Today’s moment of madness comes courtesy of Research in Motion’s Co-Chief Executive Mike Lazaridis, who is getting plenty of attention for walking out of an interview with the BBC on Wednesday.
The backstory? Having already extolled the virtues of the Playbook, the company’s much-anticipated tablet, he sits down for a chat for BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan Jones (a friend of mine and, I hope he won’t mind me saying, not exactly a firebrand).
Then things start to go wrong (click through for the video).
He’s asked about the problems BlackBerry has been having in India and the Middle East — problems largely to do with the levels of encryption the device offers its corporate users, which have fallen afoul of various government edicts. Surprised by the topic, Lazaridis starts off with a quizzical look, tries to bat away the question and then — after a press officer tries to intervene — calls an end to the interview.
“Alright, so, it’s over, the interview’s over,” he says. “Please. You can’t use that, Rory, that’s just not fair. It’s not fair. Sorry, it’s not fair: we’ve dealt with. Come on, it’s a national security issue, turn that off.”
At which point the camera switches off.
On one hand, it’s a typical huff from somebody in a position of power. CEOs — and particularly those in technology — don’t like being asked unscripted questions. Anyone who’s dealt with Apple will know the company always likes to concentrate on the product and won’t talk about anything off script. Steve Jobs once refused to answer several questions I asked him, simply staying silent.
Seen from this perspective, it’s not atypical behavior, but it’s certainly not great for RIM at a time when it needs a boost. Indeed, our mobile editor Kevin Tofel told me it was a poor choice from Lazaridis, who could have argued it was a sensitive issue and said “no comment” or simply dealt with the question. But we’ve all seen people flub their lines before or get surprised.
This also, in a way, betrays the sort of pressure that the company is under right now. Either the issue with the Indian government is a lot more frustrating than he seems prepared to admit, or he’s simply so keyed in to talking about Playbook — a problematic but potentially crucial launch that requires some version of Lazaridis-as-pitchman — that he gets sent into a spiral by an unexpected (but surely not unusual) question.
Not good news, whatever the case.