Hey RIM, Malcolm Gladwell says bronze is the new gold!

By Ryan Blundell on 25 Jun 2011 08:47 pm EDT

go for the bronze

Last Monday, at the annual Cannes Film festival, Canadian-born author Malcolm Gladwell made a statement in regards to the business world; in so many words getting the bronze is worth more than getting the gold. What that means is that it’s not always who does it first, it’s who does it best. More often than not the ‘late-starter’ ends up being more successful. I guess you could say it’s a modern day take on Aesop’s Tortoise and the Hare. In his speech, Gladwell didn’t actually call out RIM by name, but he did allude to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and how his ability to come fashionably late to the party has definitely paid off; even the biggest BlackBerry abusers can admit that. As he said, it’s not necessarily the innovators, but the “tweakers and implementers” who create profitable businesses.

“If you look at the history of Apple, they’re always the last to the party,” said Mr. Gladwell. “They’ve made a business out of being late.” Steve Jobs, he added, “is the archetypal entrepreneur of our age, right? And he is not an innovator, right? He’s the guy who comes second or third and makes it better.”

RIM did come out with the PlayBook long after the iPad made its debut, but has been heavily criticized (I still love it though). Now think about it for a minute, RIM was the leader of the pack for a long, long time. Those who have been nipping at its heels on the hardware and software side are now giving them a run for their money. It wasn’t necessarily ground-breaking, brand spanking new inventions that brought humanity to a new level of awareness. It was a tweak and a twist of a pre-existing product or idea. So maybe RIM should block out the deafening cries for something no one has seen before, so that they can work on implementation versus innovation think of the -. Take a bite out of Apple with a riper BlackBerry. It’s worked vice versa.

Source: Globe and Mail

Reader comments

Hey RIM, Malcolm Gladwell says bronze is the new gold!


Apple was anything but last in computers. They were one of the first, followed by a company called IBM, and a horder of others like Atari, Commodore, Osborne, and some failed attempts to create yet another system. All those post-Apple/IBM systems, most notably the Amiga which was superior in many ways (some that haven't been surpassed even 26 years later), failed because they came too late when there was no longer room for a "third platform", or a 4th or 5th. It's like trying to start a 3rd political party in the US.

So I don't agree with the guy saying you can show up late and win by being better. Apple was actually first with what bought them success -- making a computer for ordinary people, and a phone that's just a big touch screen requiring no stylus.

Most times, who's first with something has big advantage -- they take over as the standard, and have the patents, too.

The truth is he is... but he is not the greatest. Why? Because, the world's first touch screen was made by Japanese and another Asian company called HTC. Apple just made it batter. More than half of the Apple "innovations" are "outsourced". The Apple iOS was developed by a chief engineer who is a South Asian and only tweaking was done in USA. Apple chip sets were developed by Japanese and only again tweaking was done on it in USA.

Many people don't know this... SAME goes to RIM and many North American companies.

I guess you mean the world's first touchscreen phone right? Since touchscreens in general have been around for decades.

You said it right :D

First touch screen I ever saw, was a CRT one, or an actual film that connected to the COM port and sat over the existing monitor. That's 20 years ago :)

This is a crock of crap. Steve W & Steve J turned the world on to a Useable Friendly Computer. Their fan club grew and their arrogance let Microsoft take the market. They both left the company and it floundered with management Worse than RIM's, if you can believe that. Then the "Innovator" Steve Jobs came back, and yes he is an innovator and one hell of a salesman, and it is very evident what has happened. RIM is not going out of business, but thru their lack of innovation they will be lucky if they can hold on to a number 3 position in the world. They will probably end up number 4 because Nokia will reinvent itself faster and they can produce at a lower cost. The only salvation for RIM to become a world class leader again is to replace management with someone that can "Innovate & Inspire & most of all Deliver"! Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

I do think it's possible (plausible) that RIM may drop to 4th for a while... But, I think of all the companies out there that RIM holds the better hand. Holding the QNX card and the "debt free" cards are a big deal. RIM is a BILLION dollar company that hold no real debt; that's impressive and leaves much room for possibility. I think it is more than likely that in the next few years when the QNX phones start emerging that the coveted #1 spot could very well be theirs again.

What are you smoking in your pipe?

While i'm sure Jim and Mike's vision ended at the Bold 9700, that's not to say they can't redefine their goals for the handheld market and re-evaluate their longterm goals. Both of them have the qualities of great leadership, but they lack the charisma that Steve Jobs has.

Besides... iOS will only take Apple so far, at some point they will need to undergo a big shift to replace an aging iOS... think Apple can accomplish that any faster?

Just because they have to replace it eventually, doesn't mean they have to beat RIM to a QNX-based phone OS. iOS 5 basically takes all the best features of the other SmartPhone OSes out there and adds them to what is already an incredibly popular operating system.

Plus, do you really think Apple hasn't already thrown resources at the next generation OS? They have money to burn right now and they spend it on product development. So yes, I have to believe that based on RIM's recent performance, Apple can get there faster.

"Get there faster" doesn't establish longevity. RIM has esablished themselves with that longevity. I think that the Android and iOS platforms are great, however, as time has proven over and over again, technology changes and fads come and go. I think the whole Android and Apple kick will change eventually, and maybe some new brand will emerge... or maybe (and probably)RIM will make a comeback with a new strategy and with QNX. I remain hopeful.

I smoke a brand called Reality in my pipe. It's hard to find sometimes for nearsighted folks. Jim & Mike are past tense. If they have vision it is lost in some kind of fog. They might have qualities that can lead this company out of doom, but they sure as hell ain't showing it.

If they have any respect for this company at all they would realize the facts. Change can be painfull but it is necessary when vision, which relates to innovation, is lost.

The best thing they could do for RIM is to find a Whiz Bang, gonna be another Jobs leader, Hire him or her, get the hell ot of the way, and let it happen. If they keep running things by the time they "Collectively" figure anything out the world will be 3 more light years down the road. You should try Reality, it's a good brand.

Wow, you have some pent up anger towards RIM or something? The only reality is the one you perceive. I think your preception of reality is different from the actual truth.

You believe that because someone makes a mistake that they are unable to learn from them? Both Jim and Mike make the mistake of letting the competition pass them by, and they are making attempts to turn it around. They have grown RIM from nothing to one of the most influential tech companies in the world, and that deserves not only respect - but at the very least some time to fix their mistakes.

With all the negativity surrounding these Jim/Mike, i can't imagine how they must feel given what they've done for the world of mobile communication. They are intelligent people, and they know they've made a mistake... and the people who bitch and moan and want them to resign are impatient and short-sighted.

You have a very kind and humane approach to big business, which is uncommon. I don't mean that as an attack. I thought it was nice to read but not very realistic. At this level, you have so much responsibility for people's financial well-being, to suggest that we should not hold leaders accountable for mistakes that stretch out over two years is not an easily arguable position. Let's not forget that employees will now lose their jobs. Investors have lost money, which they've invested in good faith. A momentary slip-up is one thing but to have lost contact with the entire market for this long, all while media has been screaming for you to take notice, is pretty much unforgivable. People are fired for much less.

RIM needs to stop trying to be the GM of mobiles ... Slim down on the amount of products that you have out there and master a few. Apple is whooping you by developing one iPhone form factor per year with various amounts of memory. it's an OS world out there so stop trying to please us with different form factors and hit us off with an innovative OS.

If you choose to not listen to your users then fail like stubborn mules.

Yeah, that's it IMO, there are too many models, and too many cheap models. When Apple comes out with a new OS, it runs on the newest devices and also at least the previous 2 generations of older devices, because they were given hardware able to run the original OS plus the next couple. But RIM can't do that, i.e. OS 7 will be phased in gradually over a few years instead of a few months, because of all the cheap models that are unable to run a more demanding OS.

That gives Apple the ability to improve existing models, while RIM is still shipping OS 4.6 while coming out with OS 7, and there are still many models being sold that can't even run OS 6.

Seriously ? You want to pat them on the back and say " It's OK, little buddy ?" Are you being facetious ? Rant on iOS and how it will only take Apple so far, but good grief... the user experience is leaps and bounds ahead of what I had with a BB. I've used both. BB might get their share of the Business Tablet Market - simply because of flash and java. As for the rest of us who simply want to interact with the rest of the world - and not just the BBM crowd - it is much easier and (for me) more enjoyable - on the iPhone and iPad.

BB users live on promises of things everyone else is already delivering. Why ? By the time RIM gets around to polishing ANYTHING, they will be another generation behind the leaders - unless Apple and HTC decide they also want to pull a RIM - and rest on their laurels.

Blackberry is not going to get their share of any tablet market unless they can come up with something that is way better. The US Government is buying ipads for their pilots by the tens of thousands. ipads are being integrated into general and commercial aviation as we speak. Android is being adopted by IT departments and secure communications are being developed by the competition that will challenge BB's stronghold, and the Nokia - Microsoft element has not even entered the picture. Think they are sitting on the sidelines sucking their thumb, I don't think so. This is going to be quite interesting to see who is on first. Reality can be painfull sometimes.

RIM makes the best smartphones on the market. They have the best features of any competing brand;

- Longest battery life;
- Data compression;
- BBM;
- Push Email;
- Reliability and robustness;
- Product Breath;
- QWERTY keyboard;

Steve Jobs has an amazing eye for technology and a vision for the market. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a person, but what Apple investors fail to realize is that Steve is Apple and without Steve, Apple is nothing. If you take a serious look at the iPhone and it's capability you will find it is nothing more than a glorified iPod. The device has no battery life and barely operates as a phone, yet it has taken the consumer market by storm. Only the magic of Steve Jobs could accomplish this.

RIM does truly have great products with the functionality that makes them highly efficient and effective communication devices. RIM has underestimated the consumer market but they have made acquisitions (QNX, TAT, Tungle) to correct for their short sight. RIM can make improvements to their organization and how they come to market with new products. Apple is not RIMs problem. RIMs problem is Steve Jobs!

RIM makes slow and laggy smartphones, which need to be reset often, and I still can't believe you ever have to actually pull the battery. Plus a difficult to use app store.

What crack are you smoking? Spoken like a true hater.

Why do so many haters out there troll RIM sites and post nonsense post like the one above! Sound like you wish your smartphone could deliver the performance of a BB. I am the first to admit that the BB OS is not as flashy as iOS or Anroid but the functionality of BB is second to none!

I have a colleague who constantly has his iPhone plugged in for a charge. I can go 2 days of heavy usage before I need an outlet. Never mind comparing our dataplan costs.

I prefer the Steak over the sizzle - Thank you very much!

Before someone calls me a RIM fanboy - I own an iPod, MacBook Pro, Apple Extreme Wireless Hub, BB PlayBook and a Bold 9700. I buy the best products that meet my needs. I don't buy products because they look good or because Steve Jobs tells me to.

Wow, I can not believe how many mindless people there are in this world. Can you say SHEEPLE! God Bless us and protect us from the infidels!

I think the lack of apps is the sticking point for me. BBs lack a flashy OS, which is fine, but to me what is worst is their lack of useful, consumer-friendly apps. There are several major apps that aren't available on BBs because it's too much trouble to develop on such a fragmented OS ecosystem, and most importantly on such underpowered devices. This is where RIM is stuck, IMO. If they power their devices with better processors they give up battery life. If they keep weak processors, they're basically like word processors in a world of computers. People don't live in the office and need more from their personal devices these days. Battery technology hasn't caught up with handset tech yet but it will. Once it does, I'm afraid that will be the final nail in the coffin for RIM. But time will tell. I hope they start innovating again before we have to find out whether I'm right or wrong.

I don't see the tradeoff "if they power their devices with better processors they give up battery life". My Torch is MUCH faster than my 9650, and also gets MUCH better battery life. I'd say it's twice as fast and gets twice as much battery life per use at the same time.

If they put a junk CPU in the phone, it can both consume power and be slow. And a good CPU can be faster and last longer.

On everything else, I agree with you

I'd rather they make the circuitry and software more efficient than put more joules in the battery. It's probably already enough to incinerate my leg to the bone if it shorts out. The less energy I have to carry in my pocket, the less potential for getting hurt by it.

Sometime get a simulator and trace through all the stuff that happens when the display updated just once. It's a wonder the battery doesn't die faster with all that ridiculous amount of unnecessary work going on constantly.

Something I laugh about is how animations and fades have become "mandatory" in phones now. If they let us turn all that stuff off, I think it would double battery life. Visual effects are fine, but when I can't make an emergency call because the frappin' Steve Jobs style animations drained the battery by using a trillion extra CPU cycles, that is just insane.

I used to own a Torch and iPhone 4:

- Longest battery life? Not by a mile, I had to charge my Torch every night, sometimes it wouldn't even get me through the day with LIGHT use. My iPhone 4 usually gets me through 2 days.

- Data Compression? Sure. Only because the OS is outdated and the rendering of sites and video playback is weak. iOS data use is so smooth you can't help but want to get on the internet just for fun.

- BBM? iMessage coming to iOS 5.

- Push email? I'm so tired of people using this as a selling-point. sure it's probably better than iOS but iPHONES HAVE PUSH EMAIL!

- Reliability and robustness? I'll take your word for it, but I will say my iPhone 4 is way more reliable and robust than my Torch ever was.

- Product breath? What the hell does that even mean? If it has product breath it probably also has halitosis.

- QWERTY keyboard? Yep... for the people that still care about that, it sure sports one.

Believe it or not, I really like BlackBerry, but they're far from the best phones on the market.

If Apple is so great because of their innovator Jobs, then one can assume they will nosedive again when his health finally fails him. People with Job's type of health problems don't bounce back with a clean bill of health. Odds are pretty soon he will be taking another leave of absence and an interim CEO will be eventually become permanent. And eventually isn't 10 years down the road either.

Which ever side of the discussion you are on, it's still only a phone and many change their phones like they change their socks. I think this is all coming down to segmenting the handset market into who's eco-system works best for you and the handset becoming largely irrelevant.

Both Apple and Google look at the handset as a revenue collection device and are furiously building eco-systems to capitalize of this captive market. RIM makes communications and productively devices and has been slammed for it's lack of apps or, putting a different way, its very light touch on exploitation opportunities within it's user base. However, I suspect they will be forced to enter this market as profits from the devices will shift more to services and away from hardware.

So, if you like having access all the consumer oriented services and are not irritated with the constant flow of solicitations, then Apple and Google are for you. If you want a more insular experience and find good communication and productivity tools a priority, then RIM might the better choice.

Apps might be a way to expose users to more profitable opportunities for the corporations and what not, but that's how things in most monetary-systems work. Everything is about making more money, which encourages companies to put more features into their product so they can be the best. With that said, I believe that RIM's failure(or perhaps lackluster performance) in the app arena has nothing to do with lack of focus on apps, developers just don't want to develop for BlackBerry for numerous reasons. Plus to say that Apple and Google are exploiting their customers is a little unfair because of all the top three app stores - BB App World, App Store and Android Market - BlackBerry is arguably the weakest, yet the most expensive by multiple amounts; Androids are the cheapest by a little bit and offer the most free apps; Apple offers the widest variety of apps that are barely more expensive than Android on average, but have arguably the best quality.

@EchoTango well put....sir. Your last paragraph is on point.

I have been a RIM fanboy since switching from my trusty Palm Treo to the first blackberry Curve 8300 I believe. Simply put RIM revolutionized the way I communicate on a mobile device. I think is was the brilliant combination of the full qwerty keyboard resting neatly/comfortably in my hands plus the ease of shooting out an email, SMS, BBM, quickly adding an event/task/appoint to my calendar. This was communication/productivity heaven for me.

Today I hesitate to give up all this functionality for an iPhone/Android etc because I have devices like the ipod touch and ipad to feed my app/entertainments needs. My blackberry is a single task device, it is used only for my communication and productivity needs.

I agree with the premise of Malcolm Gladwell's speech "it’s not necessarily the innovators, but the “tweakers and implementers” who create profitable businesses." I do not think "innovation" is what RIM needs at this time. The past innovations by RIM have been forced and have been poor responses to their competitors. This is why I think "innovations" like the Torch/PlayBook devices were not necessary and I dare say not received well. But "tweaks" to an already successful and well received line (the CURVE) resulted in classic devices like the Bold 9000 and the Bold 9700. To me these tweaks are examples of the type of responses RIM should be making today to address the current market pressures. Focus on what you do best and tweak it accordingly to address the evolving needs of your user base.

RIM needs to get back to basics and understand why people CHOOSE their phones over other phones that have better apps/eco-systems or whatever the new shinny thing is today. There is a CORE non-financial reason why thousands if not millions of BB users out there have a vested interest in the success of RIM and are sticking it out during this rough time for RIM. RIM needs to get back to basics and understand the WHY behind this reasoning before it is too late.


I think the PlayBook and the Storm were mistakes, too busy trying to copy Apple instead of improving what they were already good at. Message app still has plenty of room for improvement -- for example why is it so slow? Why can't I download something after opening it accidentally? The keyboard action is good but the newer keyboard tend to push your finger off the key you're trying to press, it's actually worse than a virtual keyboard that way IMO. If they focused on, as you say, tweaking and better implementing what they've already got, they might have held more market share. They were ahead in certain areas, and are losing the lead where they had it while trying to catch up in areas that really aren't their business.