Senior RIM executive claims developers hate BlackBerry, but company brands issues as 'transitional problems'

Firm finds objections 'difficult to believe'

Senior RIM executive claims developers hate BlackBerry, but company brands issues as 'transitional problems'
The validity of an open letter supposedly written by a 'senior RIM executive' was always going to be called into question, given the anonymous nature of the author.

Nonetheless, it's hard to argue his or her assessment of RIM's current situation.

The letter in question breaks the issues down into eight key areas covering everything from consolidating RIM's focus on a few key products to democratising decisions taken by the company.


It even calls on co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie to step down and take on other, more focused, roles within the firm.

But it's the executive's take on app development on BlackBerry platforms that will likely strike the biggest chord within the games industry.

Developer downer

"We urgently need to invest like we never have before in becoming developer friendly," reads the letter, calling on RIM to put developer relations ahead of those fostered with carriers.

"There is no polite way to say this, but it's true - BlackBerry smartphone apps suck. Even PlayBook, with all its glorious power, looks like a Fisher Price toy with its Adobe AIR/Flash apps."

Said executive describes developing on BlackBerry as "painful", comparing the platform to a "run down 1990's Ford Explorer" to Apple's "shiny new BMW M3".

"Developers want and need quality tools," the letter continues.

"The truth is, no one in RIM dares to tell management how bad our tools still are.

"Even our closest dev partners do their best to say it politely, but they will never bite the hand that feeds them. The solution? Recruit serious talent, buy SDK/API specialist companies, throw a truckload of money at it. Let’s do whatever it takes, and quickly!"

The trials of transition

In its response – posted on the firm's website – RIM says it finds it "difficult to believe that a 'high level employee' in good standing with the company would choose to anonymously publish a letter on the web rather than engage their fellow executives in a constructive manner".

It also makes no attempt to respond to the concerns expressed about developing on BlackBerry platforms, with RIM instead choosing to claim many of the problems are due to the transitional nature of the company.

"RIM recently confirmed that it is nearing the end of a major business and technology transition," the response begins.

"Although this transition has taken longer than anticipated, there is much excitement and optimism within the company about the new products that are lined up for the coming months.

"There is a fundamental business reality however that following an extended period of hyper growth (during which RIM nearly quadrupled in size over the past 5 years alone), it has become necessary for the company to streamline its operations in order to allow it to grow its business profitably while pursuing newer strategic opportunities."

On top of the issues

RIM adds its management team "takes these challenges seriously" and the company is "actively addressing the situation" but, crucially, it makes no admission that any of the points brought up in the letter are on the money.

Instead, the response talks up the company's current position – stating RIM "still shipped 13.2 million BlackBerry smartphones last quarter" despite slowing growth in the US market – presumably attempting to allay any concerns shareholders may have as a result of the letter.

"The company is thankfully in a solid business and financial position to tackle the opportunities ahead with a solid balance sheet (nearly $3 billion in cash and no debt), strong profitability (RIM’s net income last quarter was $695 million) and substantial international growth," the response concludes.

"RIM is more committed than ever to serving its loyal customers and partners around the world."

[source: RIM]

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.