Une histoire toujours pas mûre

Jacquie McNish, Sean Silcoff — Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry

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Qui mieux que Jacquie McNish, qui a couvert toute l’existence de Research in Motion au Wall Street Journal puis au Globe and Mail, et Sean Silcoff, qui a écrit pendant douze ans dans la presse économique canadienne, pour lever le voile sur « l’histoire jamais racontée de l’extraordinaire ascension et la chute spectaculaire de BlackBerry » ? Quelqu’un d’autre, visiblement. Losing the Signal consacre trois fois plus de pages à la débâcle de Waterloo qu’à la grandeur de Research in Motion.

Or la décadence de l’empire canadien est parfaitement documentée — j’ai fait plus que ma part du travail. La conception des premiers appareils par Mike Lazaridis et Douglas Fregin est plus mystérieuse, l’importance du soutien de RAM Mobile Data et l’existence du réseau Mobitex sont souvent ignorées, et la culture d’entreprise instituée par Jim Balsillie est mythifiée quand elle n’est pas vilipendée. Elle est là, « l’histoire jamais racontée » !

À tant vouloir analyser les résultats financiers de l’entreprise à travers la personnalité de ses deux copatrons, au point de verser dans la psychologie de comptoir, McNish et Silcoff oublient les produits responsables de l’extraordinaire ascension et de la chute spectaculaire de Research in Motion. Des « douzaines d’heures » passées avec Lazaridis et Balsillie, il ne reste qu’une poignée de citations somme toute convenues.

Admettons — les anecdotes qui m’ont ennuyé pourraient bien vous captiver. Mais j’en doute : les auteurs écrivent comme les journalistes économiques qu’ils sont, citent des noms et des lieux pour prouver qu’ils ont fait leurs devoirs, et consacrent des pages interminables à des détails insignifiants après avoir expédié des évènements cruciaux en trois paragraphes. J’espère que, pour une fois, le film sera meilleur que le bouquin.


Quand Intel croyait dans le mobile :

Tubbs was initially doubtful that wireless devices or pagers would be a big enough market for Intel chips, but he changed his mind upon hearing Lazaridis’s description of the Inter@ctive 900. If RIM got it right, the potential for a two-way messaging device was enormous. The problem with such a small unit, Lazaridis explained to his American guest, was that conventional chips drew so much power that the Inter@ctive’s battery drained too quickly. No one wanted a portable communicator that worked only for a few hours. Tubbs saw RIM’s problem as Intel’s opportunity. By making a bet on RIM, Intel could help Lazaridis solve his problem and open a new market in mobile communicators for Intel.
— p. 46

Cinq phrases sur la conception du clavier, mais cinq paragraphes sur les finances des patrons :

In October 1997, Balsillie parlayed BellSouth’s commitment to buy the Bullfrog into a C$115 million initial public offering at C$7.25 a share on the Toronto Stock Exchange; it was the largest Canadian technology IPO of its time. The warrants investors more than doubled their money, and suddenly the struggling entrepreneurs from Waterloo were wealthy, at least on paper: Lazaridis’s 9.8 million shares were worth C$71 million, while Balsillie’s 8.1 million shares were worth C$59 million. They celebrated by taking the IPO check back to RIM headquarters for employees to pass around.
— p. 54

« Si ce truc vibre à chaque fois que je reçois un e-mail, vous avez intérêt à le livrer avec un marteau » :

Handheld wireless e-mail was a breakthrough product nobody knew they wanted. When Balsillie and his new product manager, David Castell, began testing consumer appetite for a mobile e-mail service on the Leapfrog device, they assumed traveling salespeople and other busy professionals would line up for a product that constantly relayed urgent e-mail updates. Instead, focus group research revealed there was no burning desire by participants to quickly read or reply to electronic messages. If they needed to reach colleagues urgently, a phone call would do. At a focus group in Sunnyvale, California, one participant grew antagonistic when showed a device announcing e-mails with a buzzing noise. “If this thing buzzes every time I get an e-mail, you’d better ship it with a hammer,” he warned.
— p. 60

Et donc l’iPhone est un téléphone :

Lazaridis was so captivated by the concept he argued RIM should sell the Leapfrog as a new product category: e-mail pagers. Castell and RIM’s marketing vice president, Dave Werezak, disagreed. Too many other innovative communicators, such as IBM’s Simon or the EO Personal Communicator, had failed in part because they tried to define new categories and consumers didn’t appreciate or understand what the products offered. RIM managers were influenced by management guru Geoffrey Moore, who argued in his influential book Inside the Tornado that innovative technologies had a better chance of success if sold within a proven product category.
— p. 60

Casper le petit téléphone :

There would be no glossy advertisements, launch parties, or celebrity spokespeople like supermodel Claudia Schiffer (a Palm pitchwoman). Instead, RIM offered thousands of free tastes. Within a few months, as BlackBerry gained initial market acceptance, Balsillie changed the plan to what he called the “puppy dog pitch”; prospective customers would be allowed to take the device for a free one-month trial, as in “take this puppy home; if you don’t like it, bring it back.” The idea was that few would do so after falling for a new object of affection.
— p. 68

La danse de la convergence :

RIM decided to sit out the convergence dance. Lazaridis didn’t buy into the idea that the handset race would be won by smartphones combining computing, phone, and Internet services. To him, that made no sense. All-purpose operating systems sucked batteries dry, hogged wireless bandwidth, and were awkward to use with their tap-and-write touch screens or full, shrunken desktop keyboards. He and his engineers had spent years creating the world’s most efficient handheld device, focusing on a single, perfect application: wireless e-mail. It was light on battery use and e-mails were dispatched so efficiently that an average month of messages consumed less network spectrum than one local telephone call.
— p. 82

« Les ingénieurs fabriquent des choses utiles, pas des jouets » :

Lazaridis was enchanted with his creation. He carried a bag of BlackBerrys with him on trips to show off the latest models. On an office desk cluttered with family photos and his high school oscilloscope, he made room for a few BlackBerry models encased in Lucite. The device was his baby and he rigorously opposed the addition of emerging smartphone features such as color screens, Web browsers, and video. These enhancements drained batteries and clogged networks, he explained to staffers who suggested the additions. Part of his reluctance reflected his belief that engineers built useful things, not toys.
— p. 98

La beauté compte :

“By all rights the product should have failed, but it did not,” said David Yach, RIM’s chief technology officer. To Yach and other senior RIM executives, Apple changed the competitive landscape by shifting the raison d’être of smartphones from something that was functional to a product that was beautiful. “I learned that beauty matters.… RIM was caught incredulous that people wanted to buy this thing.”
— p. 135

La foi seule ne suffit pas :

Lazaridis’s conviction that RIM could deliver a new phone within a year came down to faith, a deep abiding confidence in himself and his company. A follower of the Christian Science movement and Emmet Fox’s sermons on the transformative power of human will, Lazaridis believed people could, if sufficiently determined and talented, shape their own destiny. The fabulous success of BlackBerry only cemented that belief. Where would RIM be if not for his and Balsillie’s persistence in the face of countless near-fatal reversals and product challenges? BlackBerry lived because Lazaridis and Balsillie never gave up. Ever. “Mike believes that the mind can will things to happen,” Balsillie says. And Lazaridis always aimed high. He didn’t just want to catch up to Apple. Storm had to be better than the iPhone.
— p. 149

J’espère toujours pouvoir un jour voir leur prototype de liseuse :

Goaded by its enterprise customers to develop a large-screen BlackBerry, RIM had tinkered with spin-off projects, including a digital book reader, a digital picture viewer, and a program to project the contents of smartphones onto computer screens. None had made it to market.
— p. 194