Blackberry, Nokia and the ‘PAP-less’ world


By: Ravi Philemon

The Today newspaper published an article sometime ago where the letter-writer said that Singaporeans cannot afford to be less hardworking than we are, because we compete globally where many countries are waiting to steal our lunch. He cautioned that “if we slow down, then we will slide down the path of no return, just like Nokia and BlackBerry.”

That’s an interesting point of view which sounds logical – until the surface is scratched. Did the market dominance of Blackberry and Nokia slow down because those companies were less hardworking?

As the market share of Apple smartphones (iPhone) grew from 3 percent in 2007 to 11 percent in the first quarter of 2009, the market share of Research In Motion (RIM) smartphones (Blackberry) grew from 10 percent to 20 percent during the same period.

As for Nokia, it spent hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire the Symbian mobile platform in 2008, so that it can get a head-start on Google’s Android mobile platform, to make sure that the smartphone industry does not remain a one-horse race.

These facts show that Nokia and Blackberry did not slide down because they are not hardworking enough. On the contrary, it makes more sense to believe that in the face of stiff competition from iPhone and Android’s mobile platforms, Nokia and Blackberry perhaps worked harder than they had ever before.

Why then did Nokia and Blackberry slide down a path of no-return? There are many reasons for that, but them not being hardworking enough is not one of those reasons.

One reason is that while Google was spending 12.8 percent of its overall sales on Research & Development (R&D), RIM was spending only 6.7 percent on R&D. Of course this is still a big amount considering Apple was spending only 2.8 percent of its overall sales on R&D. But Apple did not have a bloated bureaucracy and infighting that RIM had; and Steve Jobs insisted that a start-up mentality be maintained within Apple.

Nokia spent more than Google and Apple on R&D, but still could not stop its slide downwards because it was confident of its product. It focused on basic phones instead of on smartphones.

According to an article in Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Nokia created both a touch screen phone and a tablet nearly seven years before Apple launched its first iPhone. The management at Nokia lacked the savvy foresight to bring these prototype devices to the consumers, allowing Apple to overtake it.

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, Nokia’s former chief designer Frank Nuovo talking told WSJ on the never-realised concepts that Nokia had for future mobile phones tells WSJ:

“Oh my God, we had it completely nailed, I was heartbroken when Apple got the jump on this concept. When people say the iPhone as a concept, a piece of hardware, is unique, that upsets me.”

RIM on the other hand, unlike Nokia, had a very different problem. Even as consumers were abandoning Blackberry for the more user-friendly, technologically advanced Android and IOS mobile devices, RIM failed to properly comprehend the implication of its subscribers, and against all indications otherwise, believed in the superiority of its devices.

More than half of its 78 million subscribers are business users, and RIM counted on these users’ loyalty to RIM’s many years of service to them; and also believed that business users were skeptical of touchscreen display smartphones. When the trend was clearly towards touchscreen technology, co-founder Mike Lazaridis of RIM wrongly predicted in the year 2008 that the mobile trend is towards full Qwerty keyboards.

Minister Chan Chun Sing, asked a very important question before the 2011 General Election. He asked, ‘Who thinks Singapore will be around for 5 more years? Kee chiu! Hands-up!…10…25…50…100…200…”

If Singapore is to be around for the next 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200 years, these are the lessons it needs to learn from Blackberry and Nokia:

Firstly, no amount of hard work due to fear that someone is going to steal your lunch is going to stop your lunch from being stolen. We also have to ask ourselves why our lunches can be easily stolen?

That means that while Singaporean workers have a responsibility to re-skill and upgrade to ensure that their work cannot be done by anyone, the Government too has got to protect the Singaporean worker, and ensure that the conditions are right for workers to be paid fairly.

Sometime ago, the Prime Minister of Singapore commented on the territorial disputes between China and Japan and said:

“It is very hard for any government to give up what it has claimed, because it will lose face and standing and domestic support, so you can only manage these issues, you cannot solve them.”

Although it is not a comment on domestic politics, it gives a glimpse into the mindset of the current Government and how it thinks.

Singapore is at a crossroads and many have started embracing values and priorities which were not so important just one generation ago. The Government cannot only re-calibrate left a-bit, right a-bit, just because it does not want to give up what it has claimed.

That’s the second lesson to learn from Blackberry and Nokia — don’t grow complacent just because you have dominance, and bemoan that hindsight is always 20/20. Time waits for no one. If you need a total overhaul, a complete rethink — do it! Don’t try to put it off just because you want to save face, and have to admit that you were wrong.

In late 2009, former tech analyst Henry Blodget commented about how after being a loyal Blackberry user for 12 years, he reluctantly tried iPhone. He wasn’t disappointed with his switch. “It’s nice here in Apple world,” he concluded. With Blodget’s comments, momentum quickly started building behind iPhone. Years later, the company is now on life support.

And that’s the third political lesson to be learnt from Blackberry and Nokia — momentum is already building that “it’s nice here in the PAP-less (or PAP-unimportant) world”. People will not continue to be forever patient with a Government they perceive to be backwards, and is not working in their interest.

And perhaps that’s what Singaporeans need to do if we want Singapore to be around 5, 10, 25, 50, 100 or 200 years from now. Kee Chiu!


    • Well said! Start something meaning full! We are just like employees in a company, we contribute, while management lead. Please lah, dont compare for self advantage. Citizens today are not citizens of yesterday!

    • A bunch of hypocrites…mastered the art of speaking political correctness…but nothing is more important then holding on to power and their millions. When they speak, some how you got the feeling they are out to manipulate you.

  1. Close minded of worrying others stealing. People find ways to made not only own lunch as well dinner and supper. With those red tapes and fear mentality defending after that close circle. When are we gona become explorer..

  2. Damn!! Why did the author Jonathan Ho have to tell the truth about PAP complacent? PAP will learn from their mistake and continue to dominate the political scene for another 5, 10, 15 years….
    Wait…..i don’t think PAP is willing to learn from this good article, they just want to be in power control.
    In 5, 10, 15, 20 years they will still be the same.

  3. Singapore already on the nokia n black berry road of decline. Return on our reserves over last 10 years were half of the previous 10 years. Economic growth over the last 5 years were about half of the previous 5 years. MRT problems getting worst n worst over last 7 years. Plenty more macro n micro indicators that Singapore is already on the slippery road down.

  4. When things work like clockwork, it is difficult to debate on the pitfalls ahead, let alone if there be any. However, many of us feel, deep down, we have somehow lost our way. Because of our success, we cannot pin any wrong down and are accused of being disloyal. We fear if our government continues on her pride and path, we will go the way of Nokia and Blackberry.

  5. Update: DSS. EFCC. FBI. MI5 AND OTHER HIGH……….
    Further, better information for Presidency, Dr Buhari, President-elect of the United States the great Trump, G20 , Governors, and security agencies/peace lovers

    More than two months delay Police to send just an invitation to me Anacho duly exposed that OC Legal Panti, Eno Edobor, Barr Jide Matins of Attorney General of Lagos State (AG), Union Assurance Plc and Union Bank Plc, who have our claim they took by tricks, colluded in bringing about improper conduct that led to the quick changing of Union Assurance’s name to Ensure Insurance Plc. In their greed to con and takeover our reputation and values, with no regard how hard and years it took our Nigerian/Japanese family to build.

    Jide Martins, who I handed over some of the exhibits that exposed the arson and attempted murder, based on their demand with AG office letter dated 3 October 2014, sent text to my phone and communicated to me that they have handed over to OC Legal the order of AG to re-investigate and because of the importance of the case the handover was done in the office of Commissioner of Police, Lagos State on 3 November 2014.

    Patrick Inok, the IPO under OC Legal, brought invitation to me on 12 January 2015, leaving a loophole of 2 months. On 14 January 2015, I went to OC Legal’s office to honor the invitation. As I stepped into his office Edobor picked his phone and started talking to someone; that the name of the man he brought is to match for his daughter, that he has done the prayer and gave the man the chapter of the bible to read. I, Anacho was not comfortable with what I was hearing from this man, matching people he has never met in the name of prayer. Later, I submitted my statement dated 15 January 2015, mentioning clearly the meaning of some exhibits I submitted to the AG office.

    I went to Panti several times, OC Legal never asked me any question about those exhibits. Instead, he asked me to bring a lawyer. I disagreed with him immediately. It resulted into a serious argument. At a time he started abusing me that this is why no one wants to do this case, so many police officers know me. That this order of AG was thrown around in the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DC) office. That it was by his pity he picked the case up. Upon that I refused to agree with his suggestion. The verbal fight was very serious. It was Mr. Patrick who separated us.

    I went straight to the DC and reported OC Legal’s behavior to him. Could you believe, the DC said he had no idea about the order from AG’s office to re-investigate any case of arson. The order did not pass through his office.. Kindly read full details of Update: for great Trump by clicking on the photo, URL or our page. Anacho Nnojap

  6. Reading from the article , may I proffer a question to the 70% , did you vote for kee chiu type of no caliber minister …..? If kee chiu can be pm as rumors have it he is the chosen one! then the writer of this article can also be his master !!! nahbeh !!

Comments are closed.