Remember those stories about BlackBerry maker RIM working on what they internally referred to as an "Apple Killer"? Remember how that turned out for them with the BlackBerry Storm and BlackBerry Torch? Well, it turns out everyone has Verizon and AT&T to thank for that. Shocking, right?
A new round of interviews with former RIM employees has revealed that AT&T and Verizon had recruited RIM to make an iPhone competitor. We all know how that panned out. Verizon's earlier efforts resulted in the BlackBerry Storm, while AT&T's created the BlackBerry Torch. Vodafone had also collaborated with RIM to specifically launch something that could give iPhone a decent fight. Why would AT&T, which at the time had an exclusive lockdownon the iPhone, and Verizon, who had been clamoring for it, want to go out of their way to create a competitor? Supposedly carriers were worried that "the wild popularity of the iPhone could give Apple outsize influence in the market," which I take to mean Apple was throwing its weight around a little too liberally for the new guy on the block, and service providers needed to prove they had alternatives in order to maintain any bargaining leverage against Apple.
At the time, AT&T's network was in shambles, and maybe they hoped to offset some of the load with a device that offered efficient data compression. Verizon had some time to kill before AT&T's exclusive ended, so any phone (BlackBerry, Android, or otherwise) that would be an asset to keeping subscribers from drifting away. Apparently co-CEO Jim Balsillie saw and ignored a report in 2010 that warned virtual keyboards made popular by the iPhone would pose a serious threat. Balsillie also wasn't worried about the bring-your-own-device trend in businesses after seeing another similar internal report. Now RIM's device management solution supports iPhone and Android, and Balsillie's later plans to license usage of RIM services to other manufacturers were cut when Heins took up the CEO position.
Things are looking grim for RIM now that their next generation smartphones won't see the light of day until next year. Considering Heins is fully investigating licensing and acquisition deals, BlackBerry probably won't have another chance to compete against the iPhone or iPad. Can they finally nail it with BlackBerry 10?
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Editor-at-very-large at Mobile Nations, gamer, giant.