The Canadian company was depending on a relative newcomer, Don Lindsay, vice president of user experience design, to coordinate the effort to redefine not just the "BlackBerry experience," but the core "mobile experience" for users.
Lindsay speaks quietly, unassertively, methodically and readily: He's given these issues a lot of thought. He was recruited from Microsoft, where he worked for about five years, where he was design director at Microsoft Live Labs. Before that, he spent 10 years in design at Apple, where he was design director for the Mac OS X User Experience Group.
He also played a key role in BlackBerry's 2010 acquisition of The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), a relatively small but highly regarded design group in Malmo, Sweden, which already counted Samsung, Motorola and Google Android as mobile design clients. That was the same year that BlackBerry bought QNX Software, maker of a proven real-time operating system, which became the foundation on which the new BlackBerry user experience would be built.
In a December 2012 story in The Wall Street Journal, Lindsay was quoted as saying that TAT has "been the single largest contributor to the design of the experience" for the BlackBerry 10 operating system. "They are driving all of this."
But Lindsay credits RIM co-founder and longtime co-CEO Mihalis "Mike" Lazaridis with the initial vision displayed when he recruited Lindsay. "He recognized that [post-iPhone] there were expectations about how a consumer device should look like and behave," Lindsay says. Lazaridis has already brought in another relative newcomer, Senior Vice President Todd Wood, to reset the company's industrial design discipline for hardware.
"[Lazaridis] wanted us to bring all this to bear at RIM," says Lindsay. "He saw this was not an area of strength for the company. His idea was to 'help us understand and create an experience that appeals to a larger audience. And help us bring it to market.'"
Lindsay began doing so first with the legacy BlackBerry OS, versions 6 and 7. "We made good advances, but the older Blackberry platform put a lot of constraints on what we could actually change," he says. "It was only with BlackBerry 10 that we fully envisioned what BlackBerry needed to have to achieve that wider appeal."
That process was guided by a number of basic principles and "core beliefs."