Former RIM CEO Admits iPhone and (Im)Perfect Storm Killed BlackBerry

A combination of Apple's disruptive iPhone and Research In Motion's (RIM) inability to release its own touchscreen device is what did in the once-iconic BlackBerry. Jim Balsillie, the former co-chief executive of RIM (now called BlackBerry Inc.), acknowledged that RIM was simply unable to compete with Apple's smartphone.

Mr. Balsillie made the comments in an interview with Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcof for a book titled, Losing the Signal. The Spectacular Rise and Fall of BlackBerry ($14.99 on iBooks and $16.79 on Amazon), as reported by the AP.

In that interview, Mr. Balsillie said when his company released the buggy BlackBerry Storm and it had a 100 percent return rate," he knew the jig was up. Though that happened in 2008, Mr. Balsillie hung on to his position at RIM until 2012.

"With Storm we tried to do too much," Mr. Balsillie said. "It was a touch display, it was a clickable display, it had new applications, and it was all done in an incredibly short period of time and it blew up on us. That was the time I knew we couldn't compete on high end hardware."

It didn't stop Mr. Balsillie from talking a lot of smack about the iPhone after it was introduced, and even after it was released. In February 2007, for instance, he said Apple's iPhone didn't pose a threat to BlackBerry.

"It's kind of one more entrant into an already very busy space with lots of choice for consumers," Mr. Balsillie said at the time. "But in terms of a sort of a sea-change for BlackBerry, I would think that's overstating it."

Alternately, it was understating it, but maybe that's just me.

In the meanwhile, kudos to Mr. Balsillie for owning up to what the rest of the world knew.