- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Flatiron Books (26 May 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1250060176
- ISBN-13: 978-1250060174
- Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.7 x 24 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,34,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry Hardcover – 26 May 2015
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“In the tech industry, they say that you learn more from a failure than from a hit. Well, if that's true, Losing the Signal will give you a post-doctoral education. Reading the inside story of the BlackBerry's helpless flameout is like watching any other train wreck: You're horrified, but you can't look away.” ―David Pogue, Author of POGUE'S BASICS and founder of Yahootech.com
“In LOSING THE SIGNAL, Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff tell the harrowing and riveting story of how we lost the connection to the Blackberry, a communication device so innovative and addictive that it was known, among aficionados, as a Crackberry. It's a tale of rivalries, jealousies and missed opportunities. You won't be able to put it down.” ―William Cohan, author of HOUSE OF CARDS: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street and MONEY AND POWER: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World
For every winner...disruption brings a loser, and few lost bigger than the once-ubiquitous BlackBerry. The authors show how easily even the strongest brands can fail by underestimating their competitors. “Losing the Signal" is a good old-fashioned insider's business narrative, the kind we don't see enough of these days, and it should scare the pants off most CEOs." - The Wall Street Journal
“Losing the Signal tells of the marriage and divorce of Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, how two opposites built RIM into a world-beater and how they lost it. This is first-class reporting that reads like a juicy novel, with one amazing story after another. A terrific book.” ―Howard Green, author of Banking on America
“Losing the Signal is a riveting story of a company that toppled global giants before succumbing to the ruthlessly competitive forces of Silicon Valley… With unprecedented access to key players, senior executives, directors and competitors, Losing the Signal unveils the remarkable rise of a company that started above a bagel store in Ontario… Expertly told by acclaimed journalists, McNish and Silcoff, this is an entertaining, whirlwind narrative that goes behind the scenes to reveal one of the most compelling business stories of the new century.”
“Unflinching” ―The Daily Beast
"The simple story is that BlackBerry was rendered irrelevant by the iPhone. But the story that the authors, Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff, tell in Losing the Signal ― our choice for the best book of 2015 on business narratives ― is more complicated." - Strategy and Business
“[McNish and Silcoff have] produced a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare's attention... So even as you read, with a kind of shiver of schadenfreude, about BlackBerry's vicissitudes, there's plenty of food for thought here about what this means on a much broader stage.” ―Yahoo! Finance
“In Losing the Signal, McNish and Silcoff authoritatively chronicle the missteps that abetted BlackBerry's fall... It's one helluva story.” ―Toronto Star
“LOSING THE SIGNAL [is] a saga of digital entrepreneurs who saw the future and made it happen... This fascinating story will hold your attention even though you know what's coming.” ―The Washington Post
About the Author
Jacquie McNish is a senior writer with the Globe and Mail and before that the Wall Street Journal. She has won seven National Newspaper Awards and is the author of three bestselling books, two of which won the National Business Book award. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two sons.
Sean Silcoff is a business writer with the Globe and Mail and before that the National Post and Canadian Business magazine. He is a two-time National Newspaper Award winner. He lives near Ottawa with his wife and three children.
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Until few years back it was run by two CEO- Balsillie and Lazaridis. If Balsille was an astute and outgoing businessman then Lazaridis was a trailblazing engineer. If Balsille was the in-house financer who could extract powerful terms from powerful carrier clients, then Lazaridis was the chief innovator who impelled the software and hardware business. Despite playing the completely different roles, this unusual partnership complemented each other well and transformed RIL into a robust and powerful company by balancing profit and innovation. The imminent need was routing official email from wireless devices. Blackberry was devised, taking into consideration this need. Soon the consumer realized that e-mail is instantaneous as well as convenient to use in Blackberry compared to other devices playing in the market. This was an ideal product for corporate people who can follow their e-mail on the go, without having to tether to the computer. Soon, the word of mouth publicity and spot-on advertising help it to grow and, they started growing in leaps and bound. It became a hit and corporate started rolling it out for their employees. It dominated US market and nullified presence of makers like Motorola, Nokia and Ericsson. These companies tried to replicate Blackberry in terms of functionality but failed miserably. Blackberry credibility was more enhanced as it was the only reliable mode of communication for fleeing or trapped people during Sep’2001 twin tower attack. The company was growing exponentially, with complete monopoly.
The company was just moving at burgeoning speed. The USP which made Blackberry successful were faster e-mail service, good battery life, low bandwidth consumption, ease of typing and security. Why then it began to wane? What are the flashpoints? The company felt that features available in Blackberry are sacrosanct that defines the smart phone market but they were wrong, both in terms of strategy and vision. It’s not the corporate but the consumers who drives the smart phone market. Hitherto unseen apps market began to grow rapidly. Smart phone is not restricted to being a communication device but has been transformed into an entertainment hub. If Apple delivered the first knock-out punch with iPhone then Google with Android operating system ensured that success is a thing of past for Blackberry. They were never short of ideas but made wrong choices. They also fail to adapt to changing consumer needs. A case in point is sticking with keyboard for long. Even when they did brought out touch screens; it was a poor substitute of iPhone. There were also instances when company in a hurry to meet demand, compromised with its brand quality and delivered half finished products. Its credibility also took a serious beating. The combination of factors bought to its downfall. In its heydays, Blackberry displaced competitors from the market and now they are completely being eclipsed by newly emerged competitors.
This is an eye-opener. BlackBerry fortune and fate is a case study of how a tech giants falls when it failed to innovate in a consumer oriented smart phone, moving at breathtaking speed. The authors deserves appreciation for his arduous efforts in bring out the book. They presented an insider view of BlackBerry, made possible by interviews with not only two CEO’s but also officers and other employers. In addition, consumers, advisor and investors view and opinions were also taken. He then packaged information gathered in the form of a book, which made it both readable and interesting. The book was in my wish-list for long but I was apprehensive about going for it. I though too many technical terms may impair the quality but I was wrong. Only what basic and understood by most have been used and they relates to the subject. This definitely stands out from what I have been reading in so far. It makes an interesting reading and I would definitely recommend it.
One co-CEO was Mr. Mike Lazaridis, a visionary engineer and other co-CEO was Mr. Jim Balsillie, Harvard Business School grad. It is a story of how two completely different personalities came together and made it a $20 billion company when they exited from the Board in 2013 and 2011 respectively. It is a story of things well done and of course, badly done. Without going into specifics, here are my takes on what went right and then what went wrong.
What went right:
1) Introduction of track wheel (track ball) on the keyboard
2) Introduction of modification of QWERTY keys
3) Modification of shape of the keys
4) Introduction of concept of typing with both thumbs with the innovation mentioned in 3 above.
5) Giving the feel of crisp 'click' when typing the keys
6) Introduction of BBM (Blackberry messenger services)
7) Introduction of secured and encrypted messages, suitable for office executives
8) Introduction of a system to route emails to and from wireless devises
I have listed down few innovations. So, in effect, innovation, imagination, durability of a product were key success factors in reaching upto half of the smartphone market share at some stage.
Now, let us look at what went wrong.
1) I Phone
2) Ignoring I-Phone's features
3) Sticking to the key pads separately though world moved to keypads on the glass
4) Not adopting android and sticking to its own system
5) Conflict of two Co-CEOs
6) Huge reputation loss due to incorrect handling of infringement case, ESOP allotment issue, Issues in record maintanence of important papers etc.
In short, what it started with, i.e. innovation, other phone makers took lead. So, it forgot a fundamental rule of 'change is the only constant' and went down much faster after remaining on top for around a decade.
So, finally, Mr. Prem Vatsa had to bail out the company and was sold out. With new management, currently (i.e. till 2014, where book ends), the market share dropped to less than 1%.).
A wonderful book to learn lot of insight of the company as well as the industry, currents and cross currents in that industry etc etc. And of course what uphill and downhill the organisation.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
RIM rode technology disruption and created a company with $20 billion/year in revenue only to see it disappear by being disrupted themselves.
Lots of lessons here.
1) Even though the CEOs were reading the "Innovators Dilemma" they still had little perspective on how rapid disruption would happen to them. And even less of an understanding what to do about it. (The attempt to integrate the QNX software into existing products is a cautionary tale of technical debt, refactoring and plain bad engineering management.) The iPhone in 2007 should have been a wake-up call to both CEOs. Yet they both fell prey to the classic "disruption always looks like a toy to the incumbents" mistake.
2) The company grew past the management skills of the founders. The insular nature of the founders, the Canadian entrepreneurial ecosystem, founder hubris and a feckless board ended any potential of a positive intervention. It took a complete meltdown to get the board to act.
3) Mike Lazaridis, the technical CEO, fell prey to the "shiny object" syndrome. He discovered new technology (QNX) that he thought obsoleted the current software that drove the Blackberry handsets (Java). But instead of figuring out how to finesse the transition, he literally abandoned the existing development team (and revenue). A great example of how not to manage a technology transition.
3) Dealing with major platform disruption usually takes radical structural changes, not new product features. The story unfolds as a slow motion car crash as the CEOs waited, way, way too long to recognize, let alone deal with it. There's a reason that turnaround CEO's downsize companies and focus on what's important. If you're the founder it's almost impossible to get rid of your favorite projects.
Only quibble others have noted. The book barely mentions the changes Heins made, and almost nothing about Chens strategy.
A great business book.
So much research and details: it's just amazing. I'm a HUGE BlackBerry fan: at the early stages of this book I was swelled with pride at what BlackBerry had accomplished (I really didn't know they were THAT powerful) and then you kind of lose a bit of respect to the founders when you see how they handled situations. But I digress, or maybe not, the book is so well written that it makes you feel everything going on.
Moreover, beyond BlackBerry, it helps you understand the mobile world and why it is what it is today.
It's one of the very enlightening books I've read lately.