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back to article BlackBerry ripped itself apart wooing CIOs AND iPhone fanbois - insiders

Rows over whether BlackBerry was at its best as a hardware or software company led to years of paralysis, and the departure of its twin CEOs, insiders now claim. BlackBerry had grown because it offered a unique end-to-end bundle of hardware, software and a network. But as newcomers entered the market, the company couldn’t decide …

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BlackBerry had grown because it offered a unique end-to-end bundle of hardware, software and a network. But as newcomers entered the market, the company couldn’t decide which part of this bundle was the most valuable,

A familiar story, Sun went the same way, for the same reasons. It could never decide if it was a hardware company or a software company, and ended up vacillating between them unable to make its mind up where to invest.

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You're right, a lot of companies fall down at that point, not just tech companies. The CEO at my last employer wouldn't accept priorities on anything. When he was asked what he wanted us to focus on he would say 'All of it. If you're prioritizing anything then something else is falling behind'.

It was impossibly infuriating and impossible to accomplish, and he knew it. It sure did make us all keep our eyes open to everything though. It worked too, we merged with another company then a year later had our IPO.

RIM didn't have to make a one or the other choice. Their product set was fairly well defined and extremely manageable. If creating a false choice scenario for themselves really is what killed them, that is far, far worse than not innovating or choosing a poor strategy. Dithering over a non-existent question is a sad, sad way to go.

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It's very hard for a company that makes hardware to give up being a "real company that makes things" for being a mere service provider.

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@ Don Jefe

Absolutely right.

As I was reading the article what came to my mind besides numbing disbleief is what on earth were they not thinking.

Why a company at the top can't create subsidiary companies to concentrate on the (as it turned out much needed) new ideas and new tech. If companies didn't want cameras and other bells and whistles, what could be easier than continuing a popular model whilst forging ahead with modern tech?

"Incredible" doesn't cover it. A company like that belongs in the toilet with SCO and all the other losers.

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maybe one day

executives who drive good companies into the ground because of ego and/or incompetence will be forced into penury for their stupidity.

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Re: maybe one day

That was a major part of their problem. Which half of the 'leader' do you blame? Any more than one CEO in a room creates an inter-dimensional vortex of crazy, even when they're from entirely different industries. Having two in the same room working for the same company was incredibly dumb. Risk management by second guessing isn't risk management at all. That just doubles the number of chances of making the wrong choice.

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Re: maybe one day

Co CEOs always did sound retarded to me. Guess this proves it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: maybe one day

Worked for the Spartans.

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Stop

Re: maybe one day

>Worked for the Spartans.

For a limited amount of time..

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Astonishing account of the BB story...

...I agree, hats off to G&M - and what it does actually is putting everybody in its rightful place, eg I never thought much of Balsillie but now it's clear that despite being an abrasive arrogant @ss he was the one who had true business vision eg SMS 2.0 being an all-available BBM with RIM at its center.

After reading this article I'm also more forgiving about Lazaridis - though his slow, awkward execution and stupid calls (eg PlayBook) definitely made things already cracking worse, contributed to the current near-collapse.

That being sad I'm actually more hopeful that they will be able to raise the necessary capital and go private and re-emerge as a small, niche but very inventive player who's also bullish about defending its patent turf (see iOS7 and its new GUI features, straight out of BB10, WebOS and somewhat Android's playbook.)

We need competition, for sure.

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Re: Astonishing account of the BB story...

Pretty daft last paragraph - if the company formerly known as lawsuits in motion had many credible patents left don't you think they would be frantically attempting to monetise them right now?

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Re: Astonishing account of the BB story...

Huh? Talk about being daft.. I've mentioned iOS7, a ~2-weeks old OS - do you know how long it takes to build a case like that...?

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Re: Astonishing account of the BB story...

I've heard claims that iOS7 is a ripoff of Windows Phone, of Android, of WebOS and now of Blackberry. Which is it?

I suspect that if Apple has violated patents owned by Blackberry, they can point to some they own being violated by BB10, so I doubt it'll come to much. Patents are viewed pretty broadly so it is almost impossible that neither has violated the others' patents. For the most part only the lawyers end up ahead, the corporations all view it as a cost of doing business - for example, even if Samsung ended up having to pay the full $1 billion to Apple, do you think they'd care all that much considering they make 6 or 7 times that per quarter in profit from smartphones?

Being last to the touchscreen party has a price, and will make it difficult for RIM to win patent suits against not only Apple, but also Microsoft and Google/Android.

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Re: Astonishing account of the BB story...

Balsillie clearly saw what was happening and bailed out at the right time.

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Anonymous Coward

This could be another chapter in a future edition of "The Innovators Dilemma". A key strength, the acceptance of the Blackberry in the business environment, turned out to be a weakness as smart phones became mainstream consumer products. The company couldn't abandon its business base, but this seemingly impregnable base rapidly eroded.

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It was the CIO's wot dun it.

I have always maintained that it was the fact that CIO's loved it that spelled its doom. What with the granular locking up and lack of capabilities that other phones could do without breaking a swear.

It is funny to see it confirmed.

Where were those CIO's when iThings were flooding the enterprise?

Nokia was listening to the telecoms and BB to the techies. Well, did it ever occur to anyone to listen to the users?

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Typing fail. Swear should really read 'sweat'.

See BB, there WAS something you were good at and some of us miss...

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I am going to answer your question

Quote: Where were those CIO's when iThings were flooding the enterprise?

Reading another clueless Gartner article which proclaimed that we should all do BYOD now. Just the usual stuff CIOs do.

BB was not listening to the techies. It was listening to the techies' managers. That has "Demise", "Doom" and "Destruction" spelled all over it. Just ask a typical techie grunt in a typical non-techie fortune 500 company what does he think about his boss vision and ability to plan and foresee the future.

Now, think... Are you going to base _YOUR_ company's future on that?

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Software or hardware company?

It sure as hell wasn't the software.

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A sad indictment on us

For me the saddest part of this story is what it says about us (or the demands of our economies). To me it says that across North America and Europe (I've no clue about what happens in Russia or China) we are content with a 'choice' between just two products. Apple and Samsung in this case. The other choices are ridiculed. What about RIM and Microsoft?. Coke and Pepsi - what about Sprite and Dr Pepper. Dr Pepper even has to run self-deprecating adverts with the tag line "What's the worst that could happen?" Sure there are some also-rans but we seem able only to want to join one of two camps (or are told we should because all our friend do and we don't want to social lepp). They must be losers if they want anything else. 1 billion people and the best we seem to be able to have is choice between this one or that one. The other options go bust. That's not really a choice is it?

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Wow

"Rows over whether BlackBerry was at its best as a hardware or software company led to years of paralysis"

That's because they were neither; they were a solutions company. But that's what happens when you define yourself on other people's terms.

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hard to disrupt your own nice business

It is always very dangerous to handcuff yourself to your customers, and obey them completely. You're still handcuffed to them as they drive off a cliff when business shifts. Sometimes you ride over the cliff with them (if their business is tanking), other times they'll bail at the last second and leave you to go on your own.

In this case it was the CIO's that forbade cameras and social networking, etc., and that loved Blackberry's management functions. In previous iterations of IT disruption (Macs in the workforce, personal devices) management was able to block users from getting their way. But the shiny iThings are the Trojan horse that enters the company through the corner office, and that's when the walls fall down.

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Re: hard to disrupt your own nice business

Exactly, Timo. They also had a walled garden.

In order for BB to work, you had to use a BB server. And their phone-to-PC-synch was teh suck.

Closed ecosystems are death in the digital world.

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Re: hard to disrupt your own nice business

What's wrong with carrying two phones? Lots of people do.

BB's problem is that they decided to try to be the only phone in people's pockets.

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