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RIM: The Cutting Edge of Success

Response to:

Research in Motion: Managing Explosive Growth

By Daina Mazutis for the Richard Ivey School of Business

Growth is what we all want, its what every company is working towards and what every shareholder is betting on when he/she buys equity. RIM shows us that even world beating sales figures come with challenges.

The core of RIM’s success is its ability to anticipate the needs of consumers, needs that even buyers were unaware of, and to develop technology that meets those needs. Even more than that, the technology that Lazardis and company develop is the world’s most efficient and difficult to replicate. To date, despite the billions spent on R&D in the world’s largest telecommunications think-tanks, no comparable products have been released. The iPod is the world’s most user friendly interface, and the Nexus One is the world’s fastest consumer device. The Blackberry, however is the only encrypted push e-mail, while using the least amount of data to fully integrate all of a person’s mobile technology needs.

That competitive advantage is fleeting, and its shocking that it has existed as long as it has. The new versions including the Curve, Storm, Tour and Bold offer no significant new functionality, just an upgrade of the only model. In order to maintain the lead, RIM will not be able to just beat its head against the same old wall using larger sums of money. Another game changer is required, and required fast to satisfy the end-user and the shareholders. Rather than focusing on straight ratios that equate increases in expenditure to increases in innovation, RIM must now focus on developing a real edge that differentiates the Blackberry brand from its competitors.

The supply of talent is clearly one of RIM’s greatest challenges and massive numbers are required to satisfy the growing demand. It is simply not realistic to assume that organic growth or even traditional onboarding can double the organization’s size in a short time period without damaging either the culture, the quality of work, or both. Instead, RIM should look to build on its history and past successes with acquisitions to grow. Opportunities abound, especially as companies like Palm are being left in the wake of progress. A huge takeover like Palm would supply RIM with a sudden jolting influx of seasoned talent as well as a glut of intellectual property that has is currently in Palm’s possession. Most likely, those developments could be coupled with Blackberry code to produce new reasons for customers to be excited about the boys from Waterloo and their toys.

The bulk of the effort must be spent on the onboarding process as Palm people become RIM people. Blackberry-ing Palm-ers will be the crux of the challenge and, if successful, the edge that keeps Steve Jobs and his legions of iUsers at bay.

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