BlackBerry Co-Founder’s Response to the Original iPhone: “It’s OK—We’ll Be Fine”


In January 2007, Steve Jobs made history with Apple: on the stage in San Francisco, he introduced the iPhone, which revolutionized the smartphone industry as we know it. Everyone involved in the industry was watching that memorable keynote, BlackBerry co-founder Mike Lazaridis included. But what was the reaction of his partner, co-CEO Jim Balsillie? “It’s OK—we’ll be fine.” That was the moment when BlackBerry’s market performance reached its peak. What came afterwards is tech history.

We are aware of the immense pressure BlackBerry is facing to be present in the market. Just think about the next wave of layoffs it announced last week. But there is a reasonable explanation behind all of this, and authors Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff have tried to dig it out and make it available to the public in the form of a new book. Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry reveals all the mistakes and the positive moves BlackBerry made over time and how the iPhone influenced its market share.

The fact is, Apple managed to ink deals that BlackBerry wasn’t able to. But when it grabbed an exclusive deal with Verizon (just like Apple did with AT&T at launch), BlackBerry failed to deliver its best. Here is what happened:

The nine-month deadline came and went, and it wasn’t until 15 months later in November 2008 that RIM was able to start shipping Storm phones for the busy Christmas season. Internally, most of RIM’s engineers knew the company was shipping a flawed product. […]

Storm’s success was fleeting. By the time Mr. Balsillie was summoned to Verizon’s Basking Ridge, N.J., headquarters in the spring of 2009 to review the carrier’s sales data, RIM’s senior executives knew Storm was a wipeout. Virtually every one of the 1 million Storm phones shipped in 2008 needed replacing, Verizon’s chief marketing officer, John Stratton, told Mr. Balsillie. Many of the replacements were being returned as well. Storm was a complete failure, and Mr. Stratton wanted RIM to pay.

The Wall Street Journal has a lengthy excerpt from the book that is worth reading. If you want to read the full story, just head to Amazon following this link, and you can order your own hard copy of the book.

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