The Berry That It Makes is Sweeter Than Molasses

John asked me to review the new Blackberry devices, so here it is after the break.

To understand why BlackBerry has been the most disappointing technology company of the last few years, you need to understand what was cool about BlackBerry. In the pre-iPhone era, in the US, BlackBerry was by far the dominant “smartphone”, with two killer software features:

* Push email. BlackBerry pioneered instant delivery of email to your phone, and constant sync between your corporate or personal email accounts. This is commonplace today, but when RIM/BlackBerry built it, they had to create their own email system to push email to BlackBerry devices, and to this day, every message to a BlackBerry travels through RIM’s servers.

* BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). This allowed texting between BlackBerries, no matter what cell provider they used. Each BlackBerry had a unique identifier, called a PIN, and if you knew someone’s PIN, you could send them a text message, except it could be much longer than 160 characters (the length differed depending on the BlackBerry version, but it was around 16K on the devices I used). Corporations and groups of friends used PIN messaging in part because it was more secure than text messaging. The 2011 London riots were organized by groups using PIN messages because they are much harder to monitor than Facebook or Twitter.

The other killer BlackBerry feature was the hardware. BlackBerries were durable, they had a great keyboard, and they had good battery life. My first two “smartphones” were BlackBerries, and I had good experiences with them as email devices.

As smartphones, however, BlackBerries were pretty dumb. The BlackBerry OS was old and crude. The web browser on the device was execrable. Apps were hard to develop, limited and more textual than graphical. The screen was fine for reading emails and PIN messages, but it was small, low-res and not a touchscreen.

RIM, the company that created BlackBerry, knew they they had a problem at least 5 years ago, but unfortunately they were run by “co-CEOs”, when put together, seemed to make half of a half of a brain. The company bumbled and fumbled, releasing some real duds, including the Storm, which had a touchscreen that clicked (yes, it sucked), and a tablet called the Playbook which was over-hyped yet hardly sold. What BlackBerry didn’t produce was a new phone with a modern operating system.

On Wednesday, BlackBerry finally demoed their new phone, the Z10, which is a touchscreen device with a form similar to the iPhone. It runs a new, modern version of BlackBerry OS that checks all the feature boxes–decent web browser, touch screen gestures, integrated messaing portal–and has some innovations. The onscreen keyboard has been getting good reviews, and the camera takes a bunch of pictures at once, so you can dial forward and back until you find your kid’s perfect smile or your cat’s perfect pose.

Unfortunately, as has been the case with BlackBerry for the last 5 years, these few innovations, which are mainly designed to get some market buzz, are coupled with fucked-up execution. First, unbelievably, one of BlackBerry’s killer features, push email, is absent from the Z10, unless you have a corporate (Exchange) account. The whole user interface (UI) sounds like it has some clever features, but it is confusing to navigate and comes off half-baked (Josh Topolsky’s video review has some good examples of UI strangeness.)

BlackBerry’s app store advertises a bunch of apps, but most of them are crap, according to those who have tried them, and a lot of them are ported from Android automatically, a process that just can’t work very well, for a number of technical reasons. There’s no native Instagram, Gmail, Netflix, or Google Maps apps, to name a few examples of apps people might want but won’t find on BlackBerry.

BlackBerry has also released the device old-school BlackBerry users really want, the Q10, which has a keyboard and a form factor similar to the “classic” BlackBerries. I can only imagine how this will disappoint, because BlackBerry wouldn’t even let people touch it at their launch media event.

BlackBerry has something like 80 million users worldwide, and lots of them love their devices. There is no smartphone on the market today that has a keyboard that rivals the old-school BlackBerry, and lots of BlackBerry users want a more modern version of their phone with a keyboard. Yet, as is typical of those fuckups from Waterloo, they are chasing iPhone taillights instead of giving the people what they want. BlackBerry stupidly put a ton of resources into their iPad clone, the Playbook, and that thing took a massive dump. I doubt many people will buy a Z10 when they could pay the same price for an iPhone or Galaxy SIII, which are two similar phones that have mature, working OSes with thriving app stores. But people would buy a Q10 if it had good push email, a suite of the key apps that other smartphones have, good battery life, and a great BlackBerry keyboard. Yet that’s the last priority on BlackBerry’s list.

RIM/BlackBerry finally fired the two douche canoes who were running the place, but this product launch is still part of their legacy. I carried BlackBerry devices for almost half a decade, but I wouldn’t use one of their new offerings even if you paid me. The world has passed them by, and it’s their own damn fault.






79 replies
  1. 1
    Maude says:

    I hope this puts RIM into better shape.

    ETA douche canoes, belongs in Lexicon. It’s perfect.

  2. 2
    Walker says:

    Stomp, stomp on Kay.

    Back to thread: it is all about the app ecosystem these days. We shall see what happens to RIM

  3. 3
    General Stuck says:

    GenX hipsters are far more technologically advanced than this boomer. Too much signal, not enough real life. And besides — there’s the drone menace out there, somewhere.

  4. 4
    General Stuck says:

    Speaking of science and technology, I wish somebody would make better plumbing as my poop pipe is plugged again this morn. It’s like eleventy below zero out, and i will have to do it the the old fashioned way. Squatting in a clump of Junipers, like the natives did.

  5. 5
    Roger Moore says:

    @Walker:

    Back to thread: it is all about the app ecosystem these days.

    App ecosystem is important, but the built-in stuff is critical, too. The app store is never going to get a lot of developers if the basic platform doesn’t have something to attract users. Throwing out the features that were so attractive in the first place (e.g. good keyboard, push email from any service) is a huge step backward.

  6. 6
    r€nato says:

    I think that BlackBerry is hoping that people will buy their phones because it’s not iPhone nor Android.

    There’s also some BB diehards out there but they are dwindling fast.

    Other than that, I just don’t see anything compelling. This is simply catch-up, not a game changer and BB needed a game changer.

  7. 7
    r€nato says:

    BB noticed that many, many BB users were carrying two phones so they made their new phones have ‘work’ and ‘personal’ screens you can swap back and forth between with a swipe.

    But that’s not the problem, the problem is that people liked their iPhones better than their work-provided BB. That’s why they went to the bother of carrying two phones. The solution is to make your phone so compelling. Apps, apps, apps are a big part of that. It’s how ‘normal’, non-geeks customize their phone to their tastes and needs. BB doesn’t have a robust app store.

    The other features that salespeople can show off are either already available or easily copied by iOS and Android.

  8. 8
    Gin & Tonic says:

    What the BB always had, which made it sell so well in the corporate market, is not just that it was push e-mail fully coordinated with your normal Outlook mailbox, but that delivery was verifiably secure. Auditors like that. A lot.

  9. 9
    amk says:

    A brand in its deathbed. Really?

  10. 10
    Ohmmade says:

    I remember five years ago my old executive producer said to her husband “the only people who have blackberries anymore work for the government.”. That was FIVE years ago.

  11. 11
    ploeg says:

    There’s only so much market space for a smartphone OS that you must pay for. Maybe stick to hardware (which is, after all, your killer feature).

  12. 12
    Linnaeus says:

    I still have a Blackberry (Bold 9700); my cell service provider doesn’t offer the iPhone and I couldn’t afford the Android phones, so I bought a used Blackberry and figured that it would suffice for the time being. It has, but now that my friend has upgraded to the iPhone 5, he’s going to sell me his old iPhone 4 at a pretty good price, so I’ll switch to that.

  13. 13
    MikeBoyScout says:

    The question is not who or how many will buy a BlackBerry, but who will buy RIM, layoff the majority of its employees and incorporate its corporate desirable features into its product offerings.

    My money (literally) is on acquisition happy MS.

  14. 14
    Roger Moore says:

    @MikeBoyScout:

    My money (literally) is on acquisition happy MS.

    Who will then turn around and screw things up again. Microsoft has been one mistake after another since Gates left.

  15. 15
    General Stuck says:

    What a country. It is rare and good news that the Senate reached a rear 60 vote supermajority for the far left (cough cough) Violence Against Women act for a reathorization. Now it goes to The House of Neanderthals http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.....fpnewsfeed

    VAWA originally passed in 1994 and was reauthorized without incident in 2000 and 2005. It expired in 2011 but has continued to receive funds. The reauthorization has fallen prey to disputes between a Senate supermajority and House Republicans on whether to expand coverage to gays, illegal immigrants, college students and Native Americans.

    IOW’s , only white womens who aren’t wetbacks queers left wing campus commies, or Redskins. Need apply. Go wingnuts!!!

  16. 16
    r€nato says:

    @Roger Moore: I don’t know about an MS acquisition. They are already partnered with Nokia, gave them a big ol’ sack of cash ($1B?).

    OTOH Nokia’s relaunch with Lumia was a dud and MS is well-known for stabbing its partners in the back if it thinks it’s to its advantage to do so.

  17. 17
    kindness says:

    I want Blackberry to survive but will keep my iphone for now.

    Nice review.

  18. 18
    Rosalita says:

    I was really hoping BB would pull it together. I really liked mine, but I’m scared to invest in a newer one in case they totally tank. The actual keyboard was so much easier to use. Been using an iPhone (v4) the last two years and I guess I’ll stay with it because of all the integration with my laptop and pod players.

  19. 19
    Montysano says:

    The berry that it makes is sweeter than molasses

    “And black as the wings of the Arkansas crow”

    A Michelle Shocked reference, eh? Nicely done.

  20. 20
    The Red Pen says:

    For the last two people who haven’t already seen this:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....79728.html

  21. 21
    ant says:

    Well, I don’t know a thing about smart phones…. But using a friends BB, I recall that the sound was nice and clear and loud. It was almost like the designers of the phone decided to make a phone that worked well at its original purpose.

    And I hate touch screens.

  22. 22
    amk says:

    @The Red Pen: LOL. nice.

  23. 23
    Fred Fnord says:

    Best keyboard? I’m a lot faster on my iPhone keyboard than I ever was on the blackberry I owned for three years. So it can’t be that much better.

  24. 24
    Closeted epistemic (formerly Lojasmo) says:

    @General Stuck:

    Mine kept plugging for the longest time. Turns out the wax ring was not complely sealed. Replace the ring…get the robust one…I think your problems will end.

    And speaking of poop pipes, blackberries suck.

  25. 25
    Peter says:

    Is the keyboard better than other phone keyboards? Yes.

    Is it actually a good keyboard? No, not remotely. I’m more or less incapable of pushing only one key at a time on most of them thanks to the size of my thumbs.

  26. 26
    Mnemosyne says:

    As I understand it (and I am not a tech person, so I may be getting this wrong), my division of the Giant Evil Corporation switched to Google Mail instead of Exchange mail in part so people could read their company email on their iPhone or other iDevice without having to pay a $99 license fee to Microsoft.

  27. 27
    General Stuck says:

    Someone in comments predicted as much after news of the Phoenix shooting broke.

    The law firm said Thursday that Hummels would not survive his injuries. Steve Singer, 48, also died of his injuries from the shooting. A body matching the description of Arthur Douglas Harmon, 70, the suspect in the shooting, was found in Mesa, Ariz. Thursday, Phoenix police said. Police said Harmon died of a self-inflicted gunshot.

    It’s a script for real life murder and mayhem. Somebody make it stop.

  28. 28
    MattR says:

    @r€nato:

    BB noticed that many, many BB users were carrying two phones so they made their new phones have ‘work’ and ‘personal’ screens you can swap back and forth between with a swipe.

    But that’s not the problem, the problem is that people liked their iPhones better than their work-provided BB.

    My company provides iPhones to its employees but most people still have a second phone for personal use. It is a combination of the company not wanting personal activity going through their accounts (EDIT: meaning wireless accounts – minutes, data usage, etc) and employees wanting to keep personal activity personal.

  29. 29
    Maude says:

    The new BB keeps personal and professional accounts separate.
    That is a huge plus.
    People were waiting to see the keyboard.

  30. 30
    General Stuck says:

    @Closeted epistemic (formerly Lojasmo):

    This time its the main line for the 3 plex building, to where everything backs up. Plumbers are en route. but thanks for tip.

    I will remain cranky though.

  31. 31
    A Neanderthal says:

    @General Stuck:

    Now it goes to The House of Neanderthals

    Hey, our brains were bigger than yours, and we existed for 250,000-550,000 years. Our spirits resent being compared to the douches wingnuts in congress. Not only are they much dumber than us, they’ll go extinct a lot faster, too.

  32. 32
    MattR says:

    @Maude:

    The new BB keeps personal and professional accounts separate

    Related to my previous comment, what exactly does this mean? What types of accounts are we talking about? Email, apps, etc? Or the actual wireless carrier (edit: Which I guess would mean having two phone numbers go to a single phone)?

  33. 33
    Maude says:

    @MattR:
    Completely separate. a new deal, so to speak. If you are given a corporate BB10, You can use it for your personal everything and not be in the corporate account at all.
    I know this because guests on Bloomberg radio were happy about this. Also, the company can’t access your personal anything on it.
    It’s like having two phones. I can understand why a corporate employee who has to use a mobile for work would want this.
    I you have to use your own mobile, you can set up the pro account and not get another phone.

  34. 34
    Maude says:

    If I use the touch screen keyboard on my Nook, I use the eraser end of a pencil. Works and it’s easy. I have small hands and the touch screen is hard to use with my fingers.

  35. 35
    MattR says:

    @Maude: I am still unclear about this. Let’s say my work gives me a new Blackberry. If I want to set up personal accounts, do I need to contact a wireless carrier and create an account with them and pick a data/minutes plan that I will pay for separately? Or is it still going through the work wireless plan and using their data/minutes? (EDIT: As long as it is the latter, I don’t think it will allow many people to consolidate to a single phone)

  36. 36
    James K. Polk, Esq. says:

    I love love love my blackberry playbook.

    The reason: It cost me $150 for a really nicely made tablet with great sound and a nice screen. The thought of paying the $500 they were asking for it is a total joke though. It’s great for traveling in the third world as a cheap, very portable, usable computer. You can find them for as little as $99 now.

    The playbook OS is really easy to use, I like it better than iOS but less than Android. It’s locked down though, and the app store is lacking (to say the least). I can’t wait to try their new OS.

    I’m shocked to say that I’m rooting for them to succeed.

  37. 37
    Steved says:

    Don’t forget, the “douche canoes” were the ones who came up with the thing in the first fucking place. You might want to chill just a little.

  38. 38
    MattR says:

    @MattR: I guess there are some companies that are very strict about what apps you can put on your phone, so this would help employees out in that respect. But as long as it going through the employer’s wireless plan, I think those employees are going to run into the next hurdle – that the companies don’t want you streaming large amounts of data to your phone using the bandwidth they are paying for.

  39. 39
    👽 Martin says:

    Bottom line, the point of smartphones is that they’re computers you can carry and do more stuff with than just make calls.

    These devices are routinely evaluated based on their UI and gestures and built-in features, and that’s adequate for a feature phone, but the point of a smartphone is that you can add your own features through software. So the other part of the question is: what software is available. And the answer to that question is why the iPhone became the device to beat, because it had (and still has) the best software availability.

    Blackberry, like Windows phone, don’t know how to address the problem of getting developers interested in their platforms and building out that software ecosystem. The Mac was widely praised for it’s UI and built-in features, but they struggled to solve the software ecosystem problem and that was (and somewhat still is, but getting better) a huge drag on the platform that is extremely difficult to overcome – and when you can, it take ages, so you have to keep your platform alive and stable to get there, which is nigh impossible in the consumer electronics space.

    @MattR:

    If I want to set up personal accounts, do I need to contact a wireless carrier and create an account with them and pick a data/minutes plan that I will pay for separately?

    As described has nothing to do with the carrier. Basically, you have two data partitions in the phone – one that work can secure by locking down apps, setting remote wipe functionality and so on, and a 2nd (or more in theory) that you can have control over for your personal stuff. It’s a good feature designed to appease employers worried about work data and end users who want more freedom with the device. There’s still one plan.

    FWIW, my understanding is that Apple is adding multiple user functionality in an upcoming update – possibly iOS 7. The primary target for this is the iPad which is often shared in a household, but the iPhone would at least get a personal/work split feature like described above.

  40. 40
    r€nato says:

    @MattR: But… the second phone that they chose to pay for out of their own pocket, was not another BlackBerry.

  41. 41
    r€nato says:

    @👽 Martin:

    the answer to that question is why the iPhone became the device to beat, because it had (and still has) the best software availability.

    well, that and you know the experience you’re going to get on it. OTOH Android phones are a mess. Yes if you pay top dollar for a Galaxy S3 you’ll get a pretty damned good phone. But if you don’t have the $ for that, you’re stuck trying to choose among lesser phones from several manufacturers. Then there’s the OS fragmentation and the carrier-limited updates (so that many can’t get the latest and greatest version of Android unless they get a new phone or wait a looong time) and the way manufacturers are pulling the same crap they did prior to iOS with crappy OS implementations. I’ve also heard a lot about crashes and battery life issues. Then there’s the whole issue with salesmen trying to sell you a phone, it’s like dealing with car salesmen.

    Yes, Apple makes just one model, basically (with two color choices and three memory configs). No, it doesn’t have a ginormous screen. But people know what they are going to get with an iPhone,it works really well, the customer support is great, and the App Store is hard to beat.

  42. 42
    MattR says:

    @r€nato: True, though there were requests from people to keep their blackberry’s rather than having to switch to the iPhone. My point is that the phone’s functionality is not the reason why most people have separate work and personal phones (at least at my company).

    @👽 Martin:

    It’s a good feature designed to appease employers worried about work data and end users who want more freedom with the device.

    Thanks for the explanation/clarification. I would agree that it is a useful feature. But I also think that it is not going to lead to huge numbers of people being able to give up a second phone.

  43. 43
    👽 Martin says:

    @Steved:

    Don’t forget, the “douche canoes” were the ones who came up with the thing in the first fucking place. You might want to chill just a little.

    The problem is that the Blackberry wasn’t a smart phone, rather it was a smart pager, by adding a phone to one. Apple really invented the smart phone by adding a full-on computer to a phone. Blackberry never was able to move from it’s ‘make a better pager’ mindset to a ‘make a better phone’ one.

  44. 44
    James K Polk, Esq says:

    @r€nato: Nexus 4 called and reminded you that you can get a top of the line smartphone unlocked, no bloatware, instant updates from google off contract for $300. Couple that with an unlimited talk/text/web StraightTalk plan that uses AT&T’s “4G” network for $45 a month and you can save some serious money over any other option.

    Anyone who considers another phone / plan combo (provided AT&T gets service where you live) is throwing away money.

  45. 45
    James K Polk, Esq says:

    @👽 Martin: Apple invented the smartphone that people coveted. Smartphones existed for many years before the iPhone came out. Let us not forget that 3rd party mobile applications weren’t even a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye when Palm and Microsoft were poorly serving the smartphone users of the world.

    Apple can take credit for ubiquitizing the smartphone, but not for creating it.

  46. 46
    r€nato says:

    @👽 Martin: I never get tired of reading this.

    RIM had a complete internal panic when Apple unveiled the iPhone in 2007, a former employee revealed this weekend. The BlackBerry maker is now known to have held multiple all-hands meetings on January 10 that year, a day after the iPhone was on stage, and to have made outlandish claims about its features. Apple was effectively accused of lying as it was supposedly impossible that a device could have such a large touchscreen but still get a usable lifespan away from a power outlet.

    @James K Polk, Esq: That’s indeed a great deal if you want an Android phone. How are they selling? One thing I was reminded of at the presentation was the degree to which the salespeople at the carrier stores influence phone sales. Some people walk in with a definite idea of what they want, but most average folks aren’t sure and a salesman can greatly influence the choice. I was surprised to hear that Apple doesn’t send any sort of sales reps around at all. Nokia apparently fell down big time on this and that could be a reason why Lumia failed to make a big splash, even though by all accounts it was an excellent smartphone.

  47. 47
    👽 Martin says:

    @MattR:

    But I also think that it is not going to lead to huge numbers of people being able to give up a second phone.

    That’s not Blackberry’s goal. Blackberry’s goal is to convince employers to make the phone they provide a Blackberry rather than an iPhone. They just need to convince your CIO that it’s a good enough reason to either stick with Blackberry or switch back away from iPhone. If you go off and buy a 2nd phone, well, they don’t give a shit. Nor do they give a shit if you like the feature or not. The only people that matter on this are CIOs. Period. But they buy phones in the thousands, and it’s really Blackberrys only realistic path to stay alive – as it always was. The corporate market was their lifeline and their market to lose – and they’ve lost it.

  48. 48
    Mnemosyne says:

    @James K Polk, Esq:

    Anyone who considers another phone / plan combo (provided AT&T gets service where you live) is throwing away money.

    For $30 a month, I get 300 minutes, unlimited texting, and unlimited internet from Virgin Mobile. It’s 3G, but that doesn’t make much difference to me — I’m not really a power user.

  49. 49
    r€nato says:

    @James K Polk, Esq:

    Apple can take credit for ubiquitizing the smartphone, but not for creating it.

    nothing new about that story. They didn’t invent MP3 players. They didn’t invent either the mouse or the GUI… or the tablet or the smartphone. But they did such a good job with the hardware and software of the iPod and their OS (including the old OS and OS X) and the iPhone and iPad, that all their competitors try to imitate them to some degree or another.

  50. 50
    Ruckus says:

    Have an old BB tour. Two things that were great. First the phone actually worked very well as an actual phone, great clarity, etc. Texting worked fine and if you practiced a bit the keyboard worked great. Once had a guy sitting next to me on a plane write what looked like war and peace on a 4hr flight using only his thumbs. Amazing.
    The downside? For it’s time I can’t think of any.
    My question is do we need all the fluff that the new smartphones add? And if not where do we go to get an actual good basic phone?

  51. 51
    James K Polk, Esq says:

    @r€nato: Only carrier that carries them is T Mobile (other carriers refuse to sell them because they don’t have control of the update schedules and pre-installed apps).

    They had been sold out of the google play store from essentially release date to early this week. This with very, very little advertising. The deal proposition works out well enough that word of mouth basically covers the advertising.

    Although, a great ad budget can work wonders for your product. Witness: Samsung ascendant at roughly the same time their ad budget exploded.

  52. 52
    👽 Martin says:

    @James K Polk, Esq:

    Anyone who considers another phone / plan combo (provided AT&T gets service where you live) is throwing away money.

    We’re paying $48 a month for my wife’s iPhone 5 on AT&T. Less than $300 out of pocket up-front. So, there are other options. And the Nexus doesn’t have many of the features I most often use. It doesn’t have several of my daily go-to apps, and it doesn’t have any kind of proper content broadcasting ecosystem (which is what I use the most). Airplay is a killer feature for many of us.

  53. 53
    James K Polk, Esq says:

    @Mnemosyne: How much did you pay for your Virgin iPhone? I did the math on that one,

    iPhone 4s = $450 (current price, although until recently they were $650)

    $450 + $30/month * 24 months = $1170

    Nexus 4

    $300 + $45/month * 24 months = $1380

    So you get a brand new gen smartphone, infinite minutes (vs 300 TOTAL mins a month), data an order of maginitude faster, better coverage and an unlocked phone that can be used on other networks / internationally for an extra $210 (less than $10/month).

    Other smartphones on virgin (like a Galaxy SII) cost $35/month and nearly wipe out the savings.

  54. 54
    James K Polk, Esq says:

    @👽 Martin: My guess is you also have an iPad that does airplay mirroring, so not that big a deal on that front.

    Just out of curiousity, what apps do you have on your iPhone that have no Android equivalent.

    Also, you are in the CRAZY minority for getting an iPhone at less than $50 a month (according to ArsTechnia 6% of iphone users pay that little).

  55. 55
    Mnemosyne says:

    @James K Polk, Esq:

    I did pay full freight for it about a year ago. But you’re also leaving out the fact that I already had an iPod Touch and array of apps that I could just transfer to my iPhone, while changing OSes would require me to re-purchase everything I already had. We’re probably only talking a hundred bucks or so, but it would be a pain in the butt.

    As far as the 300 minutes go, the only time I’ve even come close to using them up was this past month when I was doing an unusual amount of traveling so, again, not really a big worry to me. Plus any minutes overage is only 10 cents per minute, so it wouldn’t be a big deal even if I did go over.

  56. 56
    stormhit says:

    @Roger Moore:

    That’s not really true, but it’s certainly the perception problem that is the major issue facing the company.

  57. 57
    MattR says:

    @👽 Martin:

    That’s not Blackberry’s goal. Blackberry’s goal is to convince employers to make the phone they provide a Blackberry rather than an iPhone

    I agree with this, but I also jumped into the conversation because I disagreed with r€nato’s assertion that this would lead people to give up a second phone.

    They just need to convince your CIO that it’s a good enough reason to either stick with Blackberry or switch back away from iPhone. If you go off and buy a 2nd phone, well, they don’t give a shit. Nor do they give a shit if you like the feature or not. The only people that matter on this are CIOs. Period. But they buy phones in the thousands, and it’s really Blackberrys only realistic path to stay alive – as it always was. The corporate market was their lifeline and their market to lose – and they’ve lost it.

    I agree with your point about aiming for business users where the CIO makes the decision based on what is best for the company overall and not individual employees, but I also don’t think that this particular feature is a major part of that sales push. It sounds like a nice organizational and security feature that some will take advantage of, but it is not so amazing or revolutionary that it is going to bring in a ton of new business on its own.

  58. 58
    r€nato says:

    @James K Polk, Esq:

    Only carrier that carries them is T Mobile (other carriers refuse to sell them because they don’t have control of the update schedules and pre-installed apps).

    Well, there you go. Same shit as the pre-iPhone days. The carriers degrade and ruin the user experience and without the carriers (and their retail stores and their sales force) on board, you’re not going to sell jack.

  59. 59
    MattR says:

    @MattR:

    because I disagreed with r€nato’s assertion that this would lead people to give up a second phone.

    To clarify, this might make people want to consolidate to a single phone but I think there are still barriers that will prevent the company from allowing it.

  60. 60
    Thor Heyerdahl says:

    I remember being at a Toronto Board of Trade breakfast back in November 2010 with the provincial innovation minister. The BoT spokeswoman got up at the start and talked about innovation and said something like “I’m sure most of you have one of these,” and pulled out her Blackberry. I almost laughed out loud wondering if she had read any media stories or read sales results, because at that point I didn’t know many people who were clamouring for the Blackberry.

    If Jim Balsillie wasn’t such a douche canoe in his search to buy an NHL team from 2006-2009, and instead had actually focused on his company and the rapidly changing marketplace, it might be a different headline today.

  61. 61
    Arclite says:

    Isn’t one of BB’s features encryption that governments couldn’t hack into? I thought no one else offered that.

  62. 62
    r€nato says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I already had an iPod Touch and array of apps that I could just transfer to my iPhone, while changing OSes would require me to re-purchase everything I already had. We’re probably only talking a hundred bucks or so, but it would be a pain in the butt.

    I heard a lot said at the presentation to which I referred up-thread but this was the key takeaway I got from it. The people there were mostly sales folk and they were (consciously or otherwise) trying to say nice things to the BB rep about the new BB phone and they talked down the iPhone a lot.

    But the one key observation I got was about a customer who didn’t want to change his mobile platform because he had quite a bit invested in his iTunes music catalog.

  63. 63
    Craigo says:

    @👽 Martin: Even RIM doesn’t fool themselves with this anymore. The enterprise sector was their bread and butter for years, but IT departments now routinely either offer BYOD or purchase android or iOS phones, because that’s what their employees overwhelmingly want. When my firm’s technology officer released the stats for 2011, less than 10% of our attorneys reported using Blackberry for work, whereas it had been literally 100% as late as 2008.

    The enterprise sector has been disrupted, and it’s not going back to the way it was. If it weren’t for long-term corporate contracts and Canadian brand loyalty, RIM would have gone under some time ago.

  64. 64
    r€nato says:

    @Arclite: apparently iOS security is good enough that several government agencies approve iPhones and iPads for BYOD or are outright buying them to replace BB.

    Android security however is a nightmare.

  65. 65
    James K Polk, Esq says:

    @r€nato: Legitimate question: what part of Android security is a nightmare in your estimation? I have heard the same thing, but I have no idea what the root cause of this statement actually is, so I never repeat it.

  66. 66
    Roger Moore says:

    @👽 Martin:

    FWIW, my understanding is that Apple is adding multiple user functionality in an upcoming update – possibly iOS 7.

    And it was already added to Android 4.2. I haven’t used it yet because I don’t share my devices, but it’s there if I ever need it.

  67. 67
    johnny aquitard says:

    Except these douche canoes were given solid gold paddles and a fucking lake of silver. They got $12 million in exit payments, obviously because they did such an awesome job for the company with their strategic vision and leadership skillz.

    Jim Balsillie, who also resigned from RIM’s board more recently, will receive about $8 million, the company said. Mike Lazaridis, one of the company’s founders and its current vice chairman, was given $4 million on the condition that he remain active with RIM.

    Why am I not surprised? I knew I’d find something like this when I looked it up. Fuckup CEOs who fail their way to millions in compensation. Fuck these assholes.

    These people don’t run shit. They’re stupid as shit. They’re greedy as shit.

  68. 68
    Matt McIrvin says:

    I used to work for Danger, Inc., which made the OS for T-Mobile Sidekicks. Several years ago, the Sidekick was sort of the teenage Blackberry, and it had similar features: a good keyboard and push email, but its killer app was instant messaging. If you had a Sidekick data plan (which was fairly cheap as these things went), you could communicate with other Sidekick users (and PC users, of course) via AOL Instant Messenger for no extra charge.

    This was at a time when most carriers in the US were charging ten or fifteen cents a pop for text messages, which teenagers can easily send by the thousands per month. You couldn’t get a flat-rate service, or it was fantastically expensive.

    Unlike most smartphone IM apps, it was “always on”: messages would be buffered by Danger’s back-end server so that your IM account stayed active even if your connection went up and down. You could carry on up to ten conversations at once and flip between them with special case buttons.

    The downside, of course, is that just as with Blackberry, you’re dependent on one more point of failure (the back-end service). There were outages, including a particularly infamous one after Microsoft bought Danger. The service is no more, and those old Sidekicks are gone (T-Mobile retained the brand and sold an Android “Sidekick” for a while; I carry one, but it’s not the same). But they were pretty cool stuff for a while.

  69. 69
    Djur says:

    @r€nato: Google has been selling a lot of Nexus devices, though. The thing about Android right now is that you can get the clean, pure thing for a reasonable price if that’s what you want, and there’s a bunch of cheaper phones available with carrier bullshit. For the short term, this expands the install base for Android in a way iOS can’t really match. In the long term, the superior quality of the Nexus devices should force carriers and device manufacturers to back off on the crapware.

    This is basically the Mac/PC thing all over again, which is kind of hilarious.

  70. 70
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @James K Polk, Esq: I remember when the word “smartphone” in the US was essentially used as a synonym for “Windows Mobile phone”. That was before most of the general public even knew what they were, though.

  71. 71
    Matt McIrvin says:

    ….well, I guess at the time it was “Windows CE”, not “Windows Mobile”.

  72. 72
    Roger Moore says:

    @stormhit:
    One mistake after another might be a bit strong, but they’ve definitely had trouble breaking out of their stronghold in the desktop OS and Office Suite markets. They’ve had some success pushing into the server market, but mostly at the lower end, and the Xbox is a strong competitor in the console marketplace, but apart from that they’re not very impressive. Their web services are also-rans. The mobile iterations of Windows have failed to catch on, letting a whole series of other companies- Palm, RIM, Apple, Google, etc.- take turns in the top positions in the marketplace. Zune was a bad joke. Microsoft cloud services are way behind. Surface looks likely to turn into another expensive boondoggle. Etc.

  73. 73
    👽 Martin says:

    @James K Polk, Esq: And Apple laptops as well. Pushing video and audio around the house (with 2 kids) is kind of a big deal and has saved us a lot of money. We’ve dumped all of our AV equipment save the TiVo and an AppleTV, and have really nice quality wireless audio streaming in the house (Bluetooth audio kind of sucks and doesn’t do video and has too short of range).

    A lot of Mac apps have really solid iOS equivalents or support apps – like OmniPlan and OmniFocus. That kind of consistency and integration from desktop to mobile is a lot harder to find on Android – at least at that kind of depth. We’ve got AppleTVs in our conference rooms, so anyone in a meeting can push a presentation up to the projector or share something they’re looking at. Its incredibly handy. It’s not just that we have an iPad, but that there really wasn’t any equivalent to this for quite some time. Xbox is getting closer, though, but it still lags. There are no portable speakers (other than bluetooth), for example, where Airplay ones are common and can be very good.

    But yeah, we have a dialed back phone plan mainly because we don’t need things like SMS – we just use services like Messages or Whatsapp across the data plan. A lot of iOS users have the full carrier package simply because they have the full carrier package. Look at your link – 49% of iOS users pay $100+ but 53% of Android users do. If saving money was their intent of choosing Android, they suck at it. Either that wasn’t their intent, or they just walked into the store and chose what the sales guy told them (which is what a lot of people do). And we don’t have a large data plan because we have better wifi coverage at home, at work, and at the kids schools. Where we do 90% of our mobile data use, wifi is free and faster. And when we want to use it in a roaming sense, it’s usually just for texting and GPS, both of which are really light bandwidth.

    Not knocking Android here, but the actual relative cost difference of Android over iOS is really small – so small that generally I wouldn’t consider it as a significant factor. You can put your iPhone on the discount carriers as well and while it’ll cost you a few hundred dollars more up front, over the life of the device your total outlay will be only 10%-20% higher. Its easy for people like me to find that much in added utility in the iPhone.

  74. 74
    👽 Martin says:

    @MattR:

    but I also don’t think that this particular feature is a major part of that sales push.

    Oh, it is. I have a CIO as a close family member – in healthcare. Lots of companies with data security issues acknowledge that 2 phones aggravates the security setup because there’s always a desire to shift the work email/etc to the personal phone for convenience. The dual account setup actually does address a very legitimate issue.

    @Craigo:

    The enterprise sector has been disrupted, and it’s not going back to the way it was.

    Right, but RIM has to chart the most likely path to strength. Given the choice of trying to win back enterprise or trying to beat Apple in the consumer space, which path do you think is most likely (even if both are longshots?) There is no way in hell they win enough of the consumer space to survive. Their only realistic shot is enterprise – and it’s a hell of a longshot. They could create new markets, but I don’t see that happening either – maybe when they had more influence, but not now.

    I am pulling most for Windows Phone to take off – I think it’s got the best potential, and I like Nokia. My dislike for Android is mainly centered around the fact that Google is intent (not just with Android but across their services) of destroying consumers notion of value – that everything should be free or cheap beyond their capacity to be cheap. The Windows model did the same thing to the point that normal consumers could only buy PCs that were fucked up with shovelware and branding stickers and really shitty build quality and arbitrarily reduced features in order to meet those price expectations. They were killing their own market, and they’ve recognized this, but shit it’s hard to pull out of that tailspin. Android and Samsung are conspiring to do the same thing. Samsung is spending 10x what Apple spends on marketing providing kickbacks to carriers and retailers. And Google pays for everything through ads. Consumers get a distorted sense of what things should cost which destroys the ability of developers and hardware makers to bring new products to market – unless they resort to the same ad scheme (which is what shovelware is and branding stickers and so on are) – and because their funding mechanism is at odds with user privacy. Google has a vested interest in selling your private information, because thats where all of their revenue comes from. By comparison, it’s where none of Apple’s comes from. I know what I’m paying for my iPhone – I pay up front in cash, not over time by letting Google spy on my daily life and sell that information to people I don’t know – and once my information is sold, I can’t take it back. I don’t know what the long term cost will be. But I know exactly what it will be with Apple (or anyone who employs a similar model). I really, really want to know what this will cost me, and I’m willing to pay a little money to avoid regret later.

    Yeah, you can win a big chunk of the market in a short time with the Google/Samsung approach, but it’s cancerous – ultimately it’s going to kill the host, and the smartphone industry will look like the PC industry – completely dead of innovation and new products. That’s why all of the startups are on mobile – Microsoft and the OEMs killed their own industry.

  75. 75
    👽 Martin says:

    @Djur:

    Google has been selling a lot of Nexus devices, though.

    Not really. Estimates are about 500,000 total Nexus 4s sold so far (2-3 months), which is 10% of what iPhone 5 sold in its first weekend, and just 25% of what iPhone 5 sold in supposedly price-conscous China in the first weekend there.

    They’re selling about 1m Nexus 7 tablets per month vs Apple’s 2m per week.

    Those are strong enough numbers to keep doing it, but even just among Android devices they’re not that strong. They’re both nice devices overall but Google has no idea how to run a supply chain.

  76. 76
    low-tech cyclist says:

    @Ohmmade:

    I remember five years ago my old executive producer said to her husband “the only people who have blackberries anymore work for the government.”. That was FIVE years ago.

    That’s pretty much the case. And really the first thing they need to do is just make a slightly less anachronistic version of their current phone so that they can hang onto their government lifeline for a few more years while they figure themselves out more broadly.

    But has any tech company managed to come up with a winner after being in the doldrums this long?

  77. 77
    James K Polk, Esq says:

    @👽 Martin: Seems like that you have a good AV setup for you.

    It’s more than a little disingenuous to compare a really bare-bones AT&T plan (your $48/month family plan) to a non family plan $45 all-you-can-eat talk/text/web plan if you are comparing costs. The subsidy is how you can claim it costs ~$300, and you aren’t comparing apples to apples, not considering the fact that you had to sign a contract and with the MVNO you don’t have to. The value for the MVNO is outrageously better for most use cases, with no worry of overrages, hidden charges or contracts.

    That new iPhone 5 is a $700 (minimum) outlay off contract. You can put that on the $45/month plan, as long as you don’t mind shelling out twice as much for the device.

    After one year, you can sell your Nexus 4 for >$200 and upgrade to the newest Nexus for a lark, save money over an iPhone and have the newest kit every year. And have no need for the HATED itunes (which is itself worth plenty).

    As for the link, I was just pointing out that almost no one (6/100) pays less than $50 a month for an iPhone, and I would bet that most of those people aren’t on contract subsidy. (The number of iphone users that pay more than $100 is 59% from the link, not 49%)

  78. 78
    Roger Moore says:

    @low-tech cyclist:

    But has any tech company managed to come up with a winner after being in the doldrums this long?

    Apple. They descended into a giant pool of suck after dumping Steve Jobs and didn’t climb out of it until they brought him back. I think they were in the doldrums for substantially longer than RIM/Blackberry have been, and they managed to bounce back to become the top in the industry. It’s not the most likely path for another company to follow, but it’s a sign that bouncebacks are possible.

  79. 79
    DS says:

    Yes, Blackberries kind of suck, but on the other hand, they are entirely designed and built in Canada. I for one would rather have a phone that is slightly shitty knowing that RIM is giving Canadians good paying jobs to do this stuff. Enjoy your iPhone built using exploited Chinese workers, asshole.

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