Cultural Interface :

Research In Motion Roars, Will the Autocrats Flinch?

After making some far too carefully paced and diplomatic statements to the press on Monday, Research in Motion’s co-CEO and founder, Michael Lazaridis, has come out swinging in a battle that define the future of Blackberry and maybe the very idea of what the Internet will be in the international arena.

In a fiery retort with little wiggle room, Mr. Lazaridis fired all barrels, “Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can’t deal with the Internet, they should shut it off.” He is of coarse talking to India, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and few others. Some have named dates for closing the Blackberry service, while others threaten to do the same.

Mr. Lazaridis was interviewed on Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal. As I mentioned in my former installment, “The Cultural Interface: RIM Claims To Be Saying “No, Not, Never”,” the risk of appearing to waffle on the security issue in order to please some governments could damage the reputation of Blackberry worldwide. The algorithm of company = product = branding is inescapable when it comes to security.

Although these strident declarations will, no doubt, the love and loyalty of the Blackberry community at large, it may not rattle the cage of the countries now threatening to turn off the signal. The United Arab Emirates announced the system off by October 11, Saudi Arabia says that it will shutter the service on Friday, that is tomorrow. Lebanon announced today that it will review Blackberry service within the same oft stated framework of ‘national security’. As of Wednesday, after RIM denials of access on Tuesday, the Times of India reported that both parties were in stalemate. As if to pile on, Indonesia with no plans to ban Blackberry has stated that they have their own concerns.

All of this leaves RIM and its Blackberry service in a tough position. Educate and negotiate with those that threaten to not only harm the Blackberry service with restrictions but in the process harm themselves through a misguided notion of social and national security. The UAE is a particular example, striving to be a global financial and business center and yet cutting off the lifeblood of that community, secure communications and transactions.

More to come, I am very sure.

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