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New novel 'BlackBerry Town' looks at the rise and fall of Waterloo tech company

Author Chuck Howitt has been following Research in Motion (RIM) since 2005
BlackBerry new logo
Photo from The Canadian Press

One writer is looking at the success and failures of Canadian tech company Research In Motion, (RIM), in a new novel called 'BlackBerry Town.'

Chuck Howitt is the author of 'BlackBerry Town' and a former journalist and editor of the Waterloo Record.

Howitt talked to Brian Bourke on 570 NEWS about the history of RIM, and the state of the tech industry in the late nineties and early 2000's.

"[The tech industry] is a tough industry and it's a global industry." says Howitt, "That first decade is a rare time and that's what I wanted to capture in my book."

Howitt says he first learned about RIM when he began covering BlackBerry for the Waterloo Record in 2005, during the company's peak in the smartphone market. 

"In mobile, definitely they led the pack." says Howitt, "They looked like they were going to be around for a long time."

While reporting on BlackBerry, Howitt says he learned a lot about the people who helped make RIM and BlackBerry possible, including company founder Mike Lazaridis.

He says no one involved could've predicted the success they would see with RIM. 

"In the beginning, I don't think even Mike himself knew. He had this big dream of connecting wireless computers, but it was a while before they found their niche, but they put themselves in a position where they could cash in if the opportunity came up." says Howitt.

Howitt says the company was doing everything from electronic signs to bar code scanners, before they started working with mobile texts.

"They had a big idea, and were moving along in the right direction."

Howitt says Research in Motion's downfall was caused by different factors, including a lack of drive.

"I think they got a bit complacent." says Howitt, "They were number one and they eased off on the throttle a bit."

Howitt says a lack of vision by RIM on where the market was going was also an issue.

"They wanted to take on the consumer market, but they took baby steps."

In 2008, RIM's competition got stronger as Apple debuted the iPhone and Google release the first Android phone.

At the time, RIM wasn't able to respond fast enough and were only able to release a phone that was competitive with both brands in 2013. 

Five years too late, says Howitt.

"BlackBerry is still around, but it's a smaller company now."

While BlackBerry's fell out of public favour, Howitt says the story of RIM's success is still talked about by Canadian tech start-ups today.

"I think they proved that a small Canadian company could go out and do great things." says Howitt, "I've met a lot of young entrepreneurs who say they were inspired by BlackBerry's story."

"Even though they fell, they still accomplished a lot." 


Ariel Deutschmann

About the Author: Ariel Deutschmann

Ariel Deutschmann is a feature writer and reporter who covers community events, businesses, social initiatives, human interest stories and more involving Guelph and Wellington County
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