Four rocky moments for RIM

While Research In Motion still commands respect for the way it revolutionized the mobile phone industry, all has not been so rosy for the Waterloo, Ont.-based firm in recent months.
Shareholders walk past a protest sign outside at the Research in Motion annual meeting in Waterloo, Ont., on July 12, 2011. (Dave Chidley/Dave Chidley)

Research In Motion's reputation for reliability used to be the envy of the high-tech world.

But while the pride of Waterloo, Ont., still commands respect for the way it revolutionized the mobile phone industry with its secure, encrypted emailing and reliable networks, all has not been so rosy for the firm these past few months.

Four incidents stand out in particular.

BlackBerry PlayBook

An employee holds a BlackBerry PlayBook at the Research In Motion annual meeting in Waterloo, Ont., on July 12, 2011. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

RIM was slow off the mark bringing out a tablet to rival Apple's iPad, observers said. Over and over again, in fact.

RIM countered that it was aiming for a different market segment and trying to meet the demands of the company's existing customer base.

But the PlayBook received lukewarm reviews on its launch, with observers finding several technical aspects to like, but concluding it seemed like an unfinished product rushed to market and sadly lacking in apps.

Since then, sales have languished and two of Canada's largest electronics retailers have cut PlayBook prices by $100.


At one time, observers considered RIM unassailable when it came to phones. The sleek Curve and Bold models did well for the company.

But the hugely dynamic cellphone market prizes innovation and RIM was criticized for not refreshing its lineup as quickly as customers were looking for new products.

The BlackBerry Torch was supposed to bring back some of RIM's edge, but its reception has been lukewarm, too.

Financial roller-coaster

On the corporate front, RIM has traditionally been a market leader, particularly in Canada. But in the wake of its most recent financial report, which saw net earnings fall 58 per cent, several analysts cut their price targets for the company’s shares and some called for a shakeup in the top leadership.

After the company announced in July that it was cutting 2,000 jobs to streamline its business and lower costs, some analysts speculated the company should abandon the consumer market and focus on its bread-and-butter corporate and government business.

RIM shares shot up more than five per cent in September 2011 on speculation that activist U.S. investor Carl Icahn had bought into the company. But then its stock was hit again in October by a bout of network turbulence.

Network turbulence

Unique in the cellphone market, RIM controls its own network, a fact that has been considered one of its strengths.

But the recent global outage — apparently traced to a faulty switch in England — put much of that network out of comission for almost four days and showed that it could also be an Achilles heel for a firm long regarded for its reliability.