So what if RIM failed? Would that be all bad?

By Mark Evans

As an enthusiastic supporter of Canada’s high-tech community, I’m hoping RIM can somehow find a way to revive its flagging fortunes.

But the terrible debut of the PlayBook, the modest reception to the BlackBerry 9900, and October’s global network outage has not only put RIM on its heels but caused some industry watchers such as GigaOM to envision an even darker future.

As much as it would be hard to believe RIM and the BlackBerry could crumble before our eyes, it wasn’t that long ago that Nortel was king of the telecom world before it went stumbling and fumbling into bankruptcy protection and an embarrassing asset sale.

So what if RIM disappeared? Would there be anything good to come out of it? Here are some outcomes that accentuate the positive.

1. It would free up a lot of people within RIM, who have gained valuable experience and, in many cases, a lot of financial security over the past 10 years. These people could work for other companies that need talented people, as well as finance startups that would benefit from having smart and strategic money.

2. It would reduce the Kitchener-Waterloo technology hub’s dependence on one giant company. Now, I know my friends in K-W will contend there is already a large and thriving community but my take is that it could be even more diversified. It’s like when a giant tree falls in the forest. All of a sudden, the sunlight is allowed to pour in, which lets existing companies thrive and new companies to sprout up.

3. Given RIM went from start-up to world-class company, it would hopefully be a huge reminder that supporting Canada’s start-up community is essential to the health of Canada’s high-tech community and our overall economic prosperity. For all the talk about creating jobs and nurturing the New Economy, Canada needs more walk in terms of financial support.

4. Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis would be free to pursue other entrepreneurial and philanthropic pursuits. Over the past 15 years, they have done an amazing job building a world-class company. Along the way, they have also done some impressive non-RIM projects such as creating and funding the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (Lazaridis) and the  Centre for International Governance Innovation (Balsillie).

If they were liberated from RIM, they could focus their time and efforts on such things as supporting start-ups, providing mentorship, and influencing policy and economic changes. Heck, Balsillie might even finally get himself a NHL franchise.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge RIM supporter, but you have to be realistic and pragmatic. Having covered the rise and fall of Nortel, nothing in the technology world surprises me. It’s a fickle, volatile, and ever-changing landscape in which anything could happen, and often does. While RIM’s demise may seem far-fetched, it is possible, so it’s a good exercise to consider the silver lining.

First published on markevanstech.com

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