This article was published on July 2, 2011

Is Research In Motion the next Nortel?

Is Research In Motion the next Nortel?
Mike Vardy
Story by

Mike Vardy

Mike Vardy is a husband, father, independent writer, speaker, podcaster and "productivityist". He is also the author of the book, The Front Mike Vardy is a husband, father, independent writer, speaker, podcaster and "productivityist". He is also the author of the book, The Front Nine: How To Start The Year You Want Anytime You Want, published by Diversion Books. You can learn more about his other work at his website,, visit his blog at, and you can follow him as @mikevardy on Twitter.

As Nortel’s remaining patents have finally been sold, the dark cloud of telecom trouble in Canada shifts to one of the members of the consortium who bought said patents: Research in Motion. RIM has been in the limelight many times over the past several months, and it appears as if the Waterloo-based telecom giant is no longer the tech industry darling that it once was.

RIM launched its much-ballyhooed competitor to the iPad, the Playbook, to mixed reviews and lower than expected sales results. Rumours have surfaced that the company may be abandoning its plans to build a 10-inch version of the device. Reviews of the Playbook have ranged from “lacking all the right moves” to our own Matthew Panzarino calling it “thoughtless and untested”. Even those reviews for the device that had some positive elements to them were overshadowed by the onslaught of critical pans for the device that RIM targeted to take on Apple’s own tablet.

The company’s infrastructure has also taken a beating lately. With attacks coming from within the walls of Research In Motion as well as the recent forming of a committee to examine its leadership structure, consumer confidence is waning. Company stock hit a four-year low last month and the corporate dominance of the BlackBerry is slipping away. Oh, and forecasted earnings aren’t looking bright, either.

Suffice to say, times are not good in Waterloo.

And yet RIM just invested in the remaining patents that Nortel sold off, perhaps with the hopes that within those patents lies some form of “reinvention” or “innovation” that the company can deliver to the marketplace. It’s also possible that it may be simply trying to generate revenue by protecting its assets through litigation. At this point, it could be both…or neither. That’s part of the problem.

Whatever the reason for the purchase, it is apparent that RIM has little to no direction right now (further evidenced by the letter sent internally from a senior executive that has garnered much attention across the web) and that RIM may be the next Nortel — because its story is looking very similar right now.

A lack of focus, a lack of leadership, a lack of direction and the resulting lack of revenue all led to the gradual fall of Ottawa-based Nortel. If RIM doesn’t get itself in check soon, the same fate may await.

Get the TNW newsletter

Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.