Blackberry movie review. Blackberry: A well-crafted enterprise… | by kayhan Mahdavi | December 2023

Blackberry: A well-crafted corporate cautionary tale with many important inaccuracies

I recently had a chance to watch “Blackberry” with a few friends, and it was every bit as intriguing and captivating as the trailer promised. It was refreshing to know that this wasn’t just another ‘corporate biopic’: a tale of hard work paying off and the American dream realized, quite the opposite. The film deftly avoids clichés, from its portrayal of nerdy computer engineers that was far from the shabby image usually shown in most films to its accurate depiction of a high-tech start-up environment in the early 2000s, the film managed to capture the very soul of the early days of place on Blackberry. If only it continued as it started.

Another point of brilliance in the film was the attention to technological detail without falling into the tempting trap of cartoonishly exaggerating or glossing over those details to confuse and amuse the general public while the technical audience shakes their heads in helplessness. It was surprising how well the movie managed to talk about concepts like network load, Blackberry Relay Server, BB messenger, push email (which was Blackberry’s main advantage at the time) as well as concepts like “data encryption” and “data compression ” without either obfuscating these concepts or making them confusing for the audience. As a former Blackberry employee and network engineer, this was the highlight of the film for me.

However, as strong as my rating is for the film in its portrayal of Blackberry’s early days, it falls short when it comes to showing her death. Frankly disappointing. A film’s quality rises and falls just like its subject.

A film must dramatize the events, this distinguishes it from a documentary. It doesn’t really matter that in their first meeting with Verizon, Jim Balsillier thought their sales pitch was over and then Mike Lazaridis arrived to catch the meeting near the end and saved the day brilliantly; These details should be dramatized. However, dramatization hurts the heart of the story if it portrays the events in a completely different light than what really happened, and unfortunately this movie had a lot of those.

For one thing, the SEC didn’t investigate and convict Blackberry, it was actually the OSC: the Ontario Securities Commission that did the investigation. Apparently, the movie assumes that no one will recognize OSC, so they replace the name with SEC, which most viewers have heard of. At this point Blackberry was a very large company with thousands of employees (over 15,000) in many countries, there is no way the CEO would get a call one day and then find his office raided like this; Like all companies, Blackberry had a large legal department to deal with these issues. In fact, it was first an internal review by the company itself that prompted the OSC to take action. Very disappointing to see how poorly this part is portrayed. In fact, the OSC took Blackberry to court and forced them to pay $77 million in backdated stock option fines, and eventually Jim Balsillie stepped down as co-CEO that year, but he remained on the board and was not criminally charged . Compared to most companies of the same size, these numbers weren’t shockingly high.

Second, Apple released the iPhone in June 2007, and the movie shows that Blackberry’s stock went down shortly after, well it did, near the end of 2007, but so did Apple’s stock! just like any other high tech company! Surprise, surprise, it was the financial crash of 2008, all companies’ stocks went down and stayed that way until the end of 2009, so Blackberry’s stock crash had nothing to do with the release of the iPhone. The iPhone didn’t reach Blackberry’s market share for a few more years, and the first version of iOS was riddled with bugs and limitations, and the App Store didn’t launch until mid-2008 and was very restrictive for developers at first. Contrary to what the film shows, Blackberry executives and even most outside analysts at the time [wrongly] didn’t predict that the iPhone could take over the market, and Blackberry’s reaction was just mockery.

Blackberry didn’t release a touchscreen until almost 2009, and Mike L certainly wasn’t promising one to Verizon executives right after the iPhone was released. And I don’t even want to get into the theatrics of the scene shown in the movie when Mike Lazaridis stands in front of the employees and gives a speech like he’s still a 10-12 person startup, oh my god, that was so amateurish. At the time, all CEO talks were a very well-choreographed town hall event, broadcast via video conference to multiple company locations around the world.

And that’s the whole point, that’s the most frustrating thing about the movie, which movies go so massively wrong towards the end. A good movie, lost where it matters most. The very thing that caused Blackberry to crumble and fall was not the iPhone, nor was it executive panic, nor financial irregularities. The film misses what was the very essence of Blackberry’s demise. It was arrogance, pure arrogance on the part of the executives who didn’t even consider any response to Apple and later Android even after their market share started being eaten away by them. While the empire burned, the emperor walked naked, and his subjects continued to admire his beautiful clothes. Even when the Blackberry Storm was released, the company environment was “Let’s release this toy for teenagers so we can go back to our keyboard smartphones that people are dying to use.”

Blackberry crashed and burned because they failed to see the need for innovation and a CEO who was too stubborn to even bother listening to the changing market. If only Mike Lazaridis panicked, as shown in the iPhone launch movie; it might have done something really good for the company. The ship was sinking and the captain and crew kept lecturing us and worse, they themselves believed that the customers would realize that our ship was the best because we had the best lifeboats. Blackberry was adamant that its very superior data security features and business profile look would win over all customers, even if they didn’t know! And apparently the makers of this movie knew little about these dark last days!

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