Happy now? Is everyone who abandoned BlackBerry for the next new thing satisfied now that BlackBerry is on the ropes? I’m looking at you, fellow Canadians. Was it something former CEOs Mike Lazaridis or Jim Balsillie said? Or perhaps with the Timbit being our national cultural icon, there was no room left in our hands for the BlackBerry?
Over the years my youthful economic nationalism has been beaten out of me with repeated lectures from market fundamentalist friends and family. Consumers are never wrong! Markets are always right! Government should keep its nose out of business! Yet on the very day BlackBerry announced the loss of 4,500 jobs and almost $1 billion, the governments of Canada and Ontario announced they were giving the Ford Motor Company $143 million to upgrade Ford’s Oakville plant. Other politicians are busy convincing people to buy our bitumen and approve pipelines for Transcanada and Enbridge. As Andrew Coyne noted in the National Post, “What they got that BlackBerry ain’t got?”
BlackBerry is a Canadian company that changed the world with its innovative technology. It employs thousands of our fellow Canadians. At one time it was the most valuable company in Canada. Perhaps that’s where the problem started, for Canadians seem to believe that pride is the worst sin of all. The tall poppy syndrome lives on and we sometimes need to cut successes down to size. We certainly love our underdogs, so when Blackberry went from plucky underdog to arrogant overdog our affections went elsewhere. I think we can’t resist a good riches-to-rags story. Even once-reviled Conrad Black finds a sympathetic audience these days.
Of course, I understand that BlackBerry became complacent, that it was too slow to see how the smartphone market was changing. I understand the horror of not having the fastest phone in one’s hand. But I don’t understand the schadenfreude, the pleasure many people seem to take in BlackBerry’s misfortunes. Even BlackBerry’s grim announcement of lost jobs was greeted with “I told you so” glee in some quarters.
I know it is easy for me to point the finger. I felt guilty reading Catherine Cole’s history of Edmonton’s Great Western Garment Company, GWG: Piece by Piece. Despite Wayne Gretzky saying in 1981 that “I grew up in GWG’s” I rejected GWG jeans in favour of Levi’s back then. And by 2004 GWG was gone. We consumers are fickle. I know many people mourn BlackBerry’s decline and many remain loyal to the Canadian technology. I’ve seen executives at some of Edmonton’s biggest companies tapping away at their new Z10 BlackBerrys recently. In St. Albert there are many BlackBerry loyalists and fans of other Canadian tech. The library (and the RCMP) shifted from Canadian software such as WordPerfect and Quattro Pro only recently. Go Canada!