Technology Science - RIM co-CEO in spotlight as PlayBook launches

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Research in Motion co-CEO Mike Lazaridis was in the spotlight this week, expressing frustration during a couple of media interviews, ahead of the launch of the Canadian company's BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.

Lazaridis made headlines after he abruptly ended a video interview with the BBC, calling a reporter's questions "unfair."

The Waterloo, Ont., company's launch party for the PlayBook â€Â" the first attempt by RIM to diversify outside the smartphone market â€Â" was in New York on Thursday.

The tablet is scheduled to hit U.S. and Canadian stores on Tuesday.

The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet is displayed at CES in Las Vegas. The device will be in North American stores on Tuesday. The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet is displayed at CES in Las Vegas. The device will be in North American stores on Tuesday. Steve Marcus/ReutersThe video of Lazaridis's exchange with reporter Rory Cellan-Jones was posted on the BBC's dot.Rory technology blog just a day before the launch event.

Cellan-Jones was asking Lazaridis whether RIM has solved its problems in a number of Middle Eastern and Asian countries, where authorities threatened last summer to ban or block BlackBerry smartphones.

"It's over. Interview's over. That's just not fair," Lazaridis said while shaking his head, before demanding that the camera be turned off.

The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, India, Lebanon and Algeria all say they have security concerns about the devices, which encrypt data to meet businesses' need for corporate data security.

CBC's Scott Peterson said Lazaridis may be an engineering genius, but his sales skills "may be a little bit lacking."

"Really, you can take away from this, Here is a guy under a lot of pressure," Peterson said. "His own heart is invested in this company, in this invention."

Peterson noted that the company must play catch-up to the dominant player in the market, the Apple iPad, which launched its second version on March 11.

"It's almost in a sense a do or die for BlackBerry, staying relevant, staying up to date," Peterson added.

Craig McLennan, RIM's managing director for North America, played it cool in an interview with CBC News this week.

"We've been concentrating heavily on bringing the right product to the right market at the right time," he said when asked why it took his company so long to come out with the PlayBook. "We're in a very, very good place right now."

Balsillie defends company

In an interview with the New York Times, RIM's other CEO, Jim Balsillie, defended the company against a suggestion it was ill-prepared for market changes. But he also acknowledged it is difficult for companies to make the transition to a new platform, and few other than Apple have succeeded.

"It’s way harder than you realize," he said. "This transition is where tech companies go to die.”

The BBC interview wasn't the first hint that Lazaridis might be feeling under pressure this week. In another interview, with the Times on Monday, he vented his frustrations about his company's sagging share price.

"Why is it that people don't appreciate our profits? Why is it that people don't appreciate our growth? Why is it that people don't appreciate the fact that we spent the last four years going global? Why is it that people don't appreciate that we have 500 carriers in 170 countries with products in almost 30 languages?… I don't fully understand why there's this negative sentiment."

With files from The Canadian Press

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