Losing the Signal with Sean Silcoff

Sean Silcoff, one of the authors of Losing the Signal, joins the Oxide Friends to discuss his book, the rise and fall of RIM / BlackBerry, and some of his favorite passages. Thanks to Sean for joining us!
Bryan and Adam interview Sean Silcoff, co-author of "Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry"... Soon to be a major motion picture!

Losing the Signal with Sean Silcoff (The Rise and Fall of BlackBerry)

We've been holding a Twitter Space weekly on Mondays at 5p for about an hour. Even though it's not (yet?) a feature of Twitter Spaces, we have been recording them all; here is the recording for our Twitter Space for September 26th, 2022.

In addition to Bryan Cantrill and Adam Leventhal, our esteemed guest was one of the authors of Losing the Signal, Sean Silcoff.

Not many links, mostly anecdotes from Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry, the book Sean co-wrote with Jacquie McNish

Some of the topics we hit on, in the order that we hit them:

  • @05:01 The aha moment for BBM
  • @09:42 Ruffled feathers from partner interactions
    • Bell South thought they had an exlusive deal and they didn't
    • Years later, people didn't seem to hold it against them
  • @12:40 Brian's anecdote about a meeting with Balsillie and Lazaridis
  • @15:30 Lost opportunities to course-correct
    • The touch screen button
  • @20:00 The Blackberry Storm
    • Potentially rushed to market when it was not up to standards
    • RIM's own testing lab found serious problems but shipped it anyway
    • RIM was a great innovator and a terrible follower, some have said that of Apple, though
  • @25:40 Lazaridis as the product guy
    • This I get (keypad), this I don't get (touchscreen)
    • Story on the way up is as important as on the way down
  • @30:20 Parallels with DEC
    • Amazing rise
    • Failure to pass control
    • co-CEO model at RIM - worked really well until it didn't
  • @34:19 NTP Patent case
    • Case brief
    • Jury selection was weighed incredibly far towards lay folks with very little technical understanding
    • Technical demonstration goes sideways
  • @45:10 Trusting the other co-CEO and the option backdating scandal
    • Lazaridis didn't really understand the options stuff and felt Balsillie had put the company at risk
    • Kept their fights private, but people could tell "mom and dad weren't getting along"
    • Is it right or wrong if everyone was doing it?
    • They left an extensive digital paper trail making it easy to make a case
    • Thanks to Tom for the clarification - options backdating was okay, failing to report it was not
  • @52:50 Larry Conlee
    • Fire and brimstone, had a pocket veto, spoke with the voice of the CEOs
    • Co COOs!
    • Carriers were afraid of becoming dumb pipes, so were anti-app store
    • Blackberry didn't care about doing an app store, then AT&T bent to Apple and allowed them to have an app store
    • RIM did not believe that Silicon Valley would be let in the front door at the carriers
    • RIM would talk about Apple as "the toy company" while being actively devoured
If we got something wrong or missed something, please file a PR! Our next Twitter space will likely be on Monday at 5p Pacific Time; stay tuned to our Twitter feeds for details. We'd love to have you join us, as we always love to hear from new speakers!

Losing the Signal with Sean Silcoff
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