Should RIM Be Judged on its Hires or Fires?

Publisher�s Outlook

Should RIM Be Judged on its Hires or Fires?

By Rich Tehrani, CEO, TMC  |  September 06, 2012

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 2012 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY

No company wants Apple (News - Alert) as a competitor, as the company has more momentum than the euro crisis. But that is the challenge companies like Nokia and RIM face on a daily basis.

Recently I delved into the problems RIM faced because it had an email-centric view of the world which was just as keyboard-centered as it was focused on asynchronous corporate communications. I had a chance to speak with Luca Filigheddu, who is the new BlackBerry (News - Alert) developer evangelist for the Italian market. As you may remember, I wrote about him three years ago when I toured the Italian island of Sardinia. Luca is a serial entrepreneur who founded Abbeynet, a company developing applications including click-to-call solutions for carriers. More recently he has launched a suite of social applications – one that has gained a good amount of traction is Twimbow, a colorful social interface you could describe as the result of Hootsuite and a box of crayons having a baby.

So what would make Luca, who seemed to be very happy being an entrepreneur, join RIM at this particular moment? In his words, the company was looking for someone with a business and tech background, and the company flew him to the BlackBerry World event and he came away impressed enough to take the position. He said he loves challenges and that BlackBerry 10 will be a breakthrough product, not just another OS.

The company realizes that developers are key to the success of its platform and as such is hiring developer evangelists in other countries as well. But, of course, the BlackBerry 10 delay is making developers and customers think about jumping ship entirely. To counter the anxiety in the market, Luca’s boss and another prolific blogger who I have known for years, Alec Saunders (News - Alert), reiterated the company’s support for developers by saying to them, “You’ve got businesses to run, rent to pay, and investors to answer to. You are the folks who have skin in the game now, and aren’t just waiting for a new phone personally. We know this delay affects you, and we’re sorry.”

Moreover, Alec’s ultimate boss, Thorsten Heins, the company’s new CEO, said the delay was warranted because the release had to be perfect. Luca for his part agrees and said, “If this delay means the mobile platform really meets the needs of developers and market that is okay.”

It is worth pointing out that RIM has been a sponsor of an event called DevCon5, of which TMC (News - Alert) is a co-owner, and which focuses on HTML5 and related development topics. I have seen firsthand how the company used the conference to woo developers.

Luca elaborated by saying the chance to work on a new platform is something that doesn’t happen very often and that RIM is assembling an entrepreneurial team inside the company. Moreover he said, this platform is very different and the user experience focuses on BlackBerry people who need to get things done.

Other features he extolled in his blog include true multitasking and the ability to run native Android (News - Alert) apps.

Of course the pressure to deliver something perfect is on and the good news is as a piece of software, even if it isn’t exactly perfect, you can roll an update out fairly quickly to erase any problems. The Playbook OS and UI are pretty good in my opinion. This should mean that the BlackBerry 10 OS will be even better.

The challenge for every company competing with Apple is of course competing with Apple. RIM will need not only a great BlackBerry 10, but a blockbuster OS that makes the media scream with excitement.

Alec, Luca, Thorsten and the RIM team have their work cut out for them as all of this perfect execution has to happen while there are thousands of people being let go. The flipside is that they are hiring good people and Luca’s description of a new entrepreneurial team is exactly what is needed. It is worth noting in conclusion that if you judge RIM on its hires and not its fires you get a much different impression. Once this new OS is revealed, the market of course will have the final say on the company’s course change and whether the delay was worth it.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi