Social Science and Modern Business

Social Science and Modern Business

RIM/ BlackBerry Case

In August 2009, RIM (subsequently BlackBerry) was crowned the world’s fastest-growing company by Fortune and market research reported that four of the top five smartphones American customers intended to buy in the three months that followed were BlackBerry’s. Four years later, however, more than $75-billion had dropped off the company’s market value.  In September 2013, the former giant and runaway leader in the smartphone industry reported a $965-million 2nd quarter loss.  This was due in part to a massive write-down of Z10 phones that sat, unsold and unwanted, some eight months after their launch. Consequently, the company, now seemingly a bit-part-player in the industry, was looking to cut around 4,500 jobs, 40 per cent of its workforce, as it sought to align costs with falling revenue.

This tutorial will look to explore these developments for RIM/ BlackBerry using a theory of Path Dependency.  This will require you to be familiar with the lecture material and to:

•    Read the article by Silcoff, McNish and Ladurantaye (2013) from the Globe and Mail entitled ‘How BlackBerry blew it: The inside story’ (available on KEATS)
•    Watch this short video entitled ‘Meet the BlackBerry Priv – nice phone, shame about the price’ reviewing the new BlackBerry Priv’ also from the Globe and Mail located here:

Based on these, you should then prepare answers (a short paragraph or two for each) to the questions below prior to the tutorial.  Please remember that you will need to hand in a printed copy of your prepared answers during your tutorial class. The format guidelines for this are available on KEATS.

1.    What challenges did the launch of the iPhone in early 2007 present for RIM (subsequently BlackBerry)?
2.    How successful have RIM/ BlackBerry’s responses been in this ‘post-iPhone era’?  Consider the major market, technological and organizational issues they initially faced, and the extent to which you think these have subsequently been addressed.
3.    Drawing on materials from the lecture, to what extent could the actions and choices made by RIM/ BlackBerry be explained by a theory of (organizational) path dependency?  Consider how history had mattered for the available scope for action and contingency for the company through dominant focal action patterns, increasing returns and/ or possible lock-in effects.