Research in Motion: The Uncomplicated Type

Research in Motion’s BlackBerry has created a generation of business executives who’ve learned to type with fumbling thumbs (and inspired a new verb for the activity: “squirreling”). But while most customers say the BlackBerry is a great phone, Web and e-mail combo, some also say it has limited potential beyond that.

For Ralph Barber, CTO of Holland & Knight, an international law firm with seven offices in Florida, the handhelds proved their worth. In 2004, during one of the state’s worst-ever hurricane seasons, the firm’s Fort Lauderdale office was incommunicado—but the few dozen lawyers there weren’t, thanks to their BlackBerrys.

“The beauty of the BlackBerry is the simplicity of it,” he says. “The functionality of other devices is great, but we wanted something simple.”

Mike Sutten, chief technology officer with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, had a similar experience during hurricane season. With many cell-phone sites disabled, employees on land and at sea communicated via their BlackBerrys using short message service (SMS), which allows small text messages to be sent over wireless networks; this proved more reliable than traditional e-mail. Sutten opted for the BlackBerry system for its mail and messaging speed, the durability of the device and the ease of using it with one hand.

Others, while happy with the BlackBerry for voice and e-mail, wonder whether its operating system can handle more complex programs. Michael Gliedman, CIO of the National Basketball Association, says he’s keeping his eye on the Windows Mobile platform as an alternative. He’s fiddled with a few proprietary BlackBerry programs, but says other operating systems may be better suited to handle advanced applications, such as sales force automation. For its part, RIM says third-party developers have written 241 mobile applications for the BlackBerry to date.

Office equipment maker Pitney Bowes, meanwhile, deployed 500 BlackBerry devices to mobile maintenance workers, to help them wirelessly manage schedules and report repair records, says Donna Dietz, vice president of technology planning.

But the company also rolled out 1,500 other devices—which included Palm Treos and three models running Microsoft’s Pocket PC—for other field maintenance technicians. The reason: Dietz’s team couldn’t get everyone to agree on a single device, because the different departments wanted to keep the ones they were used to. “We initially intended to use only one vendor,” she says. “But at the end of the day, the different business units had their Preferences.”

Handheld Computing

Research in Motion
295 Phillip St.
Waterloo, Ontario N2l
3w8, Canada
(519) 888-7465


Jim Balsillie
Chairman & CEO
Joined in 1992. Previously was executive vice president and director of Sutherland-Schultz, an engineering and contracting firm in Cambridge, Ontario.

David Werezak
VP, Business Enterprise Unit
Joined in 1997 from Hewlett-Packard, where he held several marketing positions.

Key Product
BlackBerry 8700 provides wireless e-mail, voice communications and personal information management features; the device runs on Research in Motion’s proprietary operating system.

Reference Checks

Holland & Knight
Ralph Barber
(813) 739-0700
Project: Law firm gave BlackBerrys to about 1,200 lawyers in 18 U.S. offices to help them keep in touch with clients and colleagues.

Analog Devices
Larry Loh
[email protected]
Project: Executives and salespeople with the $2.4 billion maker of signal-processing circuits use BlackBerry handhelds to access e-mail on the road.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines
Mike Sutten
(954) 517-4118
Project: Cruise-line company deployed 320 BlackBerrys to help executives, salespeople and operations staff communicate wirelessly, especially during natural disasters such as hurricanes.

National Basketball Association
Michael Gliedman
[email protected]
Project: Pro sports league uses BlackBerrys to give executives phone service, wireless e-mail, and access to proprietary programs like a real-time scoreboard.

Pitney Bowes
Donna Dietz
VP, Technology Planning
[email protected]
Project: Office technology company gave 500 service workers BlackBerrys to access schedules, track inventory and document repairs.

Bill America
Remote Access Project Leader
[email protected]
Project: Printing and copying company deployed BlackBerrys to sales personnel, field-service managers and executives.

Executives listed here are all users of Research in Motion’s products. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.

Research in Motion Operating Results*

Gross margin55.2%52.9%45.6%
Operating income$419.84M$34.05M$37.02M
Net income$382.08M$213.39M$51.83M
Net margin18.4%15.8%8.7%
Earnings per share$1.96 $1.09$0.31
R&D expenditure$157.63M$101.18M$62.64M
Sales and marketing$311.42M$190.73M$108.49M

*Fiscal Year Ended March 4, 2006; Feb. 26, 2005; and Feb. 28, 2004

Total assets – $2.31B
Stockholders’ equity – $2.00B
Cash and equivalents – $459.54M
Short-term investments – $175.55M
Long-term debt – $6.85M
Shares outstanding – 188.91M
Market value, 4/20 – $14.16B