The book is the story of Waterloo, Ontario-based Research In Motion (RIM) best known as the creator of the BlackBerry.
RIM was started in 1984 by Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis and originally built various electronic systems for clients ranging from the Canadian National Film Board to early work for telecommunication company Rogers. Later on this work led to building pagers with names like the Bullfrog and Leapfrog for Intel that are clear forerunners to the BlackBerry. One of the things that makes the story a bit different is that RIM's engineers where doing the opposite of what a lot of computers start-ups where doing: rather than building the fastest of something, they needed to build something that used as little power as possible.
Along the way Rod McQueen's book provides a good mix of technical and business stories and mixing in some history or explaining a scientific concept when it's needed. There are some interesting tidbits too like Intel naming projects after cities in Arizona or PDA-maker Palm organizing "fishing expeditions" to figure out what RIM was working on. Other examples include Show Low, Arizona was Intel's code-name for RIM’s Leapfrog pager (that name itself a dig aimed at Motorola who also made pagers) or how un-popular the name “BlackBerry” was initially inside the company, basically it didn’t sound serious enough.
In the middle there is memo from Mike Lazaridis explaining how the smallness of everything about the BlackBerry from its keyboard to its screen where actually an advantage, mostly because it focuses the user’s attention on the things that matter. It ends by saying it shouldn't try and be a PDA like the PalmPilots and Newtons of the day. It is actually one of the most interesting parts in the book and you’re left wondering how this plays out as the BlackBerry gets closer to a PDA over time.
The book is nice read, if not a page-turner, and is pretty informative if you’re interested in the company or want to learn a bit about Canadian technology businesses, but it’s not Random Excess (about mid-1990s Canadian success-story Corel and founder Michael Cowpland) or Stealing MySpace; but then again RIM is still here while Corel crashed in the late 1990s and MySpace continues to fade away. In the end, the book does feel a bit like it was done by RIM’s marketing department, even if it’s not.