John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Canada’s Worried About BlackBerry, and It Should Be

BlackBerry_Canadian_FlagWatching a pioneering company like BlackBerry founder after a long history of success and innovation isn’t easy. Not for its leadership and employees. Not for its shareholders and loyalists. And not for Canada, whose government has in the past described BlackBerry as the country’s “crown jewel” and one of its great entrepreneurial success stories.

Indeed, the Canadian government is watching BlackBerry’s sad diminution with increasing unease. In an interview with Reuters, James Moore, Canada’s Minister of Industry, said he’s “keeping a close eye” on the smartphone maker.

“I know that they’re facing their challenges and they’re adjusting their firm internally in the way that best suits their interests,” he said. “… We want them to do well, keep employing Canadians, keeping putting out innovative technologies and platforms, and we’re paying close attention.”

An obvious and understandable position. After all, this isn’t the first time that a pillar of Canadian innovation and success has collapsed in the wake of some unfortunate strategic decisions. Recall that former Toronto tech giant Nortel Networks failed rather spectacularly a few years back. That was a body blow to Canada’s tech ecosystem and Canadian pride, both. And, given BlackBerry’s quickening downward spiral over the past few years, the Nortel comparison is one that’s becoming easier to make by the day.

Which is really too bad, because BlackBerry’s failure — if it should come — likely has long-term implications for Canada’s tech industry. BlackBerry is a big employer in the country, and the company that spends a ton of money locally on R&D. If the company is unable to overcome the major tactical challenges it currently faces, well, that doesn’t bode well for Canada’s Silicon Valley, which is rightfully situated in BlackBerry’s hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo.

“Blackberry’s downfall is a black eye for the country’s tech sector as the once mighty RIM has now fallen,” Wedge Partners analyst Brian Blair told AllThingsD. “But I think the good news is that the prior success of the company has generated a startup tech culture that we’re likely to see the fruits of in the years to come.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik