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‘BlackBerry’ overview: The comedy and tragedy of the innovator’s dilemma

‘BlackBerry’ overview: The comedy and tragedy of the innovator’s dilemma

2023-05-21 10:07:24

BlackBerry has the whole lot Apple’s Tetris film lacked: human drama grounded in precise historical past, with out the necessity to spice issues up with automotive chases and fantastical storytelling. On the face of it, the rise and fall of Analysis in Movement’s keyboard-equipped smartphone might not appear inherently compelling. However the brilliance of the movie — directed by Matt Johnson, who additionally co-wrote it with Matthew Miller — is that it makes the BlackBerry’s journey really feel like a real tragedy.

It is pushed by two dramatically completely different individuals: RIM’s co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis, a nebbishy genius of an engineer, and Jim Balsillie, a ruthless and perpetually indignant businessman. They struggled on their very own, however collectively had been capable of rule the cellular business for greater than a decade. After which got here the iPhone, which immediately reversed their fortunes.

Like many former titans, RIM fell sufferer to the innovator’s dilemma. As described by Harvard professor Clayton Christensen, it is what occurs when giant and profitable firms are completely centered on iterating on current merchandise and appeasing prospects. That leaves room for a extra nimble newcomer to come back alongside and develop one thing revolutionary that the incumbents may by no means have imagined.

On this case, it is Apple’s iPhone, which lands like a nuclear bomb within the expertise world. The movie exhibits Lazaridis and his engineering staff watching Steve Jobs’ iconic iPhone keynote in disbelief. Lazaridis is the genius protagonist we have seen provide you with the thought of a handheld, keyboard-equipped pocket laptop that is environment friendly sufficient to run on unused, low-bandwidth wi-fi alerts. Even after BlackBerry takes off, we see him have one other stroke of inspiration with BlackBerry Messenger, a service that delivered free messaging to RIM’s prospects at a time when carriers charged 10 cents per SMS textual content. It was a superb maneuver that made BlackBerry customers much more loyal, since BBM wasn’t accessible on another gadget.

Jay Baruchel and Glenn Howerton in the BlackBerry movie.

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Despite the fact that he was no stranger to game-changing innovation himself, Lazaridis did not assume the iPhone would work. It was too costly. It did not have a bodily keyboard. And it was constructed to gobble up cellular knowledge (one thing RIM took pains to keep away from). Who would need that? Seems everybody did. Whereas the iPhone was certainly expensive at launch, provider subsidies made it simpler to abdomen. Its giant display, (eventual) App Retailer and revolutionary OS made up for its touch-based keyboard. And it arrived simply as 3G networks had been rolling out, which gave carriers extra of an incentive to cost prospects for knowledge as an alternative of mobile minutes. Simply because the BlackBerry gave us a glimpse of an always-connected world in 1999, the iPhone promised to place the complete energy of the web in your pocket.

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Spoilers for actual life, I assume: BlackBerry dropped from having 20 % of the worldwide smartphone market share in 2010 to 0 % in 2017, according to Statista. For individuals who weren’t round for the corporate’s heyday, the movie serves as a beneficial historical past lesson.

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