Power 50 Profile: Mike Lazaridis, CEO and founder, RIM
It’s been a massive year for RIM, with ‘Papa Smurf’ pulling the levers on tactics and strategy amid considerable turbulence. On the plus side, BlackBerry has undoubtedly reached into the coveted youth market via its BBM service and some outstanding brand work. Creating a completely exclusive messaging platform that has exploded in the mass market of young consumers has been fabulously beneficial, and Lazaridis has amplified its success by telling the story via some excellent marketing work. On the down side, security question marks, the continuing lure of the iPhone in the boardroom and problems with the service being blocked in certain countries has dented BlackBerry’s traditional business patch, with the pressure falling on Lazaridis. Most alarming though is the recently reduced profits forecast and the underwhelming launch of touch-screen products and the PlayBook tablet. Lazaradis still sits on a product where software and hardware are entwined and exclusively owned, and as such, some senior executives in the industry believe it can dislodge Android as the best placed brand to rival Apple. Critics point to the longer term viability of Blackberry in a world where Apple and Android are the pre-eminent platforms and even the Nokia-Windows alliance could take the number three spot. That said, in the short term, the attention is on the new Bold, but all eyes are on Lazaridis’ decision-making.
RIM has some able lieutenants both in Canada and in Europe, but the BlackBerry maker’s astonishing charge into the mobile consumer space has come from Lazaridis back in Canada. Lazaridis is the company visionary who sets out the strategy and leads from the front. BlackBerry was almost universally associated in people’s minds as a businessman’s phone. To shift that perception to one where it is now seen as a ‘cool’ phone by the youth market is an extraordinary achievement. Whether this shift happened by accident or design, no one can say that RIM has not been swift to capitalise on the opportunity. The question is: can Lazaridis keep BlackBerry out in front, as other manufacturers copy its best ideas?