Positions: Co-CEOs, RIM
Ages: 47 and 47
Location: Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Dynamic duo Lazaridis and Balsillie pushed RIM to better-than-expected subscription numbers earlier this year. The BlackBerry, which began as a badge of importance in Washington, D.C., and on Wall Street, then spread through boardrooms and down to the rank-and-file, is now finding space in consumer pockets and expanding the horizons for the wider penetration of smart phones in general.
“They’ve done an excellent job of very quickly going into the consumer market, not only with plans, but with device,” said analyst Barry Gilbert of Strategic Analytics, who cited the BlackBerry Pearl and Curve as handsets that are helping RIM gain traction outside the enterprise. A ChangeWave survey in January showed that among consumers thinking about buying a phone within six months, RIM handsets barely lagged behind the iPhone as objects of future affection.
The devotion that RIM’s devices and services inspire has survived some high-profile outages in the past year. “When the service goes down, people go nuts, but they don’t leave,” said independent analyst Jeff Kagan, also noting that RIM was successfully spreading the addiction to consumers.
RIM also opened its APIs to encourage third-party developers to create applications for the OS, feeding the trend toward more open platforms. “It’s a good direction to go in because there’s a ton of applications that can be developed,” said Gilbert.
Both riding and fueling the wider gravitation toward smart phones, Balsillie and Lazaridis are key players in shaping the mobile future. On the horizon is the highly anticipated (but only rumored as of press time) 9000 series, which many believe will include a total interface overhaul, high-speed HSDPA and Wi-Fi connectivity, and a striking new design to woo even more consumers away from the iPhone and other smart devices.
Did You Know: Balsillie is a die-hard hockey fan on a quest to buy an NHL team. When he was 12, Lazaridis won an award for reading every science book in his local library.