Losing the Signal | Jacquie McNish

Summary of: Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry
By: Jacquie McNish


Dive into the captivating world of BlackBerry with the summary of ‘Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry’ by Jacquie McNish. Experience the incredible journey of Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, as they transform the telecommunication space with their revolutionary invention. This summary covers their initial collaboration, the creation of ground-breaking products, and the eventual downfall of Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM). By examining key business and technical decisions, the book helps readers explore the factors that contributed to the rise and fall of an industry giant.

The Dynamic Duo of RIM

The success of RIM, the Canadian tech company behind BlackBerry, can be credited to the perfect combination of its co-founders, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. While Balsillie’s interest in the Canadian business elite and “The Art of War” inspired him to pursue a career in business management, Lazaridis’s love for engineering was evident from a young age. Together, they formed a perfect symbiosis – Balsillie’s business acumen complemented Lazaridis’s technological know-how, resulting in the creation of the BlackBerry and the rise of RIM.

RIM: From Radio Modems to Smartphones

In the late 1990s, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis were the driving force behind Research in Motion’s shift towards wireless communication devices. Before developing their own devices, RIM worked on radio modems to connect laptops to wireless data networks. However, when their only major customer canceled a deal and nearly brought RIM down, Balsillie realized the company needed to diversify its customer portfolio to survive. Lazaridis saw an opportunity in the emerging market for portable two-way communicators, and began working on the prototype for the Inter@ctive 900. With Balsillie’s backing, this device became the core of RIM’s new business model, catapulting the company into the smartphone market and redefining wireless communication.

The Rise of BlackBerry

Through a win-win agreement with BellSouth, RIM was able to expand its potential and purchase unlimited access to the Mobitex network for just five million dollars.

RIM’s success with the BlackBerry device did not come easy. Through a strategic partnership with BellSouth, RIM was able to save the Mobitex network from being shut down, which eventually led to the expansion of the network, reaching about 90% of the US population. This agreement between the two reliable partners created an opportunity for consistent revenue generation for RIM and made their endeavor even more secure. To make better offers for their customers and have control over the network, RIM purchased unlimited two-year access to the Mobitex network for just five million dollars, allowing them to sell cheaper airtime and attracting customers.

With the potential it had, RIM still needed to name their device. Their marketing team advised against names that might be associated with work and chose a name from the natural world instead. RIM’s founders Balsillie and Lazaridis noticed executives were stressed from constant streams of emails, so they named the device after a fruit that lowers blood pressure and somewhat resembled the device itself.

Thus, the BlackBerry was born, and its success story had just begun.

The Story Behind BlackBerry’s Success

Learn how RIM turned their BlackBerry into a triumph by convincing executives of its usefulness.

RIM, the company behind BlackBerry, faced a significant challenge when attempting to get the device off the ground. They needed to persuade executives of the concept’s soundness, particularly Chief Information Officers who were known for being critical of new devices, especially those designed for sending sensitive information via an external network. However, Balsillie and Lazaridis saw the potential for BlackBerry in the business world. They knew that convincing executives of its utility was the only way to make it a triumph. In 1999, Merrill Lynch became the first company to order BlackBerry after John McKinley, their Chief Technology Officer, saw its advantages.

This sparked a chain reaction, and suddenly more people needed the BlackBerry, and other corporate giants began to follow suit. As a result, RIM’s customer base increased dramatically, from 25,000 users in 1999 to roughly 2 million in 2004. The greater the number of BlackBerry owners, the greater the demand for the device. Therefore, RIM’s strategy helped establish BlackBerry on the market, but it wasn’t the only factor that led to success.

The Rise and Fall of BlackBerry

In a highly competitive wireless communication market, BlackBerry’s co-CEO Balsillie feared that strong rivals like Nokia would produce cheaper and more flexible devices that would dominate the market. To mitigate this risk, he devised a plan called BlackBerry Connect, where hardware manufacturers would create the devices, and BlackBerry would be responsible for the software and the connection to the data network. However, Balsillie never intended BlackBerry Connect to succeed; instead, he wanted to gain insight into Nokia’s long-term development plans to adjust RIM’s strategy accordingly. As a result, BlackBerry Connect did not run smoothly, but it helped RIM secure a strong market position by wasting the competition’s time. Nonetheless, BlackBerry’s success was short-lived, and the company began to fall toward oblivion.

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