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ADMN415v3 Assignment 3 Case RIM

Daina Mazutis wrote this case under the supervision of Professors Rod White and Paul W. Beamish solely to provide material for
class discussion. The authors do not intend to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a managerial situation. The
authors may have disguised certain names and other identifying information to protect confidentiality.
Richard Ivey School of Business Foundation prohibits any form of reproduction, storage or transmission without its written
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Copyright © 2008, Richard Ivey School of Business Foundation
Version: 2011-09-21
In early January 2008, David Yach, chief technology officer for software at Research In Motion (RIM),
had just come back from Christmas break. Returning to his desk in Waterloo, Ontario, relaxed and
refreshed, he noted that his executive assistant had placed the preliminary holiday sales figures for
BlackBerry on top of his in-box with a note that read “Meeting with Mike tomorrow.” Knowing 2007 had
been an extraordinarily good year, with the number of BlackBerry units sold doubling, Dave was curious:
Why did Mike Lazaridis, RIM’s visionary founder and co-chief executive officer, want a meeting? A
sticky note on page three flagged the issue. Mike wanted to discuss Dave’s research and development
(R&D) plans — even though R&D spending was up $124 million from the prior year, it had dropped
significantly as a percentage of sales. In an industry driven by engineering innovations and evaluated on
technological advances, this was an issue.
R&D was the core of the BlackBerry’s success — but success, Dave knew, could be a double-edged
sword. Although RIM’s engineers were continually delivering award-winning products, explosive growth
and increased competition were creating pressures on his team to develop new solutions to keep up with
changes in the global smartphone marketplace. With 2007 revenue up 98 per cent from the previous year,
his team of approximately 1,400 software engineers should also have doubled — but both talent and space
were getting increasingly scarce. The current model of “organic” growth was not keeping pace and his
engineers were feeling the strain. As the day progressed, Dave considered how he should manage this
expansion on top of meeting existing commitments, thinking “How do you change the engine, while
you’re speeding along at 200 kilometres per hour?” As his BlackBerry notified him of dozens of other
urgent messages, he wondered how to present his growth and implementation plan to Mike the next
RIM was a world leader in the mobile communications market. Founded in 1984 by 23-year-old University
of Waterloo student Mike Lazaridis, RIM designed, manufactured and marketed the very popular line of
BlackBerry products that had recently reached 14 million subscribers worldwide and had just over $6
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Page 2
billion in revenue (see Exhibits 1 and 2). In early 2008, RIM was one of Canada’s largest companies with a
market capitalization of $69.4 billion.1
In particular, organizations that relied on sensitive information, such as the U.S. government and large
financial institutions, were early and loyal adopters of BlackBerry and RIM’s largest customers. RIM’s
enterprise e-mail servers, which were attached to the customer’s e-mail and IM servers behind company
firewalls, encrypted and redirected e-mail and other data before forwarding the information to end
consumers through wireless service providers (see Exhibit 3). Having been the first to market with a
“push” e-mail architecture and a value proposition built on security, RIM had more than 100,000 enterprise
customers and an estimated 42 per cent market share of converged devices, and significantly higher market
share of data-only devices, in North America.2
RIM generated revenue through the “complete BlackBerry wireless solution” which included wireless
devices, software and services. Revenues, however, were heavily skewed to handheld sales (73 per cent),
followed by service (18 per cent), software (6 per cent) and other revenues (3 per cent). In handhelds, RIM
had recently introduced the award-winning BlackBerry Pearl and BlackBerry Curve, which were a
significant design departure from previous models and for the first time targeted both consumer and
business professionals (see Exhibit 4). RIM had accumulated a wide range of product design and
innovation awards, including recognition from Computerworld as one of the Top 10 Products of the Past
40 Years3. Analysts and technophiles eagerly awaited the next-generation BlackBerry series expected for
release in 2008.
Although originally built for busy professionals, BlackBerry had made considerable headway in the
consumer market and had become something of a social phenomenon. Celebrity sightings put the
BlackBerry in the hands of Madonna and Paris Hilton among others. The term “crackberry,” used to
describe the addictive or obsessive use of the BlackBerry, was added to Webster’s New Millennium
dictionary. Just six months after launching Facebook for BlackBerry, downloads of the popular social
networking software application had topped one million, indicating that younger consumers were
gravitating towards the popular handhelds4. RIM also actively sought partnerships with software
developers to bring popular games such as Guitar Hero III to the BlackBerry mobile platform5, suggesting
a more aggressive move to the consumer, or at least prosumer6, smartphone space.
D. George-Cosh, “Analysts cheer RIM results, hike targets,” Financial Post, April 4, 2008,
http://www.nationalpost.com/scripts/story.html?id=420318; accessed April 22, 2008.
Of converged device shipments (smartphones and wireless handhelds). Canalys Smart Mobile Device Analysis service,
Press Release, February 5, 2008, http://www.canalys.com/pr/2008/r2008021.htm, accessed April 2, 2008.
AFX International Focus, “RIM: Facebook for BlackBerry downloads top 1M,” April 1, 2008, http://global.factiva.com,
accessed April 1, 2008.
Business Wire, “Guitar Hero III Mobile will rock your BlackBerry Smartphone,” April 1, 2008, http://global.factiva.com,
accessed April 1, 2008.
Prosumer refers to “professional consumers,” customers that use their mobile devices for both business and personal
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The BlackBerry wireless platform and line of handhelds could integrate e-mail, phone, Instant Messaging
(IM), Short Message Service (SMS), internet, music, camera, video, radio, organizer, Global Positioning
System (GPS) and a variety of other applications in one wireless solution that was dubbed “always on,
always connected.” These features, especially the immediate pushed message delivery, in addition to the
BlackBerry’s small size, long battery life, and ease of use, made the product extremely popular with busy
executives who valued the safe and secure delivery of corporate mail and seamless extension of other
enterprise and internet services.
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Mobile wireless communication involved the transmission of signals using radio frequencies between
wireless networks and mobile access devices. Although RIM was one of the first to market with two-way
messaging, recent technological developments had encouraged numerous handheld and handset vendors to
go beyond traditional “telephony” and release new “converged”7 devices including smartphones, Personal
Digital Assistants (PDA), phone/PDA hybrids, converged voice and data devices and other end-to-end
integrated wireless solutions. A shift in the telecommunication industry was moving demand beyond just
cellphones to smartphones — complete communications tools that married all the functions of mobile
phones with fully integrated e-mail, browser and organizer applications. In 2007, key competitors to RIM’s
BlackBerry line-up included the Palm Treo 700 and 750, the Sony Ericsson P900 Series, the Nokia E62,
the Motorola Q and the Apple iPhone.
The number of wireless subscriber connections worldwide had reached three billion by the end of 2007.
China led with over 524 million subscribers, followed by the United States at 254 million and India with
237 million (see Exhibit 5). Year over year growth in the United States, however, was only 9.5 per cent,
with an already high market penetration rate (87 per cent). In contrast, China’s growth was 18.3 per cent
with only 39 per cent penetration. In sheer numbers, India was experiencing the fastest growth rate with a
60 per cent increase and room to grow with 21 per cent market penetration. To put that into context, in late
2007 there were almost 300,000 new wireless network subscribers in India every day.8
Since the launch of Apple’s iPhone in June 2007, competition in the smartphone segment of the mobile
telecommunications industry had intensified. The iPhone “set a new standard for usability.”9 In 2007,
smartphones represented only 10 per cent of the global mobile phone market in units. However, this
segment was projected to reach over 30 per cent market share within five years.10 In the U.S. the number
of smartphone users had doubled in 2007 to about 14.6 million11 while global shipments of smartphones
rose by 53 per cent worldwide hitting 118 million in 2007.12 Some analysts saw the opportunity for smart
“Converged” refers to the convergence of the digital wireless communication industry (cellular telephony) and information
technology industries, signaled by the arrival of 2G networks which merged voice and data transmissions.
GSMA 20 year factsheet, http://www.gsmworld.com/documents/20_year_factsheet.pdf, accessed April 5, 2008.
P. Svensson, “Microsoft Upgrades Windows Mobile,” Associated Press Newswire, April 1, 2008, http://global.factiva.com,
accessed April 1, 2008.
Esmerk Finish News, “Global: Survey: Nokia has best innovation strategy,” March 25, 2008, http://global.factiva.com,
accessed April 1, 2008.
N. Gohring, “Smartphones on the rise? Thank the iPhone, panel says,” Washington Post, March 31, 2008,
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/31/AR2008033102392.html, accessed online April 1, 2008.
Canalys Smart Mobile Device Analysis service, Press Release, February 5, 2008,
http://www.canalys.com/pr/2008/r2008021.htm, accessed April 2, 2008.
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Wireless carriers, such as Rogers in Canada and Verizon in the United States, were RIM’s primary direct
customers. These carriers bundled BlackBerry handhelds and software with airtime and sold the complete
solution to end users. In 2007, RIM had over 270 carrier partnerships in more than 110 countries around
the world. Through the BlackBerry Connect licensing program other leading device manufacturers such as
Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson could also equip their handsets with BlackBerry
functionality, including push technology to automatically deliver e-mail and other data. Expanding the
global reach of BlackBerry solutions was therefore a fundamental part of RIM’s strategy. In 2007, 57.9
per cent of RIM’s revenues were derived from the United States, 7.3 per cent from Canada and the
remaining 34.8 per cent from other countries. To date, RIM had offices in North America, Europe and Asia
Pacific, however, it had only three wholly owned subsidiaries — two in Delaware and one in England.
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phones as “immense,” predicting that during 2008 and 2009, 500 million smart devices would be sold
globally and cumulative global shipments would pass the one billion mark by 2012.13
Worldwide demand for wireless handhelds had been fueled by several global trends, including the
commercial availability of high-speed wireless networks, the emergence of mobile access to corporate
intranets, and the broad acceptance of e-mail and text messaging as reliable, secure and indispensable
means of communication. Coupled with the growth of instant messaging as both a business and personal
communications tool, the demand for wireless handhelds and smartphones was robust.
Symbian, a proprietary Operating System (OS) designed for mobile devices and jointly owned by Nokia,
Ericsson, Sony Ericsson, Panasonic, Siemens AG and Samsung, held an estimated 65 per cent worldwide
share of the converged devices, shipping 77.3 million smartphones in 2007 (up 50 per cent from 2006).14
This was significantly ahead of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS (12 per cent) and RIM’s BlackBerry OS
(11 per cent). However, in North America, RIM led with 42 per cent of shipments, ahead of Apple (27 per
cent), Microsoft (21 per cent) and Palm (less than nine per cent and shrinking).15
However, RIM could not afford to rest on its laurels. In the North American market place, Apple had
recently announced that it would be actively pursuing the business segment. Conceding that push-email
and calendar integration were key to securing enterprise users, Apple licensed ActiveSync Direct Push, a
Microsoft technology. Apple hoped to entice corporate users to adopt the iPhone as their converged device
of choice.16 Similarly, Microsoft, which had struggled to gain widespread acceptance for its Windows
Mobile OS, had recently revamped its marketing efforts and announced an end-to-end solution for
enterprise customers as well as desktop-grade web browsing for Windows Mobile enabled phones.17 Even
Google had entered the fray with Android, an open and free mobile platform which included an OS,
middleware and key applications. Rivalry, it seemed, was intensifying.
In early 2008, an analyst commented about the increasing competition in the converged device
(smartphone and wireless handheld) segment:
Apple’s innovation in its mobile phone user interface has prompted a lot of design activity
among competitors. We saw the beginnings of that in 2007, but we will see a lot more in
2008 as other smart phone vendors try to catch up and then get back in front. Experience
shows that a vendor with only one smart phone design, no matter how good that design is,
will soon struggle. A broad, continually refreshed portfolio is needed to retain and grow
share in this dynamic market. This race is a marathon, but you pretty much have to sprint
every lap.18
Chris Ambrosio, Strategy Analytics, January 2008 and Pete Cunningham, Canalys, as quoted on www.symbian.com,
accessed April 3, 2008.
www.symbian.com, accessed April 3, 2008.
Canalys Smart Mobile Device Analysis service, Press Release, February 5, 2008,
http://www.canalys.com/pr/2008/r2008021.htm, accessed April 2, 2008.
A. Hesseldahl, “How the iPhone is suiting up for work,” Business Week, March 6, 2008, www.businessweek.com,
accessed March 21, 2008.
“Microsoft unveils smartphone advancements to improve ability to work and play with one phone,” April 1, 2008, Press
Release; and “Microsoft announces enterprise-class mobile solution,” April 1, 2008, Press Release,
Canalys Smart Mobile Device Analysis service, Press Release, February 5, 2008,
http://www.canalys.com/pr/2008/r2008021.htm, accessed April 2, 2008.
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Page 5
Another analyst observed:
The good news for RIM? There still aren’t many trusted alternatives for business-class
mobile e-mail. This company could be one of the world’s biggest handset manufacturers
one day. It’s hard for me to believe there won’t be e-mail on every phone in the world.
RIM is going to be a major force in this market.19
R&D and engineering were the heart and soul of RIM. In March 2007, RIM employed just over 2,100
people with different R&D areas of expertise: radio frequency engineering, hardware and software design,
audio and display improvement, antenna design, circuit board design, power management, industrial
design, and manufacturing engineering, among others. R&D efforts focused on improving the
functionality, security and performance of the BlackBerry solution, as well as developing new devices for
current and emerging network technologies and market segments. The ratio of software to hardware
developers was approximately 2:1 and about 40 per cent of the software engineers were involved in core
design work while another 40 per cent were engaged in testing and documentation (the remaining 20 per
cent were in management, and support functions like documentation and project management).
R&D had increased significantly both in terms of the total number of employees as well as the geographic
scope of its operations. Since 2000, the R&D group had grown more than tenfold, from 200 to 2,100
people and expanded to two more locations in Canada (Ottawa and Mississauga), several in the United
States (Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle and Palo Alto) and one in England. Waterloo was still the
principal location — home to a vibrant and collaborative culture of young and talented engineers.
RIM’s cryptographic and software source code played a key role in the success of the company, delivering
the safe and secure voice and data transmission on which the BlackBerry reputation was built. Chris
Wormald, vice-president of strategic alliances, who was responsible for acquisitions, licensing and
partnerships described the challenge as follows:
At the end of the day, our source code is really among our few enduring technical assets.
We have gone through extraordinary measures to protect it. Extraordinary is probably still
too shallow of a word. We don’t give anyone any access under any circumstances. RIM
was founded on a principle of “we can do it better ourselves” — it is a philosophy that is
embedded in our DNA. This vertical integration of technology makes geographic
expansion and outsourcing of software development very difficult.
Intellectual property rights were thus diligently guarded through a combination of patent, copyright and
contractual agreements. It was also strategically managed through a geography strategy that divided core
platform development from product and technology development, with most of the core work (on the chip
sets, software source code, product design) still occurring in Waterloo. However, the exponential growth in
Ken Dulaney of Gartner, as quoted in A. Hesseldahl, “RIM: Growth rules the day,” February 22, 2008,
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Given the rapid advances in the mobile communications industry, no technological platform had become
the industry standard. In light of the dynamic market situation, RIM needed to ensure that its investment in
R&D kept up with the pace of change in the industry.
Page 6
sales, competition and industry changes was placing tremendous pressures on the R&D teams at the
Canadian headquarters.
The 2,100 R&D employees made up about 35 per cent of RIM’s 6,254 employees.20 Total headcount had
also been growing in double digits over the last five years (see Exhibit 7). However, if investment analysts
were correct and sales grew by almost 70 per cent again in 2008,21 the large numbers involved could hinder
RIM’s ability to rely on its historic growth strategy: sourcing from the local talent pool, through employee
referrals and new graduate recruitment, and making selective acquisitions of small technology companies.
It needed to find upwards of 1,400 new software developers just to maintain the status quo in R&D. And
not only did they have to find large numbers of talented individuals, they also had to figure out where they
would be located and how to integrate them into RIM’s culture.
The culture at RIM headquarters was seen as one of its differentiators and was a key factor in RIM’s low
employee turnover rate. In fact, the company had recently been recognized as one of “Canada’s 10 Most
Admired Corporate Cultures.”22 In describing the way things worked in the software development group at
RIM, Dayna Perry, director of organizational development for R&D, commented:
What we have here is flexibility, adaptability and the ability to work collaboratively and
collegially. We haven’t had a lot of process or the kind of bureaucracy that you may see in
other larger organizations….It is what has allowed us to be very responsive to market
opportunities. It is sort of the “magic” or the “secret sauce” of how things just work and
we get things done.
A software developer leading a team working on BlackBerry’s many multi-lingual devices agreed, saying:
RIM, in comparison to some of its competitors, is a nice and dynamic environment …RIM
is a place engineers like to work. Some of our competitors treat their engineers as
something unimportant. They don’t participate in decisions. They are interchangeable.
There is a very very strong bureaucracy… it’s crazy. RIM is very different.
Maintaining its unique culture was a priority for RIM. Remaining centered in Waterloo nurtured this
ability. But it was becoming clear that growing mostly in Waterloo was going to become increasingly
difficult. Not only did RIM already employ most of the best developers in the area, it already attracted the
The remaining groups included 836 in sales, marketing and business development; 1,098 in customer care and technical
support; 1,158 in manufacturing; and 1,002 in administration, which included information technology, BlackBerry network
operations and service development, finance, legal, facilities and corporate administration.
Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures for 2006, www.waterstonehc.com, accessed on April 5, 2008.
Authorized for use only in educational programs at Athabasca University until Jan 15, 2016.
Use outside these parameters is a copyright violation.
Similar to other players in the telecommunications industry (see Exhibit 6), it was RIM’s policy to
maintain its R&D spending as a consistent percentage of total sales. Investment analysts often looked to
this number to gauge the sustainability of revenue growth. R&D expenses were seen as a proxy for new
product or service development and therefore used as a key indicator of future revenue potential. Human
capital represented the bulk of R&D dollars and the organizational development team in charge of hiring at
RIM was working overtime to try and keep up with the growing demand for the qualified engineers needed
to deliver on both customer and investor expectations.
Page 7
Attracting outside talent to Waterloo was difficult given the competitive nature of the global software
development industry. Most of the big players in the smartphone space were also ramping up. For example,
Sony Ericsson had posted 230 design and engineering jobs in Sweden, China and the United States. Nokia
was looking for 375 R&D employees in Finland, the United States, India and Germany, among other
development sites. In California’s Silicon Valley, Apple and Google had scooped up many of the top
mobile browser developers in a technology cluster famous for its exaggerated employee benefits and
unbeatable climate. Motorola could be the exception to the rule, having announced layoffs of engineers.
Although Waterloo, Ontario had recently been named ICF’s “Intelligent Community of the Year,” the city
of 115,000 people26 might not be perceived by some candidates to be as attractive as other high tech
centers which were more cosmopolitan, for example: Silicon Valley, or previous winners of the ICF,
Taipei (2006), Mitaka (2005) or Glasgow (2004).27
Compounding the problem was a shortage of physical space at RIM’s Waterloo campus that was a running
joke around headquarters. Even company founder Mike Lazaridis had to laugh about it — responding to a
reporter’s question about his most embarrassing moment, Lazaridis replied: “Scraping my Aston Martin in
RIM’s driveway. I was leaving a space and a car came from nowhere. The scratches have been fixed, but
not the too-busy parking lot. It’s a hazard of a growing company.”
On top of it all, RIM was looking to hire a very particular mix of engineers. Although new graduates were
essential, to be ahead of the game a good proportion of the incoming employees was going to have to be
senior hires. RIM needed people who could fit with the culture and hit the ground running. Dayna noted:
“We just don’t have the luxury of time to grow all our own talent. We do that in parallel and do a lot of
internal promotion, but that is an investment you make in the future, it is not going to help you solve your
problem today.” And it wasn’t just a question of the number of engineers. In software, breakthrough
innovations often came from small teams led by a visionary. Many at RIM believed that “software is as
much about art as it is about engineering.” And in the dynamic wireless communications market,
exceptional software developers were scarce.
The approach to growth used by RIM in the past would not deliver the scale and scope of R&D resources
required to maintain its technical superiority. RIM had several options.
D. Friend, “Microsoft hunting IT grads,” London Free Press, March 22, 2008.
“Google expands Waterloo base,” http://atuw.ca/feature-google-expands-waterloo-base/, accessed April 11, 2008.
A. Petroff, “A Recruiter’s Waterloo?” http://www.financialpost.com/trading_desk/technology/story.html?id=389305,
accessed April 11, 2008.
The greater Kitchener-Waterloo area had approximately 450,000 inhabitants.
Intelligent Community Forum, 2007 Intelligent Community of the Year Awards, Press release May 18, 2007,
http://www.intelligentcommunity.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=221, accessed April 5, 2008.
J. Shillingford, “A life run by BlackBerry,” Financial Times, March 19, 2008, http://global.factiva.com, accessed on April 1,
Authorized for use only in educational programs at Athabasca University until Jan 15, 2016.
Use outside these parameters is a copyright violation.
best and brightest of the nearby University of Waterloo’s engineering and computer science graduates.
About 300 students came on board every semester through the company’s coveted co-op program and
many were asked to remain with RIM after graduation. In fact, the talent at the University of Waterloo was
so widely recognized that even Bill Gates made frequent visits to the university to court the best students23
and Google had recently opened facilities there, acknowledging that “Waterloo is an incredible pool of
talent”24 and that it was ready to start hiring the best and the brightest “as quickly as possible.”25
Page 8
Do What We Do Now, Only More of It
Likewise, RIM could follow Microsoft’s lead and form a global scouting group dedicated to finding the
best talent worldwide and bringing them into RIM. Canada ranked as one of the best countries in the world
to live in terms of life expectancy, literacy, education and other standards of living.30 These and other
benefits could attract young developers particularly from emerging markets. As well, the stronger dollar
made Canada more attractive.
Similar to other players in the industry (e.g. Apple, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Nokia), RIM posted many of
its job openings online and potential employees searched and applied for the positions best suited for their
skills and interests. However, with over 800 worldwide job postings, finding the right job was often a
daunting task. RIM also had no formal way to manage qualified candidates that may have simply applied
to the wrong team and hence good leads were potentially lost. Some competitors allowed candidates to
build an open application (similar to Monster or Workopolis) that could then be viewed by anyone in the
organization looking for talent. Revamping the careers website and being more creative in the way in
which they structured recruiting was being considered.
Some competitors had also formalized hiring and the onboarding processes of computer scientists by hiring
in “waves.” Rather than posting individual job openings, Symbian, for example, solicited résumés once a
year, which were then reviewed, and successful candidates invited to the London, U.K.-based head office
to attend one of nine Assessment Days. If the attendees passed a series of tests and interviews, they were
then inducted into the company during a formal “bootcamp” training session that lasted five weeks.31
Symbian had also set up extensive collaborations with 44 universities in 17 countries including China,
Russia and India as well as Ethiopia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Thailand and the United States. Dubbed The
Symbian Academy, this network allowed partners and licensees to post jobs for Symbian Academy
students and for professors to collaborate on the research and development of innovative applications such
as pollution monitors on GPS-enabled Symbian smartphones32. Although RIM enjoyed an excellent
relationship with the University of Waterloo, it did not currently have a recruiting strategy of this scope.
Grow and Expand Existing Geographies
RIM had established R&D operations beyond Waterloo, in Ottawa, Mississauga, Dallas and Chicago over
the last five years. It was also expanding the number of product and technology development facilities in
locations such as Fort Lauderdale by recruiting through general job fairs. This strategy, however, had to be
balanced with a number of trade-offs. First, RIM wanted to ensure that its geographic expansion was not
haphazard, but rather strategically executed. Second, the cost of talent in various locations had to be
considered. Software engineers in Palo Alto, for example, commanded much higher wages than in
United Nations Human Development Index 2007/2008.
http://www.symbian.com/about/careers/graduate%20program/index.html, accessed April 3, 2008.
www.symbian.com, accessed April 3, 2008.
Authorized for use only in educational programs at Athabasca University until Jan 15, 2016.
Use outside these parameters is a copyright violation.
RIM had been very successful in its local recruiting strategy as well as nation-wide campus recruitment
drives. It relied heavily on the personal and professional networks of existing employees as an ear-on-theground approach to finding new talent. One option was to expand co-op programs to other universities as
well as increase the frequency and intensity of its new graduate recruitment efforts. Microsoft’s intern
program, for example, included subsidized housing and transportation (car rental or bike purchase plan),
paid travel to Redmond, health club memberships and even subsidized housecleaning!29
Page 9
Waterloo and the competition there was even more intense, with high turnover costs incurred when
employees were wooed away by the many other high tech companies in the area.
There are people here, even leaders and senior people, who have said: “What? Products
being built elsewhere? No! We can’t do that! Then we won’t have any control!” So some
of it is a cultural shift and a mind shift for the people that have been here and it is hard for
them to let go and to be part of a really big company. And RIM is getting to be a big
company now. And for some people, from an organizational culture perspective, it just
doesn’t resonate well with them.
This sentiment was not uncommon among software-centric organizations. Despite some geographic
expansion, Microsoft, for example, had recently recommitted to its Redmond, Washington campus,
spending over $1 billion on new and upgraded facilities there with room to house an additional 12,000
employees33. Google was also strongly committed to maintaining its Mountain View, California
headquarters, with only a few satellite offices. Its unique company culture, built on attracting and keeping
the best talent in a young and fun environment was part of Google’s incredible success story, and helped it
achieve the status of the number one company to work for according to Fortune Magazine34. Other large
software companies such as Oracle and Apple also kept their software developers in one location to foster
innovation. In some ways, RIM was already more geographically distributed than many larger software
Although establishing a geographic expansion plan posed difficulties, RIM had nevertheless laid out
several criteria for selecting new locations for product and technology development sites. First, the area
had to already have a pool of talent that housed a mature skill set; the city or region had be home to an
existing base of software or hardware companies, thus ensuring that a critical mass of highly skilled
employees was available. RIM’s strategic expansion into Ottawa, for example, was influenced by the
availability of talented software engineers in the area in the wake of Nortel’s massive layoffs35. Lastly, the
city or region had to have universities with strong technical programs. This allowed RIM to expand on its
successful co-op programs and graduate recruitment initiatives. Once a satellite development site was set
up, however, there was still the issue of how to transfer RIM’s young and dynamic corporate culture to
these locations.
Increase Acquisitions
RIM had success in bringing people on board through acquisition. Several years earlier, RIM had acquired
Slangsoft, a high tech start-up in Israel that was developing code which allowed for the ability to display
and input Chinese characters — key to tailoring BlackBerry for Asian and other foreign markets. As part
B. Romano, “Microsoft campus expands, transforms, inside out,” The Seattle Times, November 23, 2007,
microsoft11&date=20071111, accessed April 22, 2008.
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/bestcompanies/2007/snapshots/1.html, accessed April 22, 2008.
Estimated at over 15,000 total jobs in the last eight years; B. Hill, “Nortel to keep Ottawa as main R&D centre,” April 4,
2008, The Montreal Gazette, http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/business/story.html?id=24aa8d53-154a-4d88aa9d-593ce9794e10, accessed April 11, 2008.
Authorized for use only in educational programs at Athabasca University until Jan 15, 2016.
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There was also some internal resistance to expanding R&D to locations outside of Waterloo. Although
there was a growing realization that RIM could no longer continue to grow locally, one senior executive
Page 10
Growth by acquisition was a common practice in the high tech and telecommunications sectors. Google
had made its initial move to Waterloo in 2006, for example, through the acquisition of a small wireless
software company, subsequently discontinuing the company’s web browser product, making it a purchase
of talent and intellectual property.36 Other companies had also made strategic acquisitions of technology. In
2002, Apple, for example, purchased EMagic, a small German company whose software was then used in
the development of the popular Mac program Garage Band.37 In larger and more public acquisitions, Nokia
and Motorola had both recently acquired software companies in the hopes of gaining faster access to the
growing smartphone market. In 2006, Nokia purchased Intellisync Corporation, a wireless messaging and
mobile-software developer for $430 million, creating Nokia’s “business mobility solutions” group.38 Also
in 2006, Motorola purchased Good Technology for a rumored $500 million and released Good 5.0,
allowing for secure access to corporate intranets so enterprise users could download, edit and send
documents remotely.39
Given the depressed economic climate in the United States in early 2008, many smaller firms and
technology start-ups were struggling financially as were some larger competitors. There were persistent
rumors that Palm, for example, was in severe financial trouble.40 Further, growth by acquisition could also
allow for the tactical expansion in other strategic markets.
The European mobile telecommunications market, in particular, was highly “nationalistic,” with end users
favoring home grown companies over foreign solutions. Establishing a presence there through acquisition
could buy RIM goodwill and serve as a portal to this lucrative market. The economic downturn in the
United States and recent competitor plant closures in Europe presented RIM with the potential for
opportunistic acquisitions, either of technology or of software engineering talent.
Go Global
In early 2008, most of the R&D was still done in Waterloo, with some core work also being done in
Ottawa and product and technology sites throughout the United States and in the United Kingdom. RIM
was exploring a broader global expansion. It already had customer service operations in Singapore and
sales & marketing representative offices in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, China, Australia, Hong Kong
and Japan. Yet it had stopped short of establishing core research and development sites outside of Canada.
Nonetheless, despite a strong desire to keep R&D close to home, RIM estimated that of all the new hires in
2008, likely half would have to be outside of Canada. In addition to the United States, it was looking to
Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Eastern Europe. The same selection criteria of a mature
skill set and strong technological universities applied to choosing R&D sites outside North America.
M. Evans, “Waterloo gets Googled,” January 6, 2006, http://www.financialpost.com/story.html?id=c4f6f084-d72f-43ea8a82-affe38df3830&k=58579, accessed April 11, 2008.
http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/mar2007/tc20070301_402290.htm, accessed April 11, 2008.
TelecomWeb News Digest, “Nokia completes Intellisync purchase,” February 10, 2006, http://global.factiva.com, accessed
April 11, 2008.
RCR Wireless News, “Motorola set to leverage Good in competitive e-mail market,” June 25, 2007,
http://global.factiva.com, accessed April 11, 2008.
S. Weinberg, “Palm acquisition not considered threat to RIM,” Dow Jones Newswire, http://global.factiva.com, accessed
April 11, 2008.
Authorized for use only in educational programs at Athabasca University until Jan 15, 2016.
Use outside these parameters is a copyright violation.
of the acquisition, RIM worked with Immigration Canada to relocate 11 of the engineers to Waterloo, 10 of
whom were still with RIM more than six years later.
Page 11
China in particular was beginning to gain worldwide recognition as a center for innovation. The number of
patent applications was doubling every two years and the R&D to GDP ratio had also doubled in the last
decade. In addition to Motorola, Nokia had set up a number of research bases in China.44 In 2005, Nokia
had five R&D units there, employing more than 600 people; an estimated 40 per cent of its global Mobile
Phones Business Group handsets were designed and developed in the Beijing Product Creation Center.45
The company had also recently announced a long-term joint research program with Tsinghua University in
Beijing that would see 20 Nokia researchers working alongside 30 professors and associates and up to 50
students.46 Globally, Nokia Research Centers (NRC) described its R&D strategy as:
NRC has a two-fold approach to achieving its mandate of leading Nokia into the future.
The work for core technology breakthroughs supporting Nokia’s existing businesses takes
place in the Core Technology Centers, the CTCs. More visionary, exploratory systems
research that goes well beyond any current business model is conducted at the many
System Research Centers, the SRCs.47
Nokia’s core technology centers were in Finland, with the SRCs in China, Germany, the United Kingdom,
United States, Finland and Japan. The company employed 112,262 people of which 30,415, or 27 per cent,
were in R&D.48
The Motorola Global Software Group (GSG) was more decentralized. In addition to China it had R&D
centers in Australia, Singapore, Mexico, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Poland, Russia, Italy, Canada
and India, among others and employed approximately 27,000 R&D employees worldwide. The Motorola
GSG in India had nearly 3,500 engineers and was responsible for designing 40 per cent of the software
used in Motorola phones worldwide, including the MOTORAZR and MOTO Q. However, Motorola was
not noted for having world-class smartphone software. The GSG structure was speculated to have
contributed to Motorola’s inability to deliver a successful follow-up product to the RAZR as well as to
have precipitated the company’s recent financial downturn.49
Nonetheless, partnering with major research institutes to source top talent appeared to be a fairly common
strategy. Motorola India collaborated with six of the seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), as well as
Business Monitor International, Asia Pacific Telecommunications Insight, April 2008, Issue 24.
Business Monitor International, Asia Pacific Telecommunications Insight, January 2008, Issue 21.
Press Release, “Twenty years’ commitment ensures a more successful future,” November 8, 2007,
Business Monitor International, Asia Pacific Telecommunications Insight, November 2007, Issue 19.
Press Release, May 21, 2004, “Nokia Expands R&D in China,” http://press.nokia.com/PR/200405/946603_5.html
Press Release, May 28, 2007, “Nokia and Tsinghua University announce new research framework,”
Nokia annual report 2007.
“What’s on Motorola’s agenda?” Business Week, January 9, 2008,
http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/jan2008/id2008014_304911_page_2.htm, accessed April 16, 2008.
Authorized for use only in educational programs at Athabasca University until Jan 15, 2016.
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Some of RIM’s key competitors had a long history of global expansion of their R&D activities. Symbian,
for example, opened an R&D center in Beijing in August 2007, already having three others in the United
Kingdom and India.41 Motorola, had been present in China since 1993 when it established its first R&D
center there as part of its Global Software Group (GSG). It had since set up R&D activities in Beijing,
Tianjin, Shanghai, Nanjing, Chengdu and Hangzhou, investing an estimated US$800 million and
employing more than 3,000 R&D staff in China. In 2007, Motorola added R&D sites in Vietnam and
South Korea42 and announced it would open an additional R&D complex in Wangjing, China, with another
3,000 employees.43
Page 12
These types of collaborations and international research consortiums, however, raised not only logistical
but also legal issues. Source code loss, software piracy and product imitations were more common in
developing countries where IP protection laws (or enforcement) lagged the United States or Canada,
leading to both explicit and tacit knowledge “leakage.” For example, despite its strong commitment to
China, Nokia was recently forced to file suit against two Beijing firms for manufacturing and selling
mobile phones that were a direct copy of its proprietary and legally protected industrial designs.52 Other
large high tech companies such as Cisco and Microsoft had also suffered source code breaches. In late
2006, China Unicom, the state-run telecommunications company, had launched its own wireless e-mail
service which it boldly named the Redberry, announcing that their Redberry brand not only continued the
already familiar “BlackBerry” image and name, it also fully reflected the symbolic meaning of China
Unicom’s new red corporate logo.53 For much of East Asia, reverse engineering and copying foreign
products were important sources of learning, helping to transition these markets from imitators of
technology to innovators and competitive threats.54
Wormald described the difficulties with emerging market dynamics as follows:
I was just talking to a Fortune 500 CEO the other day who is closing up shop in India.
This company had a 45 per cent employee turnover rate. They just walk down the street
and go work for his competitor and he was tired of his source code just walking out the
For RIM, going global was therefore problematic on a number of fronts, most notably because the
BlackBerry source code had to be protected. In addition, expanding to emerging markets was also
complicated by restrictions regarding cryptographic software. Most governments, including those of
Canada and the United States, along with Russia and China, regulated the import and export of encryption
products due to national security issues. Encryption was seen as a “dual-use technology” which could have
both commercial and military value and was thus carefully monitored. The U.S. government would not
purchase any product that had not passed the “Federal Information Processing Standard” (FIPS)
certification tests. This would preclude any product that had encrypted data in China because “if you
encrypt data in China, you have to provide the Chinese government with the ability to access the keys.”55
Motorola 2007 10-K and http://www.motorola.com/mot/doc/6/6294_MotDoc.pdf
Business Monitor International, Asia Pacific Telecommunications Insight, January 2008, Issue 21.
Shanghai Daily, “Nokia files suit over alleged copy of model,” June 29, 2006, http://global.factiva.com, accessed April 16,
China,” September
http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/apr2006/tc20060413_266291.htm?chan=search, accessed April 16,
United Nations World Investment Report 2005, Transnational Corporations and the Internationalization of R&D, New York
and Geneva, 2005, p. 165.
E. Messmer, “Encryption Restrictions” and “Federal encryption purchasing requirements,” Network World, March 15,
2004, http://www.networkworld.com/careers/2004/0315man.html?page=1; accessed April 22, 2008.
Authorized for use only in educational programs at Athabasca University until Jan 15, 2016.
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the Indian Institute of Science (IISC) and the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT).50 Other
technology firms were also partnering with emerging market governmental and educational institutions to
secure a foothold in future markets. Cisco Systems, for example, a leading manufacturer of network
equipment, had recently announced a US$16 billion expansion plan into China, including investments in
manufacturing, venture capital and education. Working with China’s Ministry of Education, Cisco had
established 200 “Networking Academies” in 70 cities in China and had trained more than 90,000
Page 13
Even if these hurdles could be overcome, going global also brought with it additional challenges of
organizational design, communication, and integration between head office and other geographically
dispersed locations. Some competitors had chosen to expand globally by product line, while others had
outsourced less sensitive functions such as testing and documentation. Eastern European countries such as
Poland and Hungary, for example, were emerging as strong contenders for quality assurance testing. The
lower cost of labor in developing and transitional economies, however, was showing signs of inflationary
pressures in some locales and any planned savings might be somewhat offset by the increased monitoring,
coordination and integration costs. Furthermore, RIM was not set up to manage a multi-country research
consortium and the mindset in Waterloo was still very much such that core engineers needed to be seen to
be perceived as valuable. On the other hand, the potential could not be ignored. In China, where the
penetration rate was only 38 per cent, the Symbian OS system used in Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and
LG smartphones enjoyed a 68.7 per cent share, and iPhone sales had reached 400,000 “unlocked” units.57
In India, where the penetration rate stood at 21 per cent, Virgin Mobile had recently struck a brand
franchise agreement with Tata Teleservices, announcing plans to gain at least 50 million young subscribers
to its mobile services, generating estimated revenues of US$350 billion.58 The sheer number of potential
new users was overwhelming.
Looking at the holiday sales numbers and the projected growth for 2008, Yach took a minute to think about
the path he was on. He knew that first quarter revenue projections alone were estimated at $2.2 billion to
$2.3 billion and that RIM was expecting to add another 2.2 million BlackBerry subscribers by the end of
May 2008.59 At that rate, analysts projected that 2008 would bring at least another 70 per cent growth in
sales.60 Furthermore, Mike Lazaridis had recently said in an interview:
If you really want to build something sustainable and innovative you have to invest in
R&D. If you build the right culture and invest in the right facilities and you encourage and
motivate and inspire both young and seasoned people and put them all in the right
environment — then it really performs for you. It’s what I call sustainable innovation. And
it’s very different from the idea that you come up with something and then maximize
value by reducing its costs. But building a sustainable innovation cycle requires an
enormous investment in R&D. You have to understand all the technologies involved.61
Yach knew that his software developers were key to RIM’s continued success; he was committed to
delivering on the expectations for continued and sustainable growth in 2008 and beyond. Although he
wanted to keep growing organically, sourcing talent locally and bringing his engineers into the cultural
fold of RIM in Waterloo, he suspected this era was ending. In light of the unprecedented and exponential
N. Lakshman, “India wants to eavesdrop on BlackBerrys,” Business Week, April 1, 2008, http://global.factiva.com,
accessed April 7, 2008.
Business Monitor International, Asia Pacific Telecommunications Insight, April 2008, Issue 24.
Business Monitor International, Asia Pacific Telecommunications Insight, April 2008, Issue 24.
Press Release, April 2, 2008: http://www.rim.com/news/press/2008/pr-02_04_2008-01.shtml
http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/apr2008/id2008044_416784.htm?chan=search, accessed April 6, 2008.
Authorized for use only in educational programs at Athabasca University until Jan 15, 2016.
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India had also recently notified RIM that it planned to eavesdrop on BlackBerry users, claiming that
terrorists may be hiding behind the encrypted messages to avoid detection.56
Page 14
growth of the last year, coupled with the increasing competition and untapped global opportunities, he
needed a plan.
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Leaving the office after a hectic and frenetic first day back, Yach thought to himself — “How can I plan
for this growth when it is just one of 10 burning issues on my agenda? We can’t take a time-out to decide
how to execute the growth.” Grabbing the sales numbers to prepare for tomorrow’s meeting, Yach knew he
had the evening to consider the way ahead. The vacation was definitely over.
Page 15
Exhibit 1
Note: RIM Fiscal year ends in March (Fiscal 2008 is the year ending March 31, 2008)
Source: RIM Fiscal 2007 Annual Report and Fiscal 2008 Press Release (April 2, 2008)
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Page 16
Exhibit 2
Research In Motion Limited
Incorporated under the Laws of Ontario
(United States dollars, in thousands except per share data)
For the year ended
Mar. 1, 2008
Mar. 3, 2007
Mar. 4, 2006
Feb. 26, 2005
Feb. 28, 2004
Cost of sales
Gross margin
Research and development
Selling, marketing & admin.
Gross margin %
Income from operations
Investment income
Income before income taxes
Provision for income taxes
Net Income
Earnings per share
Source: Company Annual Reports; Fiscal 2008 form; Press Release, April 2, 2008, Research in Motion reports Fourth Quarter
and Year-End Results for Fiscal 2008, http://www.rim.com/news/press/2008/pr-02_04_2008-01.shtml
Authorized for use only in educational programs at Athabasca University until Jan 15, 2016.
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Page 17
Exhibit 3
1. BlackBerry® Enterprise Server : Robust software that acts as the centralized link between wireless devices,
wireless networks and enterprise applications. The server integrates with enterprise messaging and collaboration
systems to provide mobile users with access to email, enterprise instant messaging and personal information
management tools. All data between applications and BlackBerry® smartphones flows centrally through the server.
2. BlackBerry® Mobile Data System (BlackBerry MDS): An optimized framework for creating, deploying and
managing applications for the BlackBerry Enterprise Solution. It provides essential components that enable
applications beyond email to be deployed to mobile users, including developer tools, administrative services and
BlackBerry® Device Software. It also uses the same proven BlackBerry push delivery model and advanced security
features used for BlackBerry email.
3. BlackBerry Smartphones: Integrated wireless voice and data devices that are optimized to work with the
BlackBerry Enterprise Solution. They provide push-based access to email and data from enterprise applications and
systems in addition to web, MMS, SMS and organizer applications.
4. BlackBerry® Connect™ Devices: Devices available from leading manufacturers that feature BlackBerry push
delivery technology and connect to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
5. BlackBerry® Alliance Program: A large community of independent software vendors, system integrators and
solution providers that offer applications, services and solutions for the BlackBerry Enterprise Solution. It is
designed to help organizations make the most of the BlackBerry Enterprise Solution when mobilizing their
6. BlackBerry Solution Services: A group of services that include: BlackBerry® Technical Support Services,
BlackBerry® Training, RIM® Professional Services and the Corporate Development Program. These tools and
programs are designed to help organizations deploy, manage and extend their wireless solution.
Source: http://na.blackberry.com/eng/ataglance/solutions/architecture.jsp
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Page 18
Exhibit 4
RIM [email protected] Pager 850
BlackBerry 8820
RIM 957
BlackBerry Pearl 8110
BlackBerry 6200
BlackBerry Curve 8330
Source: http://www.rim.com/newsroom/media/gallery/index.shtml and Fortune, “BlackBerry: Evolution of an icon,” Jon Fortt,
Sept 21, 2007, accessed April 7, 2008: http://bigtech.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/blackberry-evolution-of-an-icon-photos-610/
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Page 19
Exhibit 5
Asia Pacific, 1,285.5
Western Europe, 505.1
Eastern Europe, 345.2
Latin America, 339.8
Middle East &
Africa, 299.5
North America, 271.6
Australasia, 25.0
Source: Created from data accessed from the Global Market Information Database, April 4, 2008,
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Page 20
Exhibit 6
In Millions (US$)
June 30/03
Dec. 31/03
Sept. 27/03
Dec. 31/04
June 30/04
Dec. 31/04
Sept. 25/04
Dec. 31/05
June 30/05
Dec. 31/05
Sept. 24/05
Dec. 31/06
June 30/06
Dec. 31/06
Sept. 30/06
Dec. 31/07
June 30/07
Dec. 31/07
Sept. 29/07
Feb. 28/04
May 31/03
Feb. 26/05
May 31/04
Mar. 4/06
May 31/05
Mar. 3/07
May 31/06
Proj. Mar./08
May 31/07
Note: Nokia 2007 includes Nokia Siemens.
Source: Company Annual Reports.
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Source: RIM Annual Reports.
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Page 21
Exhibit 7
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