02 October 2013

The agonizing downslide...

We are still witnessing an agonizing fall from mobile supremacy. Reading yet another article about the demise of the Research in Motion (RIM) I was struck by what seems obvious. Their quick rise was due primarily to a happy accident... the post 911 logjam of the traditional telecom networks. Days after 911, the US government began to distribute thousand of Blackberries to government officials because RIM had built their own network that was under utilized and had plenty of available bandwidth. That market advantage wasn’t bound to last. 

The perception of Apple (RIM’s primary predator) having the audacity to build a phone was seen as very high risk. It was sooo outside of their expertise... they weren’t part of the sanctioned club. It’s interesting how many people, and especially people driving strategy, perceive risk. Risk is not reckless... it’s not guess work, and it’s not typically without extensive calculations and homework. Most interpret skydiving, scuba diving, rock climbing as risky endeavors. Yet ALL of the people I know that undertake these hobbies are as careful, skilled, studied, and prepared professionals I’ve ever worked with. They are way way aware and cautious about their approach (to everything frankly) and the possible outcomes.

But the real story here is how hardware and software need to work together. Blackberry fell in to a trap that Motorola had long honed... developing hardware in a vacuum and sharing the ‘thing’ to their software development team once it was near completion so that they could design software. They saw it has a platform rather than an integrated product offering. Motorola designed and manufactured incredible hardware... for years and years. Where they fell down repeatedly was in the development of not only good user facing software, but how it integrated with their hardware. 

Every time I stand in front of an ATM or a grocery store checkout I am reminded of this conundrum. Software must be integrated with the hardware development process. The teams need not only to talk, but to sit side by side.