Lazaridis started focusing on the ideas of mobile data and mobile messaging in 1987. Back then, almost no one had mobile phones. There were just starting to be a few car phones. Yet, Lazaridis knew that mobile was going to mobile. How? He had worked at Control Data in university. He'd used mainframes (which, he pointed out Tuesday, were less powerful than one of today's Xbox game consoles). He'd seen the advent of desktops. He knew that computing had to go mobile next utilizing server architecture. At the time he started working on mobile computing, the only other folks working in the space were in Sweden. Over the next 10 years, RIM worked closely with telecom carriers to design and then build out the entire architecture that would allow for the secure and efficient transmission of mobile data.
As a result, this 12-plus years worth of work allowed RIM to be an "overnight" success in 1999 with its first BlackBerry devices. RIM had a great run from then through 2010. Hugo Miller asked Lazaridis what his biggest regret was about his time at RIM. He immediately responded that he should have bought QNX earlier. QNX is the company that become the foundation for the new BB10 operating system that powers BlackBerry's new phones and tablets. It also gives BlackBerry the ability to move into other areas of mobile computing. RIM pulled the trigger in April 2010 and is just getting to market now three years later. Just imagine how the mobile landscape would be different if Lazaridis had done the acquisition right after the iPhone's introduction in January 2007 with new phones to market in 2010 when RIM's market share was still at its peak. Later in the session, I was able to ask Lazaridis why he'd chosen to locate his office in a building that was a 15 minute drive away from Jim Balsillie's office in tiny Waterloo? He said he thought that question had been overplayed as being a reason why the company missed the rapid shift in the mobile computing market. He defended his choice by saying RIM had just invested a huge amount of money in a new CRM system from SAP ( SAP) to allow everyone in the company -- including him and Balsillie -- to stay in touch with each other no matter where they were. He also said that it made sense for him to be with engineers while Balsillie was with sales folks.