BlackBerry

Andrew Hill

Photo: AFP/Getty

BlackBerry bosses’ thumbs must be getting tired. The company’s acting CEO John Chen has banged out another open letter to “valued enterprise customers and partners”, sprinkled with acronyms and suggesting a return to the group’s “heritage and roots” in “enterprise grade, end-to-end mobile solutions”. Read more

Emma Jacobs

Steve Jobs has joined Lenovo. Well, almost.

Actually the truth is only a little less outlandish. Ashton Kutcher, the Hollywood star of Two and a Half Men, who recently played the Apple co-founder in the poorly-received biopic Jobs, is the Chinese computer group’s latest recruit: a product engineer. Read more

Andrew Hill

A new account of “the fall of BlackBerry” in Canada’s Globe and Mail sheds light on the torment of the country’s once-mighty technology champion with some new revelations of internal rifts and missed opportunities. Four stand out for me. Read more

Andrew Hill

The controlling Jack Ma

Well done, Hong Kong. By sticking to its principles and not bending to Alibaba’s pressure for an unusual board control structure, the city’s stock exchange has struck a blow for investor rights over the increasing demands of technology executives.

Not that it will make a jot of difference. Read more

Ravi Mattu

I blame Wayne Gretzky.

Ever since the world’s greatest ice hockey player said a tearful good-bye to playing in Canada way back in 1988, his fellow Canadians have been smarting at the rules of big business.

Then, it was Gretzky’s move from snowy and quiet Edmonton to showy and glitzy Los Angeles. Now, 25 years later, the woes of BlackBerry, our one-time technological champion, have led some to wonder if national pride is again at stake. The putative bid by Toronto-based Fairfax Financial to take the company private has only added to the concern, with many analysts and investors unconvinced of the business case. Read more

John Gapper

BlackBerry’s belated decision to focus on corporate customers, amid the uncertainty over its future, is further evidence of how hard it is to bridge the gap between business and retail markets in mobile.

Both Microsoft and BlackBerry have been stranded by the shift toward consumer power in buying mobile devices. Individuals are no longer happy to take the smartphones their employers want. Read more

Many years back, an American friend who was visiting London from New York remarked on the odd way in which people were walking around with blocks of plastic held to their ears. “Why don’t they just use normal phones?” she asked.

Andrew Hill

What is the Finnish for “I told you so”? That is how plenty of Finns – including a large number of ex-Nokians, swept out in successive restructurings since Stephen Elop took charge of Nokia in 2010 – will greet news that Microsoft is to buy the mobile company’s handset and services business.

It won’t make any difference to them that Nokia has an increasingly important telecoms equipment business, NSN, which guarantees a future to the rump of the company. Since the radical strategy shift of the mid-1990s, when the timber-to-tyres conglomerate refocused on its fledgling telecoms operation, Nokia has been identified with home-grown phones. But a second coming under Finnish ownership for the country’s best-known consumer brand turned out to be impossible: its future will now be dictated from Redmond not Espoo.

This outcome, or a version of it, was already in the air in early 2011 when I visited Nokia’s headquarters to look at the challenges facing Mr Elop. His decision to leap from a “burning platform”, as he called it, into the arms of Microsoft as software partner for its smartphones certainly ruled out other options, such as using Google’s Android or a home-grown operating system. But a full takeover of the phones business by the US company was not inevitable.

Four elements have conspired to make it happen. Read more

Ravi Mattu

Getty Images

What happens when the cluster you helped create falls out of love with you? It is a question BlackBerry may be asking itself just a week after relaunching with a new name and a new phone.

According to a New York Times report, after years of being the beating commercial heart of Waterloo, Ontario, the company formerly known as Research in Motion is no longer the destination of choice for top talent. “BlackBerry is now a last resort,” it said.

And if that wasn’t tough enough for a former emblem of Canadian ingenuity, its position has been usurped either by US companies, “including Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft” or graduates launching their own businesses. Read more

John Gapper

Sarah Gordon points out that Nokia and Sony have a set of problems that undermined their capacity for innovation. But they are far from alone in being victims of Apple’s success.

In fact, the list of Apple victims is long and stretches across the media and technology. Since Steve Jobs unveiled iTunes and the iPod in 2001, starting Apple’s decade long rise to  dominance in consumer technology and electronics, his company has left many of its competitors wounded. Read more

John Gapper

The initial noises out of the shake-up at Research in Motion, although it was more far-reaching than had been expected, are not especially encouraging for the investors and analysts who want radical action.

Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, the joint chairmen and chief executives of the maker of BlackBerries, have relinquished both roles. But they have handed over to an insider who looks determined to stick to the same course.

Thorsten Heins, the new chief executive, told the FT:

“I want to maintain the focus on enterprise, but we need to communicate a bit more with our consumers. We need to do more marketing.”

 Read more

John Gapper

Research in Motion’s offer to compensate its users affected by the BlackBerry network failure of the past week with $100 of free applications is a neat idea in that it costs the company far less than the apparent gain to its customers.

Given the zero cost of distribution and the fact that RIM only has to pay the wholesale cost to publishers of games such as Sims 3 – as well as gaining the benefit of hooking BlackBerry users into its ecosystem, it is a modest price to pay. Read more

Andrew Hill

For people unable to communicate easily via BlackBerry, BlackBerry users are making a lot of noise. Faced with a third day of disruption to BlackBerry services around the world, they’re venting their outage outrage on Twitter and in the blogosphere. Many are reaching the same conclusion: this is a communications crisis for Research in Motion.

Well, no. As one of BP’s advisers commented last year when the oil company was being lambasted for its response to the Deepwater Horizon explosion: “It’s not a PR crisis; it’s a crisis.” Read more