Should RIM Be Judged on its Hires or Fires?

No company wants Apple as a competitor as the company has more momentum than the euro crisis. But that is the challenge companies like Nokia and RIM face on a daily basis. Yesterday I delved into the problems RIM faced because it had an email-centric view of the world which was just as keyboard-centered as it was focused on asynchronous corporate communications.

This morning I had a chance to speak with Luca Filigheddu who is the new BlackBerry Developer Evangelist for the Italian market. As you may remember, I wrote about him three years ago when I toured the Italian island of Sardinia. Luca is a serial entrepreneur who founded Abbeynet, a company developing applications for carriers including click-to-call solutions. More recently he has launched a suite of social applications – one which has gained a good amount of traction is Twimbow – a colorful social interface which you can describe as the result of Hootsuite and a box of crayons having a baby.

So what would make Luca who seemed to be very happy being an entrepreneur join RIM at this particular moment? In his words, the company was looking for someone with a business and tech background and the company flew him to the Blackberry World event and he came away impressed enough to take the position. He said he loves challenges and that Blackberry 10 will be a breakthrough product… Not just another OS.

The company realizes that developers are key to the success of their platform and as such is hiring developer evangelists in other countries as well.

But of course the Blackberry 10 delay is making developers and customers think about jumping ship entirely. To counter the anxiety in the market, Luca’s boss and another prolific blogger who I have known for years, Alec Saunders reiterated the company’s support for developers by saying to them, “You’ve got businesses to run, rent to pay, and investors to answer to. You are the folks who have skin in the game now, and aren’t just waiting for a new phone personally. We know this delay affects you, and we’re sorry.”

Moreover, Alec’s ultimate boss, Thorsten Heins the company’s new CEO said the delay was warranted because the release had to be perfect. Luca for his part agrees and said, “If this delay means the mobile platform, really meets the needs of developers and market, that is OK.”

It is worth pointing out that RIM has been a sponsor of an event called DevCon5 where TMC is a co-owner and which focuses on HTML5 and related development topics. I have seen firsthand how the company used the conference to woo developers.

Luca elaborated by saying the chance to work on a new platform is something which doesn’t happen very often and that RIM is assembling an entrepreneurial team inside the company. Moreover he said, this platform is very different and the user experience focuses on Blackberry people who need to get things done.

Other features he extolled in his blog include true multitasking and the ability to run native Android apps.

I asked him if he has a Playbook and he does – he explained this tablet has the same core as Blackberry 10. He concluded that he is looking forward to this new adventure.

Of course the pressure to deliver something perfect is on and the good news is as a piece of software, even if it isn’t exactly perfect, you can roll an update out fairly quickly to erase any problems. The Playbook OS and UI is pretty good in my opinion – certainly it can be improved upon and has evolved over time. This should mean that the Blackberry 10 OS will be even better.

The challenge for every company competing with Apple is of course competing with Apple. The have stores. They have “cool.” They caused Google to buy Motorola Mobility “Nuff Said.” They are scaring the life out of the tech space.

RIM for its part will need not only a great Blackberry 10 but a blockbuster OS which makes the media scream with excitement.

Moreover, it seems apparent you need really leading edge hardware to support your new software. They will also need some sort of gimmick – like Siri. By gimmick I mean something which makes you want to buy the product but then hardly use after you get it. You know like when you purchase something because of an infomercial you watched at 3:00 am after a few beverages.

Alec, Luca, Thorsten and the RIM team have their work cut out for them as all of this perfect execution has to happen while there are thousands of people being let go. The flipside is that they are hiring good people and Luca’s description of a new entrepreneurial team is exactly what is needed. It is worth noting in conclusion that if you judge RIM on its hires and not its fires you get a much different impression. Once this new OS is revealed, the market of course will have the final say on the company’s course change and whether the delay was worth it.

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