Inventors always want to protect their ideas so that only they can capitalize on them; however, that may be misguided. In the history of recent technology, being the “first in” has proven to be of no advantage – possibly even a disadvantage.
At one time, there was a very good operating system called CPM that was crushed by a late arriver MS DOS. Commodore once had a future in personal computing until it went head-to-head with the PC (IBM Personal Computer). Atari had a superior computer for a long time but was eliminated in an “early round” by the fashionably late PC clone. Xerox produced the feature-rich, Venture Publisher, that was “marketed” out of the business by Adobe Page Maker for Macintosh – a far inferior product.
Almost none of the original players are around today to enjoy the fruit of their ground breaking labour. The forerunners who dream and challenge new horizons don’t always make the best managers. Steve Jobs may appear to be an exception – he stayed close to his function as “Head-Dreamer” of the company and it worked for him and Apple.
Being second or third into a big market has proven to have its advantages. Research In Motion conceived and birthed an idea which required a tremendous amount of creative and technological resources, only to have others build on and innovate the idea. It is much easier to refine a good idea than it is to make it a reality. RIM’s competitors have made a place for themselves “frilling up” a monumental technology with a user friendly interface (Iphone) and a fortune of supplementary applications which appeal to anyone and everyone’s personal interests. Some of these apps are “software froth” and some are well conceived and designed add-on functions to the main and original idea of mobile e-mail, internet and phone service.
RIM still has a unique market advantage in spite of the press that is determined to destroy them. Their networks are secure because they operate them. That one advantage for an intelligent and informed consumer is worth trading all the “frills” any marketing manager on steroids can come up with. It seems that RIM’s superior security has irritated more than one government. Saudi Arabia wanted a “backdoor” into the Blackberry system in order to spy on their people. Somehow, Blackberry was “responsible” for the riots in London in August. Their networks were secure and for that reason rioters used them to organize. The British didn’t like that and called in the Blackberry folks to give an account for themselves. The social unrest and religious persecution of Christians in countries such as Egypt have made RIM the secure and obvious choice of many. For that reason, RIM has gone from being heros to zeros, at least in the press. It would appear for being just too darn good. There are a lot of people who would like them to give up their secure networks so they can “trap data” and spy on whomever they please. In some cases, that is good and in others it is bad, but who gets to decide which is which?
RIM has a lot of enemies, but the founders are used to fighting for what they believe. They were around long before Blackberry and learned their “tuffs” over years of struggling in order to arrive where they are today. They may have made some mistakes and become mesmerized by their tremendous success for a season, but the next battle is for the survival of the company. My money is on RIM. They have the leadership to make the adjustments that need to be made. They are “forerunners” who can lead the industry again. They have been there and know what it takes to create and pioneer. They just need to remember who they are! As with most forerunners, they don’t mind taking some heat for doing things their way.
I am optimistic about RIM’s future in spite of the media’s intentional attacks and pessimistic predictions. As a team, they are more than what the “barking dogs” (the press) say they are. They have proven their character and good will in the market place and to our community whenever there was a need. This battle is not primarily about stock prices, or shareholder value, or marketing, or PR. It is about control and who is going to get it.
The first line of defense in this battle is character….“character” that says: “I will not let ‘them’ destroy me or this company.” This attitude must start at the top and trickle down through the ranks and infect those not intimidated by a good fight with courage and determination. I’ve seen that from the senior RIM team in the midst of a volley of personal attacks. They stood firm when their leadership was challenged and when “analysts” wanted to break up the company. Their courage and strength tell me they are not finished fighting, and it gives me courage and the conviction that RIM will not only survive, but will flourish.