Imagine you have a Ferrari, but it can only be driven on gravel roads. Or that your school project concocted with your eccentric friends becomes the number one business in the world.

Much has been written about the dizzying rise and fall of BlackBerry in the 2000s, why the iPhone swept it all away, and the bad decisions that took market share from 45% to 0% in just a few years. The BlackBerry movie, which hits screens on May 12, offers new fictionalized insight into two aspects that will interest techies: the transformation of the corporate mindset and the challenge of the cellular networks of the time.

The film, directed by Matt Johnson, which La Presse premiered in late April, begins in 1996, 12 years after Research In Motion was founded by two engineering students, Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin. That year, Hotmail had just launched its email service, U.S. Robotics its Palm Pilot 1000, and RIM introduced its Inter@ctive Pager. This pager was able to send and receive messages on the Internet using a Swedish technology called Mobitex, of which RIM had become the North American leader.

At this stage, we often have the image of a serious and somewhat boring organization that will take the name of its flagship product BlackBerry in 2013, focused on security and service to businesses. This is the first myth that director Matt Johnson, who also plays Doug Fregin, tackles. With his permanent headband, shorts and constant Star Wars references, Fregin looks more like an aerobics trainer pulled from the 1980s than an engineer. Lazaridis, played by Jay Baruchel, is the typical geek with his horrible oversized glasses, his sickly shyness and his obsession with fixing any buzzing device.

That they’re stuck with hundreds of modems ordered and then refused by U.S. Robotics in an attempt to bankrupt RIM doesn’t keep them awake.

It’s hard to say how much this vision of RIM before the arrival of the BlackBerry in 2000 is romanticized. In an interview with La Presse, Jay Baruchel estimates at “70-30” the proportion between real and invented facts. For Baruchel, BlackBerry is an allegory, “the defeat of the innovative spirit of a Canadian company before ruthless capitalism from the South”. It’s also, in a thinly veiled nod to Star Wars, Mike Lazaridis’ fight for the soul between his kind co-founder Doug Fregin and the one who is described from the outset as a “shark”, Jim Balsillie.

In the film’s revamped story, Doug Fregin is presented as the only one who got out of the BlackBerry adventure in time, having sold his shares in 2007 and is now considered “one of the richest men on the planet”. . In fact, none of the three men appear in the 2023 Forbes list of billionaires.

The other interesting technological aspect explains why the iPhone presented by Apple in 2007 aroused unprecedented enthusiasm. It has often been reported how Steve Jobs’ announcement was greeted with derision at RIM. “Who wants a phone without a keypad? asks Lazaridis-Baruchel in particular. The other lesser-known joke topic developed by Matt Johnson was the monstrous data consumption of each iPhone, “which consumes as much data as 5,000 BlackBerries,” notes Lazaridis.

Perhaps more than the marketing deployed by Apple or the design of the new iPhone, it is probably on this point that BlackBerry will be exceeded. RIM’s phone was born and developed when much of the cellular network in Canada was based on 2G. With a capacity of just 40 Kbps, later increased to 384 Kbps, the network is insufficient to meet the ambitions of the BlackBerry.

The BlackBerry film devotes a few segments to the famous outages that regularly affected users, to the point where it became reckless to plan to sell hundreds of thousands of new devices.

Apple, with the full support of AT