After passing “the baton to new leadership” three and a half years ago, ex-Research In Motion chief executive Jim Balsillie has publicly admitted in a new interview what everyone already knows: the iPhone was devastating to the company’s BlackBerry smartphone business. The Associated Press reports Balsillie’s comments came during a Q&A session with the authors of the recently released “Losing the Signal. The Spectacular Rise and Fall of BlackBerry” book (Amazon/iBooks):

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Balsillie said in his first public remarks since leaving the company in 2012 that he knew BlackBerry couldn’t compete after the iPhone’s introduction in 2007 and after BlackBerry’s buggy touchscreen device called the Storm had a “100 percent return rate.”

Balsillie also described RIM’s disastrous launch of the BlackBerry Storm as a rushed response to bring a touchscreen smartphone to market following Apple’s iPhone.

“With Storm we tried to do too much. It was a touch display, it was a clickable display, it had new applications, and it was all done in an incredibly short period of time and it blew up on us,” Balsillie said. “That was the time I knew we couldn’t compete on high end hardware.”

In his comments, Balsillie said at the time he believed that RIM have brought its once-popular BlackBerry Messenger service to iOS and Android as the company’s revenue was largely from its services and not hardware.

RIM rebranded the company as BlackBerry and did bring its BBM messaging app to both iOS and Android nearly two years after Balsillie’s departure. The service, however, still hasn’t been a massive splash with tough competition from Apple’s iMessage, Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp, and Google’s Hangouts service, and BlackBerry remains as a smartphone and services niche and not the market leader it once was.

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