September 24, 2020

BY WHITNEY SOUTH

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, or in the newly named BlackBerry’s case, a little sour.

For anyone living in Kitchener-Waterloo, regardless of your personal smartphone choices, Research in Motion (RIM) was a source of local pride. Everyone in town knew someone who worked for the company and envied them for their epic Christmas parties and occasional impromptu private concerts featuring everyone from Aerosmith to The Tragically Hip.

For me, owning a BlackBerry was my way of helping the local economy and I was happy to stand by them, but when the product plummeted below standard, my support wavered.

Despite heckling from friends and family still devoted to RIM, I wasn’t able to justify hanging on to an inferior product purely based on company loyalty. Respect is something that needs to be earned and maintained in the global marketplace.

The company who helped put Waterloo, Ont., on the technological map had dropped the ball. Regardless of where their head office was located, I jumped ship and turned to the iPhone.

Obviously, I wasn’t alone.

Due to weak returns in early 2012, RIM cut approximately 2,000 jobs including 1,000 in Waterloo Region alone.

This past summer the company stated it would be cutting another 5,000 jobs over the following three quarters while pushing the launch of their expected saviour, the BlackBerry 10, even further into 2013.

As RIM’s employees started to join the unemployment line, the company’s revenue fell 43 per cent to $2.8 billion US compared to $4.9 billion for the first quarter of 2012.

Losing their footing in the marketplace seemed to come as a shock to some and employees started worrying about job security after years of being tied to the biggest ticket in town.

So, when BlackBerry 10 launched earlier this month I was pretty shocked at the amount of fanfare attached to the event. I understand the company is banking on this new product to pull them out of the mud, but at what point do you draw the line as far as respecting those you’ve laid off and tossed to the curb in your pursuit of higher profit margins?

Reading about the frivolous spending and excess involved in launching this new cellphone, not to mention adding Alicia Keys to their payroll as the company’s global creative director, made my blood boil. I can only imagine what it must’ve been like for a friend of my family who now, at over 50 years of age, is working at Tim Hortons after being laid off from RIM earlier this year.

According to BlackBerry president and CEO, Thorsten Heins, the launch of their new BlackBerry 10 devices was their most successful release in Canada to date.

However, the future success of the company is going to depend on more than a new name, some new apps and a flashy celebrity endorsement.

If BlackBerry really wants to regain customer loyalty they need to concentrate less on the glitz and more on rehiring those who have lost their jobs and make sure they’re putting out a quality product.

Some will be able to forgive but Waterloo may find it harder to forget.