Former BlackBerry CEO Admits Company’s Bid to Beat iPhone ‘Blew Up’

Former BlackBerry co-chief executive Jim Balsillie has today admitted publicly that the company’s reputation was dealt a major blow by the touchscreen-based BlackBerry Storm, which was a “rushed attempt to fend of Apple’s iPhone”. While speaking to the audience in a fireside chat at an Empire Club of Canada event in Toronto, Balsillie said, “It was a touch display, a clickable display, it had new applications. It was all done in an incredibly short period of time and it blew up on us” (via The ChronicHerald).

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While speaking for the first time publicly about BlackBerry since his abrupt departure from the company in early 2012,  Balsillie said that with BlackBerry Storm, the company “tried to do too much”. He highlighted that patents and aggressive competition from Apple were two of the main reasons why the company lost its global smartphone dominance. He further said that technical problems with the phone left customers returning it to stores “and that soured BlackBerry’s relationship with U.S. telecom giant Verizon, which decided to sever ties with the Canadian company”.

“That was the time I knew we couldn’t compete on high-end hardware,” Balsillie said.

Balsillie focused on his hopes for change in Canada’s technology sector and called for a national lobby organization to help homebred startups get the attention they need to grow. He said industry and government need to work together if Canada is to hold its own against international competition in the tech world. “The Canadian government doesn’t understand the innovation economy,” he said.

While pointing out successful American entrepreneurs like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Balsillie said that they are no smarter than Canadian entrepreneurs, but “the Canadian government doesn’t understand the innovation economy”.

He also suggested that the government should enact infrastructure and other policies to help the local tech sector.

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  • Andre

    Yeah… it’s the government’s fault. That’s it.

  • LOL

  • kkritsilas

    When your only response to a new, innovative competitor (the original iPhone) is “…it doesn’t have a keyboard, so nobody will take it seriously, and nobody will buy it…”, ignoring the fact that is had (for the time) the only decent web browser, a truly usable touch screen interface, and was brought out by a company that had a reputation for both high quality and good design, the problem is YOU, not the gov’t. It took a number of years before Blackberries got even a usable web browser, and even later until a good touch interface. Those delays were not the government’s fault, they were yours. If you had skipped the Storm, and come out with a Torch (9520) a year, or even two years earlier, Blackberry would have been far further ahead; if you brought out devices that could be upgraded, you could have possibly retained some of your customers. As it is, you did none of that, and now you are complaining about gov’t policy.

  • hub2

    A testament to how bad the Storm was: it had no wifi. More than a year after people got used to the idea of mobile internet access that didn’t have to be charged by the MB or even kB, and the damn thing didn’t have wifi.

  • I’m still waiting for people to bring up the Playbook, which required a tethered BlackBerry at launch to access email and contacts. #areyoukiddingme

  • imadude

    “I’m still waiting for people to bring up the APPLE WATCH, which required a tethered IPHONE at launch to access email and contacts” 😉

  • Oh. No. You. Didn’t.

    Okay, that is true if you want to use email and make calls, a phone is required. But without an iPhone, you can still access contacts and email. They are reachable 🙂

  • imadude

    Splitting hairs Gary 😉 PS: Yes i have an apple watch, and yes i am a fanboy… but let’s call a spade a spade.