mike

    Grammar check: Wrong use of “it’s”. Sorry to be that guy.

    • Joe

      No, I really doubt you are… I’m all for suggesting corrections when the author’s meaning may be affected, but I’m sincerely curious as to what you think you’re accomplishing here, since there was absolutely no ambiguity as to what the author meant?