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changed us is that Mike has more white hair and I just have less of it
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As Team Lazaridis worked away in the labs and assembly shops of Waterloo, they were constantly evaluating new technology, with feedback from Team Balsillie s customers out in the marketplace If need be, Mike s hardware ninjas invented and patented tech solutions on the y Driven by customer demand and competition from older companies such as Palm and newer catch-up devices from Asia, the team worked on packing more and better hardware into their prototype BlackBerrys, evaluating and testing smaller and more powerful radios and embedded antennas, or ner screens and speakers, or new battery technology, USB chargers or easierto-use keyboards and peripheral ports Over a seven-year period, from 2002 to 2008, Team Lazaridis bolted on to the BlackBerry a dazzling array of new hardware features: 2002 cell phone service with international roaming; rechargeable lithium battery 2003 color display and Bluetooth 2004 the SureType compacted keyboard 2005 high-speed EDGE network access and camera 2006 MicroSD card expansion slot and trackball 2007 stereo headphone jack; speakerphone; Media Manager 2008 Wi-Fi; internal GPS; 3G; Click-Through touch screen Driven by Turing s dictum that software always replaces hardware, RIM s code warriors constantly tweaked the little machines
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to deliver more and better computing power, to match advances in the memory and processors used in newer BlackBerrys, all the while maintaining the same obsession with battery life In most cases they serviced a growing demand from BlackBerry customers and wireless partners for a ner and more featurepacked product line But they also had to drive down costs New hardware platforms such as today s BlackBerry Bold, and new network options such as 3G, have higher costs that can t always be passed on to the customers The company takes open bull sessions seriously Balsillie says, We make a point of getting together nearly every week and throwing around ideas about where we go next, what can we do We ve never had trouble recruiting bright people, and keeping bright people Our turnover rate is less than one percent That s unheard of So that tells you that there s always a sense of challenge to do new things in a new way in the air, or we wouldn t keep these people They d get bored RIM invests about 6 percent of sales on research and development, and more than 600 people work in its new state-of-the-art R&D facility, with testing and certi cation labs to push new product development and speed up time to market You don t just do research for the sake of Gee, it s intriguing, says Balsillie It s got to have some market context If it s got some core technical bene t that is disruptive, can t within the product, and allow us to enhance or rede ne the value proposition, that is totally cool In the front of ce, Balsillie and COO Doug Fregin match the work in the labs by building the business and meeting rising demand The pair manage BlackBerry production, negotiate with parts suppliers, invest in marketing programs, analyze market share and trends, control production costs, and get the devices to market through rapidly changing channels, even some big box ones such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy
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They also have to respond quickly to competition According to Bob Crow, RIM s director of government and industry relations, Both Mike and Jim have a healthy respect for their competitors You aren t going to beat everybody in every category, so we decided that focus would be one of the keys to RIM s competitive success, a focus on the wireless end of the business, playing on the convergence of mobility and digital data1
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Jim Balsillie is a tness fanatic and ferocious competitor, and he is particularly passionate about the game of hockey He coaches his son s team and loves to take in Toronto Maple Leafs hockey games when he can He s been ghting with the National Hockey League (NHL) for years to scoop up a franchise and move it into southern Ontario, and some in the NHL hate his brashness Maybe he suspects they d rather put a team into Las Vegas! Balsillie happily takes his philosophy of sport into the arena of business He lives and breathes the knowledge that you should never lose sight of the fact that you are in business to beat your competitors Balsillie is especially fond of Wayne Gretzky s greatest quotations, that I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been, and You ll always miss 100 percent of the shots you never take Now in his late forties, Balsillie still plays in a nighttime senior league that has not abolished bone-crushing rushes into the boards, nor hard checks in the corners Some of his fellow players worked for Research In Motion, and Balsillie recently joked to the press that he quit playing with RIM employees after he noticed they weren t hitting him as hard as others Who enjoys that asked Balsillie The guys I play with are brutal
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1 Industry Canada Innovation Secretariat Case 7 Research In Motion Limited Feb 15, 2005
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