In July 2012, I had a long, thoughtful chat with BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins about everything BlackBerry. Our conversation came at a crucial time for the company. The BlackBerry 10 OS had already been delayed multiple times, the company was at the center of endless doom-and-gloom rumors and Heins, who took on the chief executive reins just six months earlier, had a whole lot to prove. (Read the full Q&A with Heins here.)
Today, a year later, Heins and team have released three BlackBerry 10 devices, the all-touch BlackBerry Z10 and the high-end QWERTY-keyboard-equipped BlackBerry Q10 and the mid-range Q5 QWERTY device. And images and details on the next iteration of the Z10, the BlackBerry "A10" or "Z30," are leaking left and right. But BlackBerry isn't much better off than it was a year ago.
In fact, "the Company's Board of Directors has formed a Special Committee to explore strategic alternatives to enhance value and increase scale in order to accelerate BlackBerry 10 deployment. These alternatives could include, among others, possible joint ventures, strategic partnerships or alliances, a sale of the Company or other possible transactions."
In other words, things didn't exactly turn out the way Heins and Co. had hoped. In July 2012, I asked Heins for a few predictions, and now, just over a year later, it's time to assess those predictions.
The following text is pulled from my Q&A with Heins. (New comments appear in italics.)
Sacco: Something I hear very often is that RIM "failed to innovate" and that a "lack of innovation" led to the fix that RIM's now in. Is it that simple? Did RIM fail to innovate?
Heins: I would not say that we failed to innovate. RIM is still a very innovative company. BlackBerry 10 will absolutely prove this.
I won't say whether or not I think BlackBerry is a very innovation company, because my opinion at this point is irrelevant today. In fact, it doesn't really matter if BlackBerry is innovative or not; BlackBerry 10 is not being received in the market the way BlackBerry wanted and needed it to.
Sacco: Will BlackBerry 10 solve all of RIM's problems? Or are we looking at two or three more years before faith in RIM is restored?
Heins: Faith in RIM and the financial expression of that are two different things. I'm not happy with the situation at RIM either. Who can be happy and satisfied with where we are? What I am satisfied with is that I know we have a path to the future with BlackBerry 10, because I see it.
In January with the full touch device and the QWERTY coming, I think we will reinstall faith in RIM. That's what we're working on...I have faith in the future. My team is working relentlessly to create that future.
I'm not sure what future Heins thought he saw in July 2012, but I bet it's not the reality of the situation that he is seeing today. One thing is certain: Faith in RIM/BlackBerry has not been restored.
Sacco: Where will RIM be in one year from now? In July of 2013, what will I be writing about RIM and BlackBerry?
Heins: I think you will be writing that you are surprised by the performance and the user experience of the BlackBerry 10 product, that it helps you achieve your daily objectives but also have fun. I think you will be writing that if BlackBerry gets its execution right and straight than the company has a great future.
I like BlackBerry 10; I have both a BlackBerry Z10 and a BlackBerry Q10, and they're the best two devices BlackBerry ever released. Today I carry a Q10 along with an Android device, but I find myself using the Q10 less and less every day. So am I "surprised by" BlackBerry 10? No.
I also think it's safe to say at this point that, execution aside, BlackBerry's future does not right now look "great."