Mike Lazaridis is President and Co-CEO of Research In Motion (RIM), a company he founded while studying at the University of Waterloo, Canada. At RIM, Lazaridis is responsible for product strategy, research and development, product development, and manufacturing. He is known in the global wireless community as a visionary, innovator, and engineer of extraordinary talent. Since founding RIM, he has received more than 30 patents and dozens of awards for his innovations in wireless technology and software.
Lazaridis supports his community through philanthropic gifts made possible by his success in business. His most noted commitment established the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in 2000. In its brief history, Perimeter has established itself as a leading center for fundamental research. Lazaridis was named Canada's "Nation Builder of the Year" for 2002 by readers of The Globe and Mail (Toronto). He holds an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from the University of Waterloo and in June 2003 was named the university's eighth chancellor.
This interview was conducted prior to the recent patent settlement between RIM and NTP.
( Spectrum profiled Lazaridis earlier in this column:http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/careers/careerstemplate.jsp?ArticleId=p060303.)
Spectrum Online: What’s something about your company that people don’t necessarily know?
Mike Lazaridis : Wow. Well, I think one of the things that I’ve spoken about is the fact that Research In Motion is entirely focused on this market space. We’re a relatively large company. We’ve got well over 4000 employees. And we don’t just package stuff. We actually design and manufacture our own product. We’re ISO 9001 registered across the board, across the company. We run SAP, we’ve been running SAP for many years, and we have a PDB process in place to make sure our products are designed and tracked and offer the right feature sets and the right quality and meet their schedules. So, it’s a very professional environment, but it’s also one that the engineers and developers working here find very rewarding, because they’re able to work on a product from beginning to end on all aspects of it. So, that’s pretty exciting.
The other thing is that I’m a real believer in heavy-duty research. And we tend to pride ourselves on the kinds of research facilities that we have here: the laboratories, the design environments, the CAD tools, the IT systems that we have in place, and the manufacturing plant. We really take this very, very seriously. We’re in this to produce the best products we can. We believe in making our products better from year to year. We also believe in having a lot of control over our products to make sure we provide the level of quality and performance in every aspect of the product we manufacture. So, I think that’s a little different.
Sometimes I think we take for granted that all companies are made alike. I believe the reason we’ve been successful, the reason we’ve been able to build such a strong brand and global presence, has been because we really built an amazing company, an amazing culture, and we’re not afraid to put in the investments and hard work to make sure that our company is equipped in resources and experience to produce world-class products that benefit our customers. And quite frankly, I think our customers are quite devoted to us.
SOL: What kinds of things do you think people will be able to do with a Blackberry in five or ten years?
ML: Oh, gosh. Five or ten years. You know, I never think out ten years for actual products. I think out ten years for things like quantum computing and theoretical physics, which is something that I’m very passionate about and the subject of much of my philanthropy. I think within the next five years you’re going to find that devices are going to become very easy to use, even easier than Blackberrys are today. I think our customers like the Blackberry experience mainly because it’s just so easy to use.
I remember being at a trade show once and one of our customers came up to me and said: Mike, what do you think is the most important feature of a Blackberry? Of course, I could think of ten. And right away, he answered the question before I could make a fool of myself, and he said, "It’s so easy to use, you could pick it up and use it within 10 minutes." And since then, I’ve really focused on that. I really believe that that is a very important thing in today’s environment, where things are getting ever-more complicated and ever-more unreliable and ever-more insecure. I think that one of the things that I believe is becoming a core competency and a core feature of the Blackberry is that it’s so dependable and it’s so reliable and it’s so easy to use. Sometimes we take for granted all the things the Blackberry accomplishes behind the scenes to make sure you have access to your email, your attachments, your Web sites, your services.