Section I – Background Information
This section contains information on the inception of Research in Motion (RIM), RIM’s advances in wireless technology, and its current state. There is also an examination of three key individuals in the RIM corporate history: Mike Lazaridis, Jim Balsillie, and Larry Conlee. The success and failure of the company, and the identification of the problem statement, is related to the relationship between these three key individuals and the roles of other senior leaders within the confines of that relationship.
Research in Motion was founded in 1984 by Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Ferin, students at the University of Waterloo and University of Windsor respectively (Sharp, 2012, para. 3). RIM was able to develop its first radio modem for wireless email in 1995, leading to a significant boost in sales (Sharp, 2012, para. 7), and in 1996, RIM was the first company to introduce the two-way messaging pager (“Get the facts,” para. 11). In 1997, “RIM [became] a publicly traded company” and was able to raise $115 million from investors (“Get the facts,” para. 12).
In early 1999, Blackberry email service was unveiled across North America, “offering the first wireless device to synch with corporate email systems” (Sharp, 2012, para. 9). In 2006, RIM settled a protracted patent infringement case that began in 2001, with Virginia based NTP Inc, for $612 million (Sharp, 2012, para. 12, 15).)In 2010, RIM purchased QNX Software Systems (Sharp, 2012, para. 24); the QNX software is intended to become the foundation of new RIM products (Castaldo, 2012, para. 26). In 2011, RIM released the Blackberry Playbook (Sharp, 2012, para. 30), a tablet operating on the QNX platform (Castaldo, 2012, para. 26). RIM’s subscriber base grew from one million in 2004 to over ten million in 2007 (Sharp, 2012, para. 14, 17).
Recently, RIM has experienced a drop in share value by 75% (Castaldo, 2012, para. 2). As a result of the share decrease, RIM replaced Lazaridis and Balsillie as co-chief executive officers (co-CEOs) and co-chairpersons of its board of directors (Neilson & Yusufali, 2012, para. 6). Thorsten Heins has taken the helm as the CEO, and Barbara Stymiest has been promoted within the board of directors from director to chairperson (Neilson & Yusufali, 2012, para. 6).
Mihal (Mike) Lazaridis was born in 1961 and attended the University of Waterloo, taking electrical engineering (Neilson & Yusufali, 2012, para. 1). Lazaridis has “over 50 patents issued” (“Michael Lazaridis: Executive,” 2012, para. 1) showing his engineering prowess. He was co-founder of RIM and was its president and CEO or co-CEO until he was replaced in January 2012 (Neilson & Yusufali, 2012, para. 4, 6). Lazaridis is credited with having the “technical vision” that gave RIM its edge in the wireless communications industry (Neilson & Yusufali, 2012, para. 4). Both Lazaridis and his co-CEO Balsillie have a “preference for consensual decision-making” which a former employee said “just stalls all innovation” (Castaldo, 2012, para. 15).
Jim Balsillie received his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1989 (“Jim Balsillie of,” 2012, para. 5). Mortgaging his house to invest in RIM, Balsillie became co-CEO at RIM in 1992 (Sharp, 2012, para. 5). As co-CEO, Balsillie ran the business side of RIM and “RIM became the top smartphone company in North America” (Hasham, 2012, para. 7). Basillie is described as not only “brilliant, hard-nosed and competitive... [but] also… modest” (Hasham, 2012, para. 8). One of his main criticisms from industry analysts was that he “overpromised and underdelivered” (Lasalle & Wong, 2012, para. 9).
Sixty two year old Larry Conlee was appointed to the position of Chief Operating Officer (COO) of RIM in early 2001, after 29 years of service to Motorola (Castaldo, 2009, para. 5). In RIM, he acted as general manager over several communications divisions (“Research in Motion,” 2001, para. 5).