RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis abruptly ended an interview with BBC when pushed for the status of the ongoing BlackBerry security concerns in India. The interviewer sought some kind of reassurance to the public that BlackBerry service in India would continue, or that good progress was being made, but Lazaridis called the line of questioning “not fair”, cited it as an issue of national security, and told BBC staff to turn off the camera. Earlier in the interview, Lazaridis was less than pleased with the issue being called “problems in terms of security”, to which he replied that BlackBerry had no security problems whatsoever, and that RIM’s platform has been singled out because of BlackBerry’s popularity. Maybe their smartphones are too secure, but I’m not sure how popularity enters into it. In any case, Lazaridis said they’re “dealing with a lot of issues” and “doing their best” with the expectations set before them.
While I can’t really blame the interviewer for grilling Lazaridis on the issue, the fact is that the discussions RIM is having with the government of India regarding lawful interception of BlackBerry data is ongoing and confidential for obvious reasons. RIM’s not in any position to guarantee BlackBerry owners in India that their handsets will have full service in the forseeable future, because a lot of that power rests with the local Department of Telecommunications and compliance from carriers. Regardless, I think Lazaridis could have handled the issue better; he says himself that “we’ve talked about this before”, so all of the lines should already be well-practiced, and if all else fails, “no comment” is always a good fallback.
RIM has been on the defensive a fair bit lately. Over the weekend, they’ve turned their tried-and-true “500 carriers, 170 countries” line against analysts, incredulously wondering why people don’t appreciate the success BlackBerry has seen. Lazaridis also had to weather quite the storm at an All Things D conference not too long ago. When it comes to competitors, RIM has shot back at Apple over the summer when they tried to drag BlackBerry into the iPhone 4 Death Grip, and followed up on some snarky quarterly commentary from Jobs by pitting the original iPad against the PlayBook.
Even if Lazaridis’ aggressiveness is warranted given the pushy questioning and the sensitivity of the subject matter, it’s never a pretty seeing a big CEO lose his cool. Head over here to see the video.