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I'm a partner at Greylock, former CEO of Mozilla, founder of Reactivity, dad, husband & nerd, among other things.


    RIM’s CEO Thorsten Heins, in demoing Blackberry 10, just said “We have a clear shot at being number three.

    I just about did a spit take - that statement is going to weigh around his neck for a long time. There’s a certain reality right now that Android & Apple are #1 & #2 in the mobile OS market — can’t escape it. But what he was saying was that, you know, if things break just right, and they release on time, and the products are products people really like, maybe they can fend off Microsoft+Nokia for the number 3 slot. Well, assuming Samsung doesn’t launch their own OS. And that Mozilla’s Firefox OS doesn’t work. And HP doesn’t re-enter the market. It’s tough getting hold of #3!

    But here’s the thing: #3 just doesn’t get you very much — not even the steak knives, as we know from Alec Baldwin . And in technology ecosystems, where they’re winner-take-nearly-everything, #3 sucks even more than that.

    And we know that aiming for 3 means that you’ll never really get even to that.

    Seems to me that it’s a painfully uninspirational thing to say — to investors, to employees, to customers. Nothing positive about it. 

    Here’s something he could have said: “RIM practically invented mobility. Everyone who was anyone had a Blackberry several years ago. We were at the cutting edge of mobile computing, and we changed the world.

    But look: in the past five years, we’ve gotten our ass kicked, no two ways about it. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android have come onto the market like no technologies we’ve ever seen before, with something like a billion devices between them now.

    We fumbled. We got stuck on our existing technology base, and we didn’t innovate enough or fast enough.

    But there is an opportunity for us to change the world again, if we’re smart, and work tirelessly, and don’t kid ourselves.

    We’re not going to make up ground by pretending we haven’t lost, or by trying to be great for the 3% of the market who, for whatever reason can’t or won’t use Apple or Google products.

    We’re still in the very early days of ubiquitous mobile computing. There are many, many innovations to come, in handhelds, in tablets, in televisions — and more ways we haven’t seen in the mass market yet.

    We’ve got some of the world’s smartest mobile engineers in our buildings. We’ve got bold new inventions in our labs that don’t look like anything you’ve ever seen. We know how to change the world because we’ve done it before. 

    To the market: there’s no reason you should believe us. The last 5 years, we haven’t done anything for you to cheer about. 

    But we’re going to go do it anyway. It’s going to take time, but we’re going to do it. We know the technology landscape 5 years from now won’t look anything like it does today, so we’re not going to try to build 3rd place devices for today; we’re going to skate to where the puck is going to be — we’re going to make the world that we want. 

    If you don’t believe it, that’s okay, but get the hell off this bus. If you do, then we’re going to get started right now.”

    That’s an alternative to “Maybe, hopefully, some day we can get #3 within our sights.”

    FWIW, it’s what Jobs said when he came back to Apple in 1998. And it’s what Mozilla told the world when they left the Mozilla suite behind and started on Firefox.

    It’s how leaders — and winners — think and act, whether they’re winning right now or not.

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