back to article Insider says doom looms at RIM

Times are tough at RIM, home of the fading BlackBerry. Sales are slipping, profits are evaporating, and now a high-level staffer has written to the company's co-presidents to inform them that "things have never been more chaotic," urging them to make "bold decisions" to right the ship – before it's too late. "We're all reading …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Oh dear

    As a current Nokia employee I can only sympathise with this RIMM employee.

    The pleas are very familiar. Unfortunately, as this person is probably a lowly software engineer, his/her views will be completely ignored while upper management, who make the decisions (eventually) and call the shots, run laps around the Wishing Tree in the hope they'll make themselves look good. Face it, the opinions of software engineers will never be taken seriously when it comes to company direction.

    Anon for obvious reasons.

    1. Shonko Kid
      Devil

      anonymous?

      You think your anon? You say your still at Nokia, and you sound like a software enginner. That narrows the field down quite a bit surely :-/

    2. louis walsh's toilet
      Meh

      correct

      "the opinions of software engineers will never be taken seriously when it comes to company direction."

      that's because you're a software engineer...not the company director.

      what RIM and many others need, is a director that listens to software engineers, developers, designers, interface designers, usability experts etc etc and then combines all their opinions into one great idea with great leadership.....

      my point is that if you just listen to one group of people then you product will be poor and you'll get overtaken by your competition.

      blackberry's are too technical, fiddly and have no finesse but they work well......a prime example of the balance moving in favour of the technical department and not the usabilty/interface department.

    3. fajensen Silver badge
      Coat

      Didn't you log get the memo?

      Employees are mere Resources - In exactly the same way the coal, iron ore or oil is; To be used in the most economic way and the remains safely disposed off when they are depleted.

      Most businesses even have a department to dedicated managing the resource life cycle.

      It is not up to the resources to do things to improve the product; The opposite is true: things are done *with* resources, not *by* them.

      Besides, maybe the product just has to suck and fail, perhaps management have a leveraged short position on the company's stock; Perhaps they got CDS's on the company's debt, perhaps on top of all that, they really want to buy out the existing stock holders and sell the brand to Acer ... or some other corrupt scheme.

      Who the f. cares? Its The New E-con-me, Now With Recovery(tm)

    4. Ilgaz

      Response is similar too

      Whenever Nokia was critised, they came up with numbers. E.g. Ovi app store is a joke with no update facility and needless www widget? Tell numbers, like "every day, xxxxxxx number of downloads" forgetting the fact that the number should have been way higher because of marketshare.

      I was really thinking of BB in future because of QNX but the response, like coming from Finland in 2007 made me give up.

      E71 here (IMHO a BB clone).

  2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Meh

    Lawsuits in Motion, teethering?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_In_Motion#Patent_litigation

    Well, cry me a river.

    1. dotdavid
      Thumb Up

      I was gonna post the exact same thing

      There is a certain degree of karmic effect, methinks, for Lawsuits in Motion.

  3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @oh dear

    Well of course they are going to ignore him, he is only a developer at a software company - he doesn't know anything about the brilliant new corporate re-branding excersize that senior management have planned.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      Re: @oh dear

      Meanwhile, here's one for the letter to Santa:

      "Democratise. Engage and interact with your employees"

      In organisations like this, employees are merely a captive audience for the clueless post-decision executive propaganda. The executives certainly don't want to have anyone informing them about things like the messy details of whether something can be done, is ethical, is desirable, or will ruin a bunch of other projects or the company's reputation; they just want a chorus of "yes", a bunch of high-fiving about how "clever" they are, and everyone getting excited about the "new vision" even though half of them won't be working there in six months time.

  4. Youngdog
    Megaphone

    Business as usual in a lot places I'm afraid

    The Board being out of touch with what's happening on the ground and passionate, committed engineers who, working in narrow silos, don't see the overall picture really is BAU in any tech company of significant size.

    Typically the engineers are baffled that, although they can see problems, the company still seems to retain some profitability and the crisis they are all hoping for that might bring much needed change just never occurs. Similarly the Board is baffled that, despite their leadership, management is unable to implement their vision without encountering issues such as staff retention, rising costs or poorer than expected sales.

    The truth that both these sides choose to ignore is that to lead the field in any market usually involves just being in the right place at the right time and can come down to a single decision made months, or even years, previously that at the time probably didn't seem significant.

    Every time you read about the latest successful company (or person) what you don't see is the endless graveyard full of also-rans and failures. Too much credit is taken for their own success without the humility to realise that, like a lottery, success was bound to happen to someone and doesn't come down to pontificated company 'values' or mission statements or personal/corporate visions.

    Don't get me wrong - there are things that companies typically do that ensure they never even get close to no.1 (short term focus on costs, hiring outside the field, creating management layers to buffer accountability and generate promotion paths) but lets just see how this rant is recieved first before we go into that one!

    1. Chris Miller
      Thumb Up

      Excellent post, Youngdog

      A couple of extra thoughts for you:

      Where management consultants go wrong (beyond swallowing the ludicrous notion that there can be such a thing as a management consultant in the first place) is thinking that "we just need to identify the '7 habits of highly successful businesses' and anyone who follows them will be equally successful" - vide Tom Peters et al. They ignore the fact that most wildly successful businesses are successful largely because of a (series of) massive fluke(s) and are usually dysfunctional in many other ways (which is why most of them don't survive for more than 10-20 years). What they should really be doing is identifying the common factors among companies that *fail* and saying "please don't do any of these things or you'll go bust".

      Take Bill Gates as a case in point. I'm prepared to believe that he's (a) smart; (b) hard working; and (c) a ruthless operator - but not that he was at the top of any of these categories in Washington state, let alone the US. Among the flukes that led Microsoft to dominance (apart from the big one of IBM knocking on his door and dumping a golden opportunity on his lap - which he seized with both hands):

      (a) his trust fund - it's a lot easier to drop out of college and pursue your dream if you know that in the (highly likely) event that it all goes tits up, you're not going to be living in a cardboard box - see also Richard Branson;

      (b) timing - had he been born a few years earlier, there would have been no microcomputer revolution going on for him to join and he would probably have ended up in his dad's law firm. A few years later and the key operators would already have been set up.

      To his credit, I think BillG recognised this, which is why he spent a lot of time looking over his shoulder for the new guys coming up behind him. Contrast this behaviour with the Larry Ellisons of this world who tend to believe that they would have been equally successful whatever the circumstances and that their wealth is just reward for their natural abilities.

      1. Justin Clements

        Well said

        I totally agree with these two posts.

        Business is 90% luck and 10% about good at business.

        Most of the millionaires (proper business ones and not home property ones) I've met are weathy for 1 and 2 reasons.

        1. Luck. Pure luck. They were in the right place at the right time and customers continue to seek them out in droves. They could put a chicken in charge of PR and Marketing and they'd still get sales growth.

        2. Hard work. These guys are much more rare, but are doing something profitable in the first, and just keep at it. After 20 years they suddenly realise they are employing 100+ people, they have a nice income, a wife and several children. They simply focus on a profitable business for year after year.

        Many of these software companies are in the first category. There is no magic, or good practice, they simply sell something that happens to be popular.

  5. bob_blah
    Unhappy

    It's amazing what happens in two years in the tech industry

    I was in Canada two years ago looking for work and one of the most prized places to secure a job was at RIM. My how things have changed.

    I'm just wondering if the author is in fact the hynotised zombie, a la "Office Space?"

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Their own fault?

      In some ways they set themselves up for a big fail. They hyped up their iPad killer and it turned out to be a flop both in sales and implementation. While geeks might love that it's QNX behind the scenes, the general public don't care if it's DOS, so long as it works well.

      The reason the Playbook doesn't do email is pretty simple. Their services can't handle the situation of two devices synchronising to the same account, doh!.

  6. DrXym Silver badge

    Developers are important

    I used to do OS/2 2.x programming and trying to get developer tools out of IBM meant paying them a lot of money. Conversely Microsoft used to fling SDKs around like toffee and Visual tools like VB / VC++ etc. (and 3rd party dev tools like Borland C++ running on Windows) were cheap and affordable. Aside from price, MS tools were generally user friendly and easy to get going whereas IBM tools weren't. At the time Windows devs were using Visual C++ with syntax hilighting, wizards, 1-click builds, I was running CSet from a command line with makefiles a copy of microemacs I ported myself. Eventually IBM went "visual" with VisualAge C++, possibly the most unusable pieces of shit I've ever had the misfortune to suffer.

    I strongly believe that getting developers interested in your platform should be regarded a beach head of any new platform. Get developers working on cool apps and the cool apps will lure the users. Then you're in a positive feedback loop. I think the way Google hands out Android SDKs to everyone for nothing, which run on the 3 major OSes is absolutely the smart and right thing to do.

    Second to all this of course is making a platform that's fun to use, forgiving, functional and usable. It's no good getting devs interested if the platform is too expensive, half baked, or otherwise lacking in basic functionality. From the sounds of it RIM is suffering from lack of developers and a half baked platform.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      VisualAge, SlickEdit, Oh the Horror, the HORROR

      Yes, VisualAge and its "intuitive" interface (that is, basically no direction on best practices to use it)-- then they changed the "intuitive" interface to a newer, better, different intuitive interface and I tossed it. I need to get my job done, not spend time fixing processes that used to work and don't anymore.

      SlickEdit did the same thing. Tossed in the bin as a result, just use the base OSF tools now.

      I see a few CAD companies might go that way too. Well, SketchUp will replace them.

      I could go on and on.

      When are these losers going to learn to at least include some kind of tutorial (even one for idiots would help...) with their products if they make a large change in the user interface? Change can be good, but fumbling in the dark to figure out what changed because some grossly overcompensated corpie wouldn't pay for a few help panels won't endear your product to users who have to produce or die.

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Joke

    come on *NO* company will ever let go a CEO called "Ballsie"

    It's just too good a name to have.

  8. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Trollface

    Hmmm

    Looks like carefully constructed FUD to me, the eight points look designed to raise questions in consumers and investors rather than provide solutions, and the Apple-centric style makes me think fanboi or Apple marketing. But, if I was advising RIM, the first thing I'd say is don't try to be Apple, just go back to the core of what you do best and where Apple is clueless - providing the best, secure, business mobile email solution. Stand up and sell to businesses, let the highstreet buy toys. Let Apple keep the fanbois, they buy on labels and you can't make a successful business tool "sexy" to them, no matter what superior feature set you have. You only have to look as far as the Curve clones like the Nokia E6 to see that Apple isn't the only brand being copied.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Re: Hmmm

      FUD?! If you've ever worked for a large company, especially one sliding down the toilet, you'll know exactly where this person is coming from. Even if someone from Apple did cook this up and stage a leak, they've managed to nail the sentiments of many an individual in a failing corporation who believes (in vain, in all probability) that it's not too late to turn it all around.

      Why anyone from Apple would bother looking in the rear-view mirror in this way is the bigger mystery. That and why someone remarking on, say, the aptitude of some project leader is somehow making statements "designed to raise questions in consumers and investors". Sheesh!

      1. Goat Jam
        Holmes

        With Sun Gone

        It looks like Apple is the new Sun in MB's world.

  9. SuccessCase
    Alien

    Almost complimentary

    By reprinting the first bullet point, Rik you were in danger of posting something complimentary about Apple that makes complete business sense (albeit by proxy). But then i see you later restored business as usual by questioning the veracity if the point.

    I'm sure Basillie and Lazaridiris are telling themselves the same thing.

    "it's only because Apple customers are f*****g Zombies and don't understand real products that we're doing so badly"

    "Maybe Apple are have perfected the secret to making Zombie Juice and somehow got their customers to drink it ! "

    "I know, I've got it figured out. They must have managed to perfect a process of getting Zombie Juice in their products so their cutomers just get infected through contact with them. My god ! This needs further investigation ! bring in the CIA, there must be something evil going on here. Why doesn't everyone see?. Apple are making products which once you have contact with them, make you want to buy more. Whew at least RIM and those solid journalists at The Register can be relied on to see through and counteract this evil action. I'll never let our products be used that way"

    1. Anonymous Coward 101
      FAIL

      Your point is utterly incoherent

      Have you been drinking zombie juice, or perhaps just some methylated spirits?

  10. Sordid Details
    Meh

    Oh dear

    The response from RIM sounds very much like the corporate drivel that was coming out of SCO right up to the end. I'm sure they've got a few push-email patents up their sleeves so perhaps in a few years RIM will be reduced to patent trolling and litigation as a way of keeping the corpse twitching.

    Perhaps that's a harsh analogy. I'm a very happy BlackBerry user. The messaging is top notch and I'm not a fan of apps. Probably just as well...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Look at what their selling

    When one of your top selling models is the 8520 you don't need a long bulletted list to analyse what's wrong at RIM.

  12. Richard Porter

    @bob_blah

    Been there, even got a tee-shirt or two. I used to work for a once respected Canadian telecomms company that took a bit more than two years to go down the pan. Fortunately I got "optimised" before the bitter end (there was an infamous internal memo about mass redundancies headed "workforce optimisation").

  13. TeeCee Gold badge
    WTF?

    So, '%&@!$#%'....

    .....actually stands for "rundown Ford Explorer"? I have to say I was expecting something with a somewhat more pithy content there.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    which came first

    the sharp decline or the myriad sensationalist news stories?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    9530 software

    I was responsible for the 9530 software! Now shut the fuck up, you gutless son of a bitch!

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: I was responsible...

      Sorry, I don't believe you. I think this leak is coming from the guy who wrote that software. He wants out, but he wants the company to offer him a golden parachute. So he leaks this letter, thinking that he is probably the only software guy who will not be under suspicion as a result.

  16. WinHatter
    Facepalm

    Surf not tackle

    --in a solid business and financial position to tackle the opportunities ahead--

    So at RIM opportunities = issues.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    RIM has a lot of people who underperform but still stay in their roles.

    "No one is accountable (...) It's time to change the culture to deliver or move on and get out"

    Imagine if we could do that with public servants. With the money saved from projects delivered on time and on budget, we'd have enough money to pay their unemployment benefits, and have enough surplus to gold plate every road in the UK.

  18. AdamWill
    WTF?

    heh

    The response should be preserved in amber as a record of corporate head-in-sand, foot-in-mouth idiocy. I particularly like the line "tackle the opportunities ahead" - wow, 'all problems are opportunities!' has become so entrenched that we now tackle opportunities?

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      If problems are opportunities

      could someone please solve my opportunities for me then?

  19. Larry Page

    NOKIA&RIM DILEMMA

    This Blog will be posted to a lot of sites as I seek to get the attention of Two Organisations, namely; Rim/Blackberry and Nokia.

    The Buzz is that they are taking hard hits on their finances and are beginning to look bad to their investors. In fact I read a post that Citigroup has asked investors who have their money on Rim to withdraw and invest somewhere else. Secondly I also heard that Rim is letting go of a certain percentage of their staff because of the management shortcomings.

    This is what I have to offer RIM & Nokia freely;

    Prioritize NOKIA; I have a problem with the Nokia brand, because they have been in the market for a long time, sitting on their BRILLANT product brand, snoozing and snoring loudly, while Blackberry, Android and Windows Mobile came into the market with a technology that could have been developed by them, and took the market away from them.

    What they have lost, is an angle on the social media perspective, and will need a lot of work to gain lost ground. BUT, they still have a lot to offer in terms of developing new applications around existing CORE applications namely OviMaps, OviStore, PCSuite, OviPlayer etc.

    Prioritize BLACKBERRY; Blackberry is offering a world service that benefits all the social media providers and forgot to develop CORE applications that will be a Unique Identifier for their Brand. While they are running around now, trying to remove their tails from their behind, they need to go back to the drawing board on their latest models. What is the use of Tablet if I have to have a bridge that enables my hand-held before I can use applications like the BBM, Maps, etc? They do not need new models in the market, they do not not need for them to be expensive (RIM is separate from Apple), they ABSOLUTELY should move their area of concentration away from USA, and they should reconsider their business SLA with banks like Citigroup, who rather than deploy their expert financial advisers, are doing more damage than the business needs for survival in the global Telecom/technology competitive market.

    Location NOKIA & BLACKBERRY; these two providers need to analytically look at where their highest income/volume/value is coming from. Sad as it is to break this news to them, IT IS NOT THE US. 31% of Blackberry's income is from Africa. 5% of that are from other African Countries, the rest is from Nigeria. It is an enabling technology for the high trade and transaction volumes expended in the country. It is the fastest, sustainable and not-too expensive means of communication because of its allowance for chat, sms, and various call modules. Research shows that 100% of the high income earners use at least 2 Blackberry phones, 70% of the middle income earners use Blackberry as their fastest and most convenience means of communication, 30% of the low income earners, use Blackberry as a status symbol.

    FOR NOKIA; the highest sales record ever was from Nigeria, but GUESS WHAT? They do not have a Licensed, Authorized, Nokia Company in the country. Their sales decline is a factor of the advent of Blackberry, HTC , Samsung Galaxy and a low percentage for iPhone.

    Nokia needs to re-evaluate their position on not having the required presence, moderately priced phones, and applications that can compete with Blackberry BBM, AppWorld, etc.

    My final analysis for these two Organisations, is that Yes the US is a developed first world country compared to the rest of the world. Yes they develop the technologies that we use in the developing regions, Yes they have the largest number of populace spread across their states and state-lines. All these should have been factors for Financial Dominance, but they are not. The end users are the most important factor to any business, any product and any growth. If your business is not with your end-users, then you may want to ask yourselves, what is your way forward.

    1. nyelvmark
      Happy

      74.137% of statistics...

      >>Research shows that 100% of the high income earners use at least 2 Blackberry phones...

      What? Only 100%?

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: 74.137% of statistics...

        Fair point, but actually the number that jumped out at me was "2". WTF is that all about?

    2. Kristian Walsh
      Thumb Down

      Interesting algorithm there, Larry...

      ... it generated a whole posting with almost correct syntax and no meaning. Sweet.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just the same the world over

    Even google are struggling to keep to their original goals. The company exists because a bunch of techies had a good idea. They developed a product but then management came in and took over. The amount of corporate b*ll that goes on everywhere is staggering, and the amount of non accountability is even more staggering.

    Will it ever change? Doubt it. It's like project managers and consultants earning more than the best technical guy who solves the big problems and pulls you out of a hole every time. Ridiculous.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    could someone explain

    What made being responsible for the 9530 software worthy or an extra verbal shoeing?

    Never had a blackberry so am rather curious

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    770 Million....

    They might be doomed but apparently still have $770 Million to buy patents with.

  23. bdam
    Unhappy

    Elops mission at Nokia is now complete

    He's waiting for Ballmers order to become RIM's CEO so he can get on with forcing their userless, appless xbox-controller toy phone OS on BB.

    Funding it all is easy now m$ has adopted the new mobile business strategy of "if you can't beat 'em, extort 'em".

  24. NoneSuch Silver badge

    hahaha

    "the culture at RIM does not allow us to speak openly without having to worry about the career-limiting effects."

    Well put, and it represents most companies unwritten rule of "say anything negative about us and BOOT... Out the door you go."

  25. Richard Porter

    Problems = opportunities

    But the point is that other people's problems are your opportunities, not your own problems.

  26. Robert E A Harvey

    evey bl**dy one

    This memo could have been written to the board of every company I have ever worked in.

    Why is China so dynamic? Is it the cheap, compliant, labour? or is it management not frightened to take a risk?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      Because of Fraud!

      The most efficient business model in the world is fraud, that is why China is so "dynamic".

      China is an epic case of the one-party communist dictatorship working hand-in-hand with business cronies and insiders to steal, copy and falsify ... whatever it takes to deliver the proper numbers to the central planning committee, the proper numbers to the foreign suck... err... investors and the proper amounts to the off-shore bank accounts of the involved parties - somewhat harder because China has exchange rate controls so you have to partner with someone, Government, who can fix that for you. Otherwise you are limited to buying raw materials and stacking them in your back yard.

      I work with a major Chinese Telecom supplier. Every bit of "brand" kit they supply for their projects in Iran, Somalia - if there is a 3-rd world shit-hole, the Chinese are there - is defect in some way, *every single bit* and the serial numbers are never quite the proper ones to invoke a warranty repair and so on and so forth - I.O.W: Everything is probably from some production line parallel to the one set up by Major American Hardware Suppliers.

      Then there is the 60 Million empty apartments, The total environmental devastation whenever the Chinese run a chemical or mining operation and the economic target figures that always, always, exactly meets the western economists and "investors" expectations. The "Chinese Miracle" is totally unsustainable and it will blow up in a spectacular, if messy, way.

      "We" ignore it because the Chinese competition destroys the living standards of people here, pushing down wages and working conditions which the oligarchs always like; Staving peasants are less trouble than free citizens.

  27. DF118
    Meh

    "tackle the opportunities ahead"

    I always thought you took opportunities and tackled problems.

  28. David Kelly 2
    Happy

    Hurray for Free Enterprise and Competition!

    More evidence that the left's motto of, "The rich only get richer" is totally wrong. RIM (and Nokia) was in the catbird's seat with everything in their favor to maintain their position but is poised to fall for incompetence.

    Competence can not be managed into existence no more than quality can be inspected into a product when the quality wasn't there in the first place.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    Worst Company Ever

    I'm a former employee. All I can say is suggestions and opinions are not welcome, bullying is fine for those who differ from the corporate culture, and things like illness are not tolerated.

    Worst company I've ever worked for - good riddance. Always nice to see a karmic conclusion to a bad memory.

  30. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    RIM

    What it seems you need to be able to do to get promoted.

    Time to be gone.

  31. Marco van Beek
    Facepalm

    Left field suggestion

    How about building mobile phones? Not seen one of those in years.

    These days they all seem to want to be better that the computer that ran the Apollo command and lunar modules. Only problem is, those computers were built almost 50 years ago, and probably still work perfectly...

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