At this point, most people with even a vague interest in technology or business, at least those who ever crack a newspaper or RSS reader, have at least heard about the ongoing RIM vs NTP battle. I pretty much leave it to people more invested, or interested, than I am, but I gotta say, this article was awesome: Patently Absurd.
It’s got more backstory than any coverage I’ve read to date. Andrew said it was a four-page monster spread in yesterday’s Globe. Really, it’s a dramatic epic of 80s evening soap opera proportions. I have my own opinions on things, but they’re unimportant.
What I find most fascinating are the cultural “tells” inherent in the story. For example, along with complaining about the weather and putting way too much stock in hockey games, Canadians cling tightly to Tall Poppy Syndrome. (Sorry, Australians, you name it more readily than we do, but it’s definitely a cultural aspect in which we are similar.) RIM has gotten most of the bad press and badmouthing in this case, and I am convinced a good part of it is because there is only one “winner” in the case. The story takes pains to show both Mike L and Mr. Campana having similar origins. Hardworking geeks with a passion for invention. However, two roads diverged… Mike L spun his passion into a multi-billion-dollar company, and Mr. Campana… didn’t. And on top of that, Mike L and Co. haven’t had the “humility” to apologize for success. To offer to share their good fortune. To acknowledge the value of the competing claim by refusing to say their work and accomplishment is worth any less than anyone else’s. Hell, Mr. Campana’s premature death makes the fight now for his family’s sake. It’s the stuff of PR dreams… or nightmares.
Additionally, the story shows what we shall call… geek priorities (works for engineers, too, though they’re typically geeks as well). Geeks want to work, they want to tinker. To build, invent, get it working, then make it better. They don’t want to worry about paperwork or making nice with suits or listening to lawyers or crafting “vision” or “spin”. And a lot of RIM’s mistakes in this case reflect that. The mistakes have been chalked up almost invariably to arrogance. And I’m sure there is some. Great things are not built by average or unambitious people. But there are many kinds of attitude, and some of them are obscured by the pervasiveness of cynicism.
I also find the fairly frequent use of the word “bully” or “bullying” in the coverage entertaining, because, as noted, the main characters in this story are geeks, and who gets bullied more often or mercilessly (at least in youth) than geeks? My God, geeks who become bullies? Could there be any greater social treason?! Geeks are supposed to look out for each other! 🙂 Oh, wait, this story is taking place within the Thunderdome of business. And the bigger the business, the more scarce the sense of community, cameraderie, or mentorship you typically find. (At least in my experience.)
And so, at the end of the day (or lawsuit), I don’t think RIM is going out of business any time soon. I think very powerful people (and overpaid execs, and gadget junkies, and geeks…) will remain CrackBerry addicts. I think Sherry will still run across Mike L in socks and sandals in the unidentifiable tinkering doodads aisle at Canadian Tire. I think a lot of rich lawyers are going to get very, very rich. I think that smoking will continue to kill people – like Mr. Campana. And I think that governments and the legal system will continue to be slow and cumbersome and will continue to displease most of the people most of the time.
Wanna bet a patent on it?