EP 11: The Rise and Fall of BlackBerry: When Good Enough is the Enemy of Success

Join hosts George Schoenstein and Santi Cuellar as they uncover the transformative power of collaboration tools in today's business landscape. In Episode 11, they dive into the lessons learned from the recent BlackBerry movie, exploring the themes of adaptation, product roadmaps, and the perils of rushing products to market.

With the rise of AI and advanced collaboration technologies like Microsoft Teams and ChatGPT, they draw parallels to the present, emphasizing the importance of learning from BlackBerry's failures to shape a successful future.

Don't miss this engaging conversation on the evolving world of collaboration and technology.

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Episode 11: The Rise and Fall of BlackBerry

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INTRODUCTION VOICEOVER: This is Tech UNMUTED. The podcast of modern collaboration – where we tell the stories of how collaboration tools enable businesses to be more efficient and connected. With your hosts, George Schoenstein and Santi Cuellar. Welcome to Tech UNMUTED.

GEORGE: Welcome to the latest episode of Tech UNMUTED. Today we're going to talk a little bit about the BlackBerry movie that came out a couple of weeks ago. Not necessarily about the movie itself, but really about the lessons learned that come out of it. Santi and I talked quite a bit about this. It's more of a docudrama than it is a documentary of what happened with BlackBerry, but I think there were three key points that we saw in the movie. Failure to adapt.


GEORGE: Lack of a really solid product roadmap, and then some points in times where they rush things to the market. They felt like-

SANTI: That's right.

GEORGE: -they could from a competitive standpoint. They made moves where they introduced products that weren't really ready for prime time, and we see some of that going on today. Santi, I don't know if you have any additional thoughts.

SANTI: Yes. Listen, my thought is that the timing of this BlackBerry story couldn't be more perfect. Look at where we are now. Not only the AI revolution that we see unfolding before our eyes but the advances in technologies that we have for collaboration, where now we don't have any boundaries. By the way, that was one of the quotes in the movie, right? That one day, folks will not commute, they'll communicate, meaning doesn't matter where you are.

I just think that if you look at where we are today with technologies from Microsoft like Teams, like Power Platform, like ChatGPT, like all this AI, Copilot, if you just stop and look at everything that's unfolding and then you go look at the movie, you're like, "Oh, wow." It's almost like somebody had a crystal ball and predicted, hey, all these things are happening, but now if we don't learn from the failures of a BlackBerry, we'll be doomed to repeat it. By the way, those three points, I agree. You nailed it. Those are dead on. Let's tackle that first one because that first one is one that really struck a chord with me, that failure to adapt.

GEORGE: Yes. Failure to adapt, and you've seen it throughout the history of all kinds of products clearly in the technology space. You had leaders in the market who failed. You had products that were way better than any other product in the market, and they failed. There's different dynamics that take place from an adoption standpoint. If you look at the combination of communications today and now the emergence of AI, you see people wanting to consolidate down to a single platform. You see it with the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, and you see it not happening in other places.

You have mostly a competitive market that's made up of cobbling together solutions to get to the same solution that Microsoft offers and they've adapted that to the market. They saw where the market was going. This goes to the second point, which is roadmap. Clearly, they had a roadmap. They knew where they were going. ChatGPT didn't appear out of thin air last year without them already having leaned into it.

They very quickly introduced elements within the 365 ecosystem that leveraged that AI capability and we see others trying to catch up. That demonstrates there was a roadmap, there was a plan behind it. It feels like just about everybody else who has started to introduce elements that are similar in the market, that they did it really fast. They may have been working on it, but it was not the primary thing they were working on.

SANTI: Yes. No, I agree with everything you just said. I think about your analogy and previous podcasts where you have those who are going to be pioneers, right?


SANTI: You have those who are going to just push back. Listen, we've said it before and we'll stick by what we're about to say again, AI is the new technology revolution. It is in front of you. You either adapt and embrace it or you will be left behind because AI is not going away. Nobody's going to decide that they're just going to flip a switch and stop the evolution of AI, and so, man, adapting, to me, that's so critical. That was my big takeaway from watching the BlackBerry movie, was that failure to be able to adapt. That second one though, I think it's probably just as important, you touched on a little bit, it's that lack of vision. The fact that you didn't have the right roadmap. What was your takeaway on that?

GEORGE: It was driven by two factors in the movie and again loosely based on the facts, right?

SANTI: Sure.

GEORGE: You had a team of folks who wanted to develop and innovate, and maybe do things differently. Then you had a CEO introduced into the mix who had a very different perspective, and not necessarily a positive impact on people either on top of it, which makes it even more challenging. It's that combination of leadership and vision and being able to drive the team or the ability as a leader to understand who in the organization is innovating and foster that person, that team, that group to innovate for the organization and move things forward.

If you look back on Apple, Steve Jobs drove a lot of the innovation that happened there. He left, things had gone sideways even before that. He wasn't necessarily the most friendly leader either. I think that has an impact over time, but he had vision, right?


GEORGE: In the movie itself, that clearly was lacking, and that led to roadmap and everything else. It's that sensing you need to have in the market where we do it every day. Where is the market going? What are we hearing from the client base?

SANTI: There you go.

GEORGE: How do you integrate that into the roadmap and understand what the next steps are? Plus you need to understand what your competitors are doing and where are they shifting, right?


GEORGE: Because that gives you some market sensing as well. You don't want to copy your competitor because you very easily could go down the wrong path, right?

SANTI: Correct. Yes. To me, you nailed it when you said your consumer base, what are they--? Because I think part of leadership and vision is knowing your audience. I guess you have two audiences. You have your consumer base, that's one audience, but you also have your technology partners. You need to align to where they're heading as far as their technology and their platform because they're evolving too. It's almost like if I saw a misalignment, and I could see that happen today. Even today, there's still disputes by the way. There's still disputes as to whether or not remote work works, really?


SANTI: [chuckles] Yet these CEOs are asking their audience, which is their employees, do you want to come back to the office, and they're like, "No. Do you know why? Because I'm getting more done. [chuckles] I'm getting more done." It's interesting to see the dynamics play out, but we know for a fact that we're in the business of enabling modern collaboration.

We know for a fact that this remote work stuff does work, yet you still have folks who don't have that vision or that leadership. Rather than getting to understand the audience, getting to understand, by the way, your clients are probably remote anyway. Why are you insisting to put everybody, pack everybody into a building when your own customer base is probably remote because you're selling them solutions that enable them to be remote? It's just, I agree, leadership, vision, a big element of that in order to align your roadmap correctly. Yes, know your audience, right?

GEORGE: Yes. The other piece is speed to market, right?


GEORGE: Are you bringing a quality product to market that works the first time? No one wants to be the Guinea pig testing the new thing. They just don't. Some people will put stuff in a sandbox and play around with it, but the expectation in today's tech world is things actually work. They do what they say they're supposed to do. We've seen it with the AI tools that have been added onto the 365 platform. They've come fairly quickly,-

SANTI: Yes, they have.

GEORGE: -and we find new things every day. It's amazing how quickly the platform evolves. Sometimes they don't work exactly as expected, but very quickly get fixed.


GEORGE: There's this iteration process that's going on at Microsoft that they spot a deficiency, they fix it, they're getting feedback on it, and then sometimes within days or weeks, things that didn't work then are all of a sudden work and they work really well.

SANTI: Yes. I'll tell you, that's what I love about Microsoft, is they have that preview audience, that early access audience. That's a great strategy. Listen, it may not be fully baked, but I want you to dive in and tell me what I need to fix before I go GA. Come on, that's brilliant. You and I have both participated in these preview modes and we have found the deficiencies, and sure enough, by the time it goes generally available, guess what? They're gone.

It's fixed. It's in the market and it's working. By the way, that is a great strategy Microsoft uses. I think that is mission-driven vision. That's vision right there and knowing your audience, but I think also that there is a risk and we saw that in the movie. There's a risk in trying to go to market too fast by taking shortcuts.


SANTI: Right? The lesson there was they saw that they were falling behind because somebody had beat them to the punch, and they took their manufacturing overseas. You remember, right? When those new BlackBerries came into market, they were terrible. Nobody wanted them anymore. Today, there's a lot of excitement with AI. I believe, and we've had this conversation, that if we start to restrict the evolution, I believe that if companies start to--

Because now there's a competitive sense in the air where we have to come up with the next big AI thing, if they come out too quickly and they get complacent, this is not hardware, this is artificial intelligence, the results could actually be pretty damaging as we know. The data could be corrupt, the data could be used for nefarious purposes. I think there's a risk in going to market too fast with shortcuts when it comes to AI. I think the impacts would be greater than what we saw with the BlackBerry story because this could be very damaging to us, the end user, to be honest with you, more than anybody else. I don't know what your thoughts are on that, but that's where my mind goes when I think about that.

GEORGE: I think another element that you saw in the movie as well was it was the follower mentality of I see somebody else doing this. It may not be part of my core vision, but I'm going to be where that market is. I think you take a lot of risk in doing that clearly if you're following the wrong trend that someone else has latched onto, but it came 365, right? We just see this massive increase in the user base, the number of-

SANTI: Oh, yes.

GEORGE: -end users. We're in the hundreds of millions now with a lot of Teams usage, and people just now discovering some of the elements that are in there. It's really a toolbox, right? It has all the tools you need as an end user, as an individual user within a business organization to take advantage of AI and workflow and automation, and a whole bunch of other elements. What we don't see is people doing it, right? It's to our point.

SANTI: That's right. [crosstalk]

GEORGE: Yes. The first podcast we talked about Luddite, right?


GEORGE: Which are the people who are actively working against it, which is a small percentage of folks, but you've got that whole group of people in the middle who are just sitting there waiting, and you can't sit and wait. As a business, you can't do, as an individual, you can't do it because the longer you wait, the further behind that you fall. The other thing, and we had talked about this earlier today, we both saw the same article a couple of days ago, and we'll go back and dig into that potentially on a future podcast. The headline was people who use AI in their job to innovate and do things better in their job are happier.


GEORGE: That tells me a broader trend or a broader element of that, which is I'm a person who innovates, I use these new things, I have more fun with my job, right?

SANTI: That's right?

GEORGE: I make my job easier potentially or I make myself-

SANTI: More productive.

GEORGE: -productive, right? Where if all you're doing is fighting against the machine, yes, that's probably not a very happy place to be.

SANTI: Yes. Listen, at the end of the day, I will tell you that me personally in my daily workflow, everything except for one thing, everything so far I've been able to do in Teams. The one component still missing in Teams is reading and replying to my emails in Teams. I got my calendar there, but I still don't have my email there. That's the only reason that I still use Outlook, believe it or not, because I'm already scheduling stuff in Teams. I'm embracing the vision of having Microsoft Teams become like your hub, and it's working and it's great. It's a wonderful thing. George, we have to bring this podcast to an end, don't we?


SANTI: Listen, if you ever owned a BlackBerry, go watch the movie. You'll get a kick out of it. You'll reminisce in the past a little bit. It's a great story, but most importantly, there's great lessons that we can learn from there. As you heard, there's lessons that can apply to today's environment. With that said, folks, remember to subscribe to this podcast on your favorite podcast platform. That way you don't miss a future episode. Until next time, stay connected.

CLOSING VOICEOVER: Visit www.fusionconnect.com/techunmuted for show notes and more episodes. Thanks for listening.

Episode Credits:

Produced by: Fusion Connect


Watch the Blackberry movie trailer on YouTube.

2023 TMCnet Best Tech Podcast award winner

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Tech UNMUTED, the podcast of modern collaboration, where we tell the stories of how collaboration tools enable businesses to be more efficient and connected. Humans have collaborated since the beginning of time – we’re wired to work together to solve complex problems, brainstorm novel solutions and build a connected community. On Tech UNMUTED, we’ll cover the latest industry trends and dive into real-world examples of how technology is inspiring businesses and communities to be more efficient and connected. Tune in to learn how today's table-stakes technologies are fostering a collaborative culture, serving as the anchor for exceptional customer service.

Get show notes, transcripts, and other details at www.fusionconnect.com/techUNMUTED. Tech UNMUTED is a production of Fusion Connect, LLC.