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1-Page Summary of Losing the Signal


The story of Kodak, once the biggest company in photography, is a textbook case. It failed to make the transition from film to digital and went bankrupt. Companies must adapt to rapidly changing markets or go under.

But RIM is not alone. The story of the Blackberry and BlackBerry, the company behind it, is similar to the Kodak story. In just a few years, the once ubiquitous Blackberry completely disappeared after Apple’s iPhone came out. How did something so successful go so wrong? Read on for key points that will explain how BlackBerry got its name; how the iPhone changed everything; and why we need to reinvent ourselves in order to stay relevant in today’s fast-paced world.

It is important to keep your accounting in order.

Big Idea #1: Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis got to know each other in Canada.

In the 1970s, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs created the Apple I, which laid the foundation for personal computing. In the 1990s, another tech-savvy duo invented another landmark device: the BlackBerry.

One of the co-founders, Jim Balsillie, was inspired by books such as The Canadian Establishment, a book about Canada’s business elite. He also read The Art of War by Sun Tzu while growing up in Canada.

Jim Balsillie’s first job was at Sutherland-Schultz, a small firm in Canada. He managed sales and negotiated deals with business partners. One of the company’s suppliers was Research in Motion Ltd., which is now known as RIM.

After meeting Lazaridis and learning about his ambitions for RIM, Balsillie was inspired to work with him.

Mike Lazaridis had a lifelong interest in technology. He was born in Istanbul and moved to Canada at the age of five, where he grew up. His passion for engineering became obvious when he attended school as a teenager; his teachers would often let him experiment with the equipment there. As an adult, he continued this passion by getting after-school tutoring in applied physics so that he could build on it.

Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie worked together in the 1980s to create Budgie. This device connected wirelessly to a TV and displayed information. They saw a great business opportunity with this technology, so they founded RIM (Research In Motion) in 1984. After working together for some time, Lazaridis and Balsillie realized that they complemented each other well: their different strengths made them an ideal team.

Big Idea #2: Balsillie and Lazaridis decided to work in the field of wireless communication and built their own wireless device.

It is hard to believe that wireless communication has been around for a while. It seems like yesterday when you had to connect your computer to the internet using a wire.

John Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis worked on wireless communication before they developed the BlackBerry. They initially worked on a project called Mobitex, which was a radio network that allowed cars to communicate with one another.

RIM’s CEO Jim Balsillie wanted to diversify RIM’s customer base. At the time, their only major client was a US modem maker called U.S. Robotics (USR). However, USR turned out to be unreliable and cancelled an order that nearly bankrupted RIM. After this experience, Balsillie realized that he had to acquire more customers if RIM was going to survive in the long run.

Lazaridis wanted to make sure RIM would be able to handle the next big thing, so he advocated for diversification. Balsillie eventually came around and agreed.

In 1996, Motorola, Nokia and U.S. Robotics were all trying to sell the perfect palm-sized two-way communicator. Lazaridis wanted in on that race, so he began working on RIM’s prototype: the Inter@ctive 900. Balsillie backed his idea and they decided it would become RIM’s business model.
In 1997, they introduced their first product line of BlackBerry devices.

Losing the Signal Book Summary, by Jacquie McNish, Sean Silcoff