Thunderbird Case

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Case #: 
A08-17-0005 - Authors Deborah Himsel and Andrew Inkpen



The launch of the BlackBerry by Research in Motion (RIM) in 1999 laid the foundation for the development of smartphones.  The next decade was a period of spectacular growth for RIM, making its two co-CEOs billionaires.  At the end of 2007 the company had a market capitalization of more than $60 billion.  Sales peaked at almost $20 billion in 2011.  In 2016 sales were $2.2 billion and the company had lost money for four straight years.  Market capitalization was $4 billion in August 2016.  The future of BlackBerry (the company changed its name from RIM to BlackBerry) as a hardware company was uncertain.

The case can be used to illustrate the process of innovation and the linkages between strategy, competitive advantage, and innovation. BlackBerry created a unique product and for a few years occupied a competitive position with no rivals. The company’s established a competitive advantage based on product differentiation and saw BlackBerry become one of the most recognizable and valuable global brands. Unfortunately, the initial success could not be sustained once competitors, and particularly Apple, entered the smartphone market. After many attempts to change its strategy BlackBerry eventually was forced to exit the hardware market. In a marketing class the case could be used to illustrate the challenges of being a pioneer versus a follower. The case can also be used in a change management session. The case can be used to examine how a firm creates a sense of urgency for change after many years of success and industry leadership


10 pages
Published material