The BBC released a clip from an interview with Research In Motion co-CEO Mike Lazaridis today that shows Lazaridis abruptly ending an interview with correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones. The spin given by that interview (watch it here) in the media and on Twitter is more or less equivalent to a witch hunt. Tech bloggers current and former quickly bashed Lazaridis for cutting the interview over a question he “should have been ready for.” The bandwagon quickly flooded without anyone stopping to even listen to the minute-and-a-half segment. And therein lies the first problem with people’s assumptions: it’s only 90 seconds of a much longer interview. The BBC will be airing a longer, if not full, version of the interview later in April but the fact remains that we have no idea what was said to lead up to that moment.
Judging from Lazaridis’ reaction to the security question by calling it “unfair,” I can easily infer that the reporter’s previous questions either involved ragging on Blackberry or attempts to entrap Lazaridis. How did I infer that? The same way everyone else inferred that Lazaridis had a meltdown over a simple question based on those 90 seconds. Furthermore Lazaridis went on to kill the issue by saying there was no security issue. In Lazaridis’ defense, Cellan-Jones really did come off as judgmental with the security question. It was the equivalent of asking Steve Jobs “why are you such a bad person for not contributing or starting a philanthropy fund like other Silicon Valley moguls?” Sure, Jobs hasn’t publicly done anything that is equivalent to what Bill Gates does, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he is a greedy and selfish individual that hasn’t contributed a cent to charity. Cellan-Jones took an isolated issue and then blew it up into something preposterous.
But Cellan-Jones pressed on with the same issue and Lazaridis was correct in saying that RIM was being singled out. I don’t recall Andy Rubin or Eric Schmidt being grilled like this with Android’s recent security issues. Apparently Cellan-Jones has a hearing problem, because after Lazaridis told him twice that there was no issue, he pressed on with asking whether or not the issue has been sorted out. Lazaridis becomes frustrated even further, and rightfully so. Think of it like this hypothetical interview:
Me: So how do you explain the Microsoft takeover of Nokia?
Stephen Elop: There was no Microsoft takeover of Nokia. That’s a ridiculous and unfair question to ask.
Me: OK, does this mean that Nokia will act as Microsoft’s liaison to the mobile sector?
Elop: We’re not Microsoft’s liaison to anything. Nokia just happens to be focusing on Windows Phone 7 like HTC is with Android.
Me: So how are you going to be replacing more executives with former Microsoft employees?
Elop: Dude, this isn’t a Microsoft takeover…
That may seem like a preposterous hypothetical interview but it is exactly what is happening with Lazaridis and Cellan-Jones. Of course, the cherry on top was Cellan-Jones asking Lazaridis to assure consumers in the Middle East and India that they will never have an issue of any sort ever again with Blackberry. Really? I mean, come on, really? “Hey Steve Ballmer, can you give your personal guarantee that Windows will never ever have a security issue ever again?” No wonder Lazaridis cut the interview short. Cellan-Jones’ questions were so blatantly absurd that any executive or official would have responded in the same way. Put yourself in Lazaridis’ shoes, wouldn’t you have done the same? So before we judge Lazaridis for his reaction, maybe we should consider the idiocy Cellan-Jones displayed in his interview questions.