Weekend news round-up: How BlackBerry imploded; the UK’s new cyber army

30 Sep 2013

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In our round-up of the weekend’s technology news, an investigative report into the self-implosion of BlackBerry paints a disturbing picture of a company blinded by its own success; Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has a final, tearful employee meeting; the UK is building a cyber army to defend itself; and the EU is to pursue Apple to include micro-USB adapters.

The inside story of the squishing of BlackBerry

An investigative report by Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail catalogues the litany of mistakes that transformed BlackBerry from the leader of the pack to a situation where it is posting operating losses of almost US$1bn and is about to lay off 40pc of its workforce.

“Once a fast-moving innovator that kept two steps ahead of the competition, RIM grew into a stumbling corporation, blinded by its own success and unable to replicate it. Several years ago, it owned the smartphone world: Even US President Barack Obama was a BlackBerry addict. But after new rivals redefined the market, RIM responded with a string of devices that were late to market, missed the mark with consumers, and opened dangerous fault lines across the organisation.”

Steve Ballmer’s emotional send off

Those canny folk over at The Verge got their hands on exclusive footage of outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s emotional final employee meeting.

“It is powerful and touching footage – one of the most influential men in the history of technology saying goodbye to the company he helped create. It is also vintage, perfect Steve Ballmer: intense, emotional, and set to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. The tech industry will never again have anyone like him.”

The UK’s new cyber army

The UK is to create a new cyber unit to help defend national security, the BBC reported.

“The Ministry of Defence is set to recruit hundreds of reservists as computer experts to work alongside regular forces in the creation of the new Joint Cyber Reserve Unit. The new unit will also, if necessary, launch strikes in cyberspace, Philip Hammond said. Recruiting for reservists to join the unit will start next month. The role of the unit is to protect computer networks and safeguard vital data.”

Design meets function – which wins?

The Verge had an interesting take on the new slew of apps to coincide with the arrival of iOS and while they are pretty are they any more sophisticated?

“To (senior vice-president of design at Apple Jony) Ive, iOS 7 is about more than a dash of colour and Helvetica Neue. It’s about the physicality of the operating system, a functional skeuomorphism which helps people identify layers within apps as if they were papers on a desk.”

EU to hound Apple to introduce micro-USB adapters

The EU has every reason to feel a little smug about its vision of uniting most phone manufacturers to introduce micro-USB adapters in a move that has a lot of knock-on environmental advantages and convenience for users in need of a quick charge.

However, there is one glaring omission – Apple – which is stubbornly sticking to its own charger design. A vote this week may force Apple’s hand, according to a report in TUAW.

“This isn’t the first time the European Union has sought to impose a charger standard on manufactures. In 2009, the commission reached a voluntary agreement with 10 mobile phone manufacturers to adopt the micro-USB charge and sync interface as the industry standard. Apple signed the agreement, a memorandum of understanding, but has not replaced its 30-pin or 8-pin chargers.

“Thursday’s vote means this formerly voluntary agreement is no longer voluntary. For Apple, with proprietary chargers that factor into the optimisation of the iPhone design, this law raises some troubling concerns. Apple already sells iPhone micro-USB adaptors, and perhaps it could start including them with new iPhones as a workaround.”

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com