When Apple launched their first iPhone in 2007, one of the comments from the CEO of Research in Motion (the company that created the Blackberry) was, “Why would anyone want to watch a video on a phone?” Obviously, he did not see the future.
Failing to see the future, failing to understand the difference between hard trends (trends that will happen) and soft trends (trends that might happen), is what often causes companies to fall behind. With today’s rapid pace of technological change, falling behind can mean you may never catch up.
Since the first iPhone was launched, Research in Motion (RIM) has had plenty of time to learn its lesson. But have they? The company is close to launching the new Blackberry 10 operating system, hoping it will give new life to RIM, which has been struggling since the iPhone came out.
Unfortunately, based on the current CEO’s comments, RIM has failed, yet again, to see the future. Their lack of apps for the Blackberry compared to their competition is very apparent, but according to the current CEO, that doesn’t matter. As he says, “What we’re going to focus on is a few really good apps, because there are a lot of bad apps in the Apple store, bad apps in the Google store. There are also a lot of apps that business users don’t need.”
His comment, which is correct, basically states that there are hundreds of thousands of apps that business users aren’t interested in. However, he fails to see that business users are personally interested in many of those non-business apps, and they want smart phones that can use them. Additionally, people want innovative apps that take advantage of new smart phone features and give them amazing new capabilities. They want new apps that solve their personal and professional problems. And the most creative developers are creating apps for the biggest ecosystems (Apple and Google), because that’s where they have the biggest potential of making money. In fact, it’s naïve for Blackberry’s CEO to think that just focusing on a relatively few really good apps is going to outweigh the problem of not having a big app ecosystem.
RIM has also failed to see that Apple has developed a total business ecosystem, where they are not just building smart phones, tablets, and computers that connect to iTunes. They also have an integrated supply chain, demand chain, and collaborative logistics system. All of these things are global, integrated, and getting bigger and better each day, creating a much larger ecosystem than simply having a good app store.
So here’s the point. It used to be that the big ate the small. Now, the fast eat the slow. RIM was a leader until the iPhone came along and changed the game. But RIM didn’t recognize the game had changed. They didn’t recognize what the iPhone had done—that Apple transformed what a smart phone could do. Apple recognized that people want abundance and unlimited innovation from inside as well as outside of Apple. Innovation, not scarcity, is what defines success. RIM’s scarcity model won’t fly in a world of increasing abundance.
These days, speed is important. So when you see a game change take place, it doesn’t mean you’re dead in the water. Rather, it means you need to act fast, bold, and decisive. RIM acted slowly. They weren’t bold. They weren’t decisive. They didn’t recognize the hard trends until they were well in place, and then they kept trying to catch up—a game that will no longer work.
The message to all businesses is clear: All companies need to notice when the game has changed, and when that happens; they need to take action quickly. Moving slowly when there’s a new, game-changing hard trend will only put you farther and farther behind, until it gets to be too late. So don’t fall behind. Use the predictability of hard trends to anticipate, act quickly, and lead.