The difference between Mike Lazaridis and Steve Jobs

Jonathan Geller, the Boy Genius, reports that Mike Lazardis was convinced of BlackBerry's superior design and feature focus, long after the proverbial ship hit the not-so-proverbial iceberg:

Picture yourself sitting in an executive briefing at Research In Motion. You’d hear Mike Lazaridis unequivocally state time and time again that BlackBerry smartphones would never have MP3 players or cameras in them because it just does not make sense when the company’s primary customers were the government and enterprise. “BlackBerry smartphones will never have cameras because the No. 1 customer of ours is the U.S. government,” Mike Lazaridis would say in meetings. “There will never be a BlackBerry with an MP3 player or camera.”

Compare and contrast with Steve Jobs who put sneaker to stage at WWDC 2007 and showed off the original iPhone, a device that eschewed the design of the market leaders of the day, RIM's BlackBerry and Palm's Treo line. Unlike almost everyone else at the time, the iPhone dropped the keyboard, and replaced the stylus with the finger and multitouch. RIM?

“When you hear Mike talk about the latest and greatest, it’s been the same thing for ten years: security, battery performance, and network performance. RIM has positioned battery life and network performance for years. People are not concerned with iPhone battery life,” one source told me. Network performance, to Mike, trumps any innovation a device like the iPhone offers. “Mike is convinced people won’t buy an iPhone because battery life isn’t as good as a BlackBerry,” a different source said. Mike apparently is in disbelief that people can use over 15GB of data on their iPhone and Android devices, and he feels that people will buy smartphones based on network efficiency, even though carriers with tiered data plans in developed markets love customers who use monstrous amounts of data.

Never mind that they eventually, reluctantly backtracked and shipped camera totting, MP3 rocking, Bold-ly branded, type-on-glass BlackBerrys of their own. They failed to see where the market was going, dismissed where it was, and seemed to only angrily react to where it had long since been. (And whether or not management has come to the personal realizations necessary to turn that around remains unclear.)

To their credit, Google rapidly switched Android from a BlackBerry clone to an iPhone clone. To their detriment, RIM just kept making BlackBerrys, the same ones that owned the world in 2006, long after the world had moved post-2007.

Steve Jobs, meanwhile, probably isn't waiting on anyone to obsolete the iPhone. He likely has all of Apple working on doing that themselves.


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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

The difference between Mike Lazaridis and Steve Jobs


There are a lot more similarities than differences between the two men.
Lazaridis, like Jobs, was a prime mover of a device that spawned a market, defined a generation, and made him a wealthy man.
Lazaridis, like Jobs, is laser-focused, egotistical, and stubborn to a fault.
The difference is that Lazaridis clung to his singular vision well after the public had passed it by. That stubbornness that drove RIM to such heights is proving to be his downfall. Jobs has either not hit that point yet, or has been wise enough to bend his vision when necessary, but out of the public eye.
That will be the true test of the difference between the two men, and the two companies - what will Jobs do when his vision is at odds with his customers? The lesson of Lazaridis should be that single-minded vision can lead to falls as quick and dramatic as rises.

For a company that still has a huge following, RIM sure has a lot of people in blogosphere talkin doom and gloom about them. Ahem...BGR...

BGR has always had it out for RIM, nothing new. This article reminds me of the people who quote ad nauseam that old “640K ought to be enough for anybody.” quote Bill Gates supposedly said.

Because blogs are the best place for hair-brained speculation.
RIM has had an alarming drop in marketshare. Now, they are nowhere near dead yet, but it does seem they need either to fundamentally rework part of their product line, or double down on what they've got. In other words, adapt their vision, or focus even stronger on it.
Which brings us back to the fun of hair-brained speculation :)

Um, in September 2006, RIM shipped the BlackBerry Pearl. It had - gasp - an MP3 player and a camera. And a name. And it came out four months before Steve Jobs had even said a word about the iPhone. Imagine that!
Frankly, I have to wonder what the Boy Genius is smoking these days. Then again, I've been wondering that for more than 2 years.

You might want to smoke what Stevie is smokin, cause when Q3 results are announced this week RIM will be even farther in Apple's rear view mirror.

Jobs is a brilliant man. He designs his products along with engineers not just for profit but they design the product that they actually like. The product not only suits public demand it is also the outcome of Steve jobs and his idealistic phone.

Free market vs control. Jobs will suffer the same fate as Lazardis if he goes against the consumers.

Apple's entire reason for existing(apart from making money), is to makes products that appeal to the average consumer first, the techie, power user, second.

Well, you another difference? Mike Lazaridis company never almost went bankrupt and had to reinvent itself, as for Apple, we all know the story.
It´s silly to compare Jobs, a man who has been in the industry for four decades and had his share of failures, with someone who has been running a company for a little over ten years, with much success by the way.
Jobs is not a deity, he got kicked out of Apple, went nowhere with NeXt, came back and learned from his mistakes. He is wise, not a god.

I would say Jobs is just more lucky than Lazardis. Jobs went after the average consumer and Lazardis went after the Fortune 500. Any smart businessman would go after the Fortune 500 before trying to sell a niche phone to hipsters. It just turned out that the iPhone morphed into something that appealed to both. However, if you remember, the original iPhone was really lacking in features compared to iPhone 4. Remember, copy and paste just came with iOS 3, and Apple resisted this for 2 years...

It's not luck. Jobs had no choice but to go after the consumer market. They knew they had a hit on their hands but the enterprise doesn't switch platforms that easy. Apple had to prove to the enterprise the benefits of the iPhone and give the phone more time to mature in terms of business features.

First, Apple ousted Jobs because his division was not doing well and Apple was accumulating major losses because of him. Sure, it did worse without him, but he was not kicked out because he was doing wonders for the company.
Second, by all standards NeXt was a huge failure, it sold over 50.000 computers in over ten years. It had a good OS that served as the basis for Mac OS, but then again that was based on Unix anyway, it was not a Jobs creation.
Third, Pixar was not created by Steve Jobs, it was already a quite successful animation studio when he came on board, and it did so poorly with Jobs that he wanted to sell it for years, even to Microsoft. Disney saved Pixar with a partnership for Toy Story and ended up buying it.
Can´t remember some of his failures? Try the Lisa, Apple III, the G4 Cube, Ping, the original Apple TV, MobileMe.

Plus 1. You nailed a few of the well known failures Apple has had when Steve was at the wheel.
Curious thing about this however. Steve has always been credited with ALL of Apple's success by the hardcore. It really has made me wonder many times just how much involvement he had with any number Apple's "Inventions/Innovations" as he has been given credit for. But that's fine if that's how the hardcore want it. He gets credit for all the success he also gets credit for ALL of the failure.
I had long since switched to Windows and watched as Apple languished in it's self inflated glory of being almost unusable. The hardcore wanted him back. OK they got him and he delivered the iMac. A computer that was horrendously unusable yet again. But the geeky college kid had to have it in the dorm. And it was just as bad there as it was anywhere else. I now am the proud owner of an iMac 27" that I love. So they learned from their mistakes.
As for the all mighty iPhone (and I have a white iPhone 4 myself on Verizon), it is an exceptional product and although it is technically my wife's as it's her line it's on, I take full credit for it because it was me who went and upgraded her to it in the first place. Oh and I loaded ALL the apps I could that were comparable from the Android Market to the App Store. I also bought all the music she had on her sd card in iTunes and loaded that for her.
You see I'm genius too! Just like Steve. And that's how it starts. He is just a man who has a pretty good business sense. But he's made plenty of mistakes along the line people so let's drop the deity worship.
And since I'll probably get mud thrown at me I'll add this; If Steve Jobs is so wonderful at business, why is not able to translate that success to his personal life? His first child that he disowned and later started trying to be a father to can answer that I bet. I don't remember the last time I read a negeative article about Mike Lazaridis being an absentee father or bad husband. Or Bill Gates, Andy Rubin, Steve Ballmer etc etc etc. Take the whole picture into account as you set someone up for the highest accolades. A truly successful person isn't measured in their business life alone.

Jobs will change the TV business? Umm please tell me how? With Apple TV? He has a long long long long long way to go if that is his vision. As big as Apple has gotten it's the ever looming wall they are rushing headlong into that will bring them to a halt. That wall is called the US Gov't and it's antitrust lawyers/regulations. They will swoop in well before Steve Jobs has a chance to alter TV. And who knows he may live to see it.

Facts are mean spirited? Look the guy has ever increasing health issues. Like him or not that's a fact. He will probably die sooner rather than later. I've never cared for his manner, but I respect his business sense. His taking care of himself sense leaves much to question however.

No, but anticipating somebody's death is. Do you speak anticipatory about
your grandmother's death is right? Same thing.

Jeezus Krist, I'm so tired of hearing that android was a BlackBerry clone. That prototype model was just that...a prototype. We do not know what else Google had in the pipeline for phones.
I don't expect a blind fankid like Rene to think of this though.