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"I have lost confidence. While I hide it at work, my passion has been sapped. I know I am not alone..."

Written by "A RIM Employee" an internal "open letter" written by a "senior RIM executive" was published by Boy Genius Report and offers a stinging analysis of the company.

The letter contains a brutally honesty opening, followed by a list of suggestions.  A shortened version reads:

To the RIM Senior Management Team:

I have lost confidence.

While I hide it at work, my passion has been sapped. I know I am not alone — the sentiment is widespread and it includes people within your own teams.

Mike [Lazaridis, co-CEO,] and Jim [Basillie, co-CEO,], please take the time to really absorb and digest the content of this letter because it reflects the feeling across a huge percentage of your employee base. You have many smart employees, many that have great ideas for the future, but unfortunately the culture at RIM does not allow us to speak openly without having to worry about the career-limiting effects.

Before I get into the meat of the matter, I will say I am not part of a large group of bitter employees wishing to embarrass us. Rather, I believe these points need to be heard and I desperately want RIM to regain its position as a successful industry leader. Our carriers, distributors, alliance partners, enterprise customers, and our loyal end users all want the same thing… for BlackBerry to once again be leading the pack.

We are in the middle of major “transition” and things have never been more chaotic. Almost every project is falling further and further behind schedule at a time when we absolutely must deliver great, solid products on time. We urge you to make bold decisions about our organisational structure, about our culture and most importantly our products.

While we anxiously wait to see the details of the streamlining plan, here are some suggestions:

1) Focus on the End User experience
2) Recruit Senior SW Leaders & enable decision-making
3) Cut projects to the bone.
4) Developers, not Carriers can now make or break us
Developing for BlackBerry is painful, and despite what you’ve been told, things haven’t really changed that much since Jamie Murai’s letter. Our SDK / development platform is like a rundown 1990′s Ford Explorer. Then there’s Apple, which has a shiny new BMW M3… just such a pleasure to drive. Developers want and need quality tools
5) Need for serious marketing punch to create end user desire

25 million iPad users don’t care that it doesn’t have Flash or true multitasking, so why make that a focus in our campaigns? I’ll answer that for you: it’s because that’s all that differentiates our products and its lazy marketing. I’ve never seen someone buy product B because it has something product A doesn’t have. People buy product B because they want and lust after product B.

Also an important note regarding our marketing: a product’s technical superiority does not equal desire, and therefore sales… How many Linux laptops are getting sold? How did Betamax go? My mother wants an iPad and iPhone because it is simple and appeals to her. Powerful multitasking doesn’t.
6) No Accountability – Canadians are too nice
7) The press and analysts are pissing you off. Don’t snap. Now is the time for humility with a dash of paranoia.
8) Democratise. Engage and interact with your employees — please!

Research In Motion Ltd. (TSE:RIM) has fired back a response, basically pointing to its strong profitability ($695M USD in Q1 2011), $3B USD cash surplus, large international market share growth (67 percent between Q1 2010 and Q1 2011).  The response also questions the letter's authenticity.  

A company spokesperson writes:
An “Open Letter” to RIM’s senior management was published anonymously on the web today and it was attributed to an unnamed person described as a ‘high level employee”. It is obviously difficult to address anonymous commentary and it is particularly difficult to believe that a “high level employee” in good standing with the company would choose to anonymously publish a letter on the web rather than engage their fellow executives in a constructive manner, but regardless of whether the letter is real, fake, exaggerated or written with ulterior motivations, it is fair to say that the senior management team at RIM is nonetheless fully aware of and aggressively addressing both the company’s challenges and its opportunities.

RIM recently confirmed that it is nearing the end of a major business and technology transition. Although this transition has taken longer than anticipated, there is much excitement and optimism within the company about the new products that are lined up for the coming months. There is a fundamental business reality however that following an extended period of hyper growth (during which RIM nearly quadrupled in size over the past 5 years alone), it has become necessary for the company to streamline its operations in order to allow it to grow its business profitably while pursuing newer strategic opportunities. Again, RIM’s management team takes these challenges seriously and is actively addressing the situation. The company is thankfully in a solid business and financial position to tackle the opportunities ahead with a solid balance sheet (nearly $3 billion in cash and no debt), strong profitability (RIM’s net income last quarter was $695 million) and substantial international growth (international revenue in Q1 grew 67% over the same quarter last year). In fact, while growth has slowed in the US, RIM still shipped 13.2 million BlackBerry smartphones last quarter (which is about 100 smartphones per minute, 24 hours per day) and RIM is more committed than ever to serving its loyal customers and partners around the world.
Boy Genius Report denied the original allusions that the letter could have been fabricated, writing:
[W]e assure you, it is indeed genuine and its author has been vetted.
RIM's retort is relatively straightforward, but ignores the fact that slowly U.S. growth is often a sign of danger, as it was for Palm and Nokia (HEL:NOK1V).  Likewise the report ignores the #4 suggestion -- to woo developers -- at a time when developers are abandoning RIM.  Loss of developers was also a sign that proceeded the falls of Palm and Nokia.

It's too soon to write RIM off.  The company launched the smart phone movement (arguably), defining what it was to be "smart" phone, before the first iPhone even shipped.  That said, the company does appear to be struggling to create as exciting products as the competition and retain enough "fun" in its business lineup.

To that end RIM is looking to replace its stale old Blackberry OS with the new QNX operating system currently found in its PlayBook tablet.  While QNX looks decent, the question is whether it will be enough to lure in developers and customers.

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It's not just RIM
By AlvinCool on 7/1/2011 10:36:13 AM , Rating: 3
You can take that open letter, change it slightly, and apply it to most American corporations.

RE: It's not just RIM
By Motoman on 7/1/2011 10:46:55 AM , Rating: 2
Forget American - most corporations period.

While I might be inclined to be skeptical that this letter came from any RIM executive...I am inclined to believe that it's content is probably spot-on.

RIM is in deep sh1t, and I have no trouble believing that everything this letter says about them is true. And the guy nailed it on the bit about people not buying such devices based on technical merit...they absolutely don't. RIM is trying to compete with Apple - whose products compete on that fact that they're Apple products, and your product isn't. Price, specs, quality, reliabilty, etc. are unimportant to the Apple buyer because they've been made to lust after it by marketing. If RIM thinks it's going to needs to inspire lust. Which is one thing, frankly, I just don't see them doing.

RIM has all the "lust-worthiness" of Lenovo. The reputation of the Blackberry is of a staid, incredibly conservative device which is all-business and no pleasure...perhaps well-built and solidly designed and dependable, like a Thinkpad - but boring.

RE: It's not just RIM
By hanmen on 7/1/11, Rating: -1
RE: It's not just RIM
By edge929 on 7/1/2011 2:56:33 PM , Rating: 2
Amen. Working as a developer at a fortune 25 company I can attest to this. I've heard some really great ideas come from my peers fall on deaf management ears because it was deemed to far out of line from the core business. I'm not talking about building flying cars with warp drive here, these are real, tangible, practical solutions to our problems. We don't have to spend millions or even thousands to implement them. Many are "free" after you factor out the developers salary. Management is so afraid to venture outside the school yard.

I understand we can't all be chiefs but look at Google. They are successful because they at least listen to their devs and even *gasp* encourage them to think outside the box (yes, I hate that saying but it was appropriate here). And look at the result, developers are tripping over themselves to work at Google. Last time I checked, Google's stock wasn't too shabby either.

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