Successfully transitioning from a current product to a next generation, without damaging the business today, is one of the toughest balancing acts in business. That’s the challenge that the darling of the Canadian mobile market, RIM, faces today.
Friday afternoon a customer casually asked me what I thought of RIM Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis’ session at All Things D last week. I hadn’t seen it, but the online commentary would lead you to believe that it was an unmitigated disaster. The video highlights and the live blog of the session show host Walt Mossberg drilling on business questions, and Lazaridis gamely trying to focus the discussion on technology. Mossberg was having none of it, unfortunately.
Lazaridis really had to do two things with this interview:
- Defuse the growing criticisms of RIM’s competitive position versus iPhone and Android.
- Paint a compelling picture of the future of BlackBerry without killing the current business.
Frankly, he didn’t do either very well.
In insisting RIM is today still a global leader, Lazaridis sacrificed credibility, and appeared defensive. He would have been better to take a more humble stance and simply acknowledge that the company is late to the game in next generation smart phones, and then talk about the roadmap to making up that lost ground. That would have been a great story, because it’s such a compelling future.
When it came to talking about the future, Lazaridis tap-danced around directly stating that future BlackBerry phones would be built on QNX, although that statement was a required element in order to paint a cohesive roadmap. It left the audience confused, not enlightened, and resulted in some of the scathing commentary published later. His best option would have been to directly state “BlackBerry OS 7 will be built on QNX, and we expect to release that in the second half of 2011”, or something like that.
If you’re transitioning a business:
- Make sure you paint a compelling picture of the future for customers. You have to get them enrolled in your vision, and excited about what’s coming down the pipe.
- Don’t be afraid to shoot your old business in the head. The best way to get customers to upgrade to your new products is to position your old products as somehow deficient.
Now, where can I get one of those RIM PlayBooks? I want one!
- RIM’s Mike Lazaridis: QNX coming to BlackBerry phones when dual-core processors are ready (engadget.com)
- RIM CEO Opens Mouth, Inserts Foot (fool.com)