So, the re-imagined, re-invented BlackBerry Z10 was released to the world today. From what I’ve seen of the launch event and early BlackBerry Z10 reviews, the consensus goes something a little like this;
Is this the best Blackberry yet?
Is it enough to save
We don’t know.
I’ve said before I’ve got a huge soft spot for BlackBerry, despite having moved pretty much all-in with Apple since my Crackberry-carrying days. It’s a soft spot so deep and wide that I’m on the fence about ditching the iPhone and giving BlackBerry another chance.
Everything I’ve seen of BlackBerry Flow, Hub, and what seems to be the best virtual keyboard you can find has me itching to try it. Just looking at the device in action at the launch event, by comparison iOS seemed so incredibly stale and bland. BlackBerry really has put together a pretty solid package to bring them back to the playing field, and with the BB10 operating system they seem to bring the focus onto the smartphone as a communications device first.
But… with the vast App Store and iTunes, my iPhone is much more than that. So much of my usage is app-centric, and the App gap for BB10 is pretty large at the moment. They’ve got a strong showing on the media store front, and as nice as carrier billing seems, I’m already invested in the iTunes ecosystem, and iCloud certainly makes managing purchases & related media simple, having new items pulled to all devices.
So, still on the fence. I’m itching to get a BlackBerry Z10 in my hands to see how it feels, and flows. In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to watch the response to BB10. I’m sure I’m not the only one trapped between optimism and skepticism, but compared to the previous generation of BlackBerry devices, and considering all the turmoil and struggle they’ve been through over the last few years, everything about BB10 and the Z10 should seem like an incredible triumph for BlackBerry. I hope for their sake, they see their efforts rewarded when the tech media dissects the sales numbers.
What happens when 3 Telco’s control more than 3/4 of the market for internet services from coast to coast?
A not-so-lovely little picture painted below.
Full infographic available here as well if you’d like to see more of the gory details.
I can’t speak to the data one way or the other, but from a consumer’s perspective, I can’t help but corroborate that as a Canadian it feels like I’m paying an exorbitant amount for services that pale in comparison to other regions, and there are quite honestly little to no alternatives to choose from.
The OpenMedia folks have put together a great amount of content in their Casting An Open Net plan, detailing cultural, economic and technological reasons supporting the need for a more open and affordable Internet for Canada. I’d encourage one and all to take a peek at their action plan; worthwhile reading.
My RSS feed was aflutter this morning with rumblings about a potential shake-up with Research In Motion’s co-CEO duo and a fire sale on their PlayBook tablets. I couldn’t help but spend a few minutes in thought today about the year that was 2011, and the very rough roller coaster ride that had RIM and its investors white-knuckled for most of the calendar.
As a proud Canadian and reformed CrackBerry addict, there’s a soft spot in my heart for RIM. They were a pioneer in the mobile space. RIM owned the smartphone market for a slice in time. That wasn’t the case in 2011.
Hey 2011, can we get a do-over?
Facing declining market share to Apple and Android, for the early part of the year it seemed RIM’s entry into the tablet market, the BlackBerry Playbook was their ace in the hole to shape a return to form. Originally announced in September of 2010, the PlayBook didn’t see store shelves until April of 2011 - and when it did, their debut tablet didn’t have built-in email, contacts, or calendar functionality, requiring the device be tethered with a BlackBerry smartphone for access to those features. Lacking some pretty core functionality for a post-iPad world, and yet without support for Android apps, the PlayBook was left with a fairly barren cupboard of apps for the device… and as it would turn out, a tablet that can play Flash wasn’t compelling enough on its own for the mainstream in the face of other shortcomings.
RIM’s earnings in the middle of the year disappointed. In June the company saw its stock drop to its lowest level since 2006. In July, an 11% reduction in workforce meant the biggest lay-off in RIM’s history. In October a service outage occurred at what seemed like the worst possible moment for optics’ sake, as tens of millions of BlackBerry users across the globe were unable to send and receive emails or BBM messages. Service was restored and a package of applications and support extensions were offered to affected users, but the multi-day outage didn’t do RIM any favours in the court of public opinion. If that wasn’t enough, the next-generation BlackBerry devices, powered by the new QNX operating system ran into its own challenges.
Unveiled at DevCon, Blackberry rallied behind BBX, their next-generation mobile platform, taking the best of the BlackBerry and QNX platforms to connect people, devices, content and services. Shortly thereafter, BASIS International took offence to the use of the BBX name they (and the court) felt they owned. So now BBX is renamed BlackBerry 10, which in itself isn’t the end of the world, but means yet more egg on the face of RIM in what was a very rough year. A rough year made worse yet again with delays of these next-gen BlackBerry 10 devices to the third quarter of 2012 at the earliest.
RIM has a rough road ahead, no doubt. They’re fighting an uphill battle as Apple, Android and Windows Phone chip away at their user base. Their tablet has a major update outstanding to help bridge the gap in functionality, but is still seeming to be facing soft sales that may have lead to very heavy discounts reported today.
Silver Lining? Can there be one?
It isn’t all bad news for RIM. Despite perception, their user base continues to grow as the global smartphone market expands and they find sweet spots of growth in emerging markets. Additionally, amidst the turmoil that was their 2011, a few forward-thinking moves made in 2011 may help them to play catch up if they’re able to rally and execute around the BlackBerry 10 platform. Consider the following acquisitions RIM made in the last calendar year…
A few jumped right off the page for me, surprised that I hadn’t heard stories making bigger waves at the time. The cross-platform talent from TinyHippos and Scoreloop may help make RIM’s SDK more attractive to the developer community - though I’d have to hazard a guess that just about anything at this point would be more attractive than where they were/are.
Talented teams and remarkable solutions from the likes of Tungle and Gist may really help to build out compelling socially-integrated elements in the BlackBerry platform that appeal to both the forward-thinking-enterprise and consumer groups.
So, I suppose it wasn’t all bad news for RIM in 2011. All considered, they’ve appeared to have made some very sharp strategic acquisitions over the course of the year. And that doesn’t even include RIM’s participation in the consortium of companies that acquired the over 6,000 Nortel patents in auction last year. It’s not a magic wand to make things better overnight, however. How they put all the pieces and people together and execute will be key. Either way, whatever the road, I for one am hoping to see RIM return to form. There’s a soft spot in my heart for RIM, despite my allegiance to the other fruit. Here’s hoping they can find a way to re-emerge successful in 2012 and beyond.
So for those of you living under rocks and rock-like objects, today Apple held their “Let’s Talk iPhone” event announcing the new iPhone 4S among a number of other little gems. Judging from immediate feedback I was exposed to on the twitter, the event fell a bit flat as some too-high expectations over the oft-rumored and sometimes-pictured iPhone 5 left some people a bit underwhelmed by the day’s announcements. It’s too bad, as it really takes away from one of the coolest announcements and demos I’ve yet to see out of Apple - Siri.
Got a surprise in my inbox today in the form of a lengthy survey on behalf of Rogers Communications on the subject of potential loyalty rewards programs and what I as a Rogers customer might think about said programs.
It was a well thought out survey all said and done, and painted the picture of a very robust rewards program with perks ranging from free on-demand rentals to Blue Jays or Raptors tickets.
If I wasn’t such a cynic, I might have been moderately impressed.
For the amount and severity with which the Big 3 Telco’s (Bell, Rogers, Telus) gouge Canadian consumers on a regular basis, giving something back via a loyalty/rewards program is such a small step in the right direction.
In the end, a reward program of this nature is a very thinly veiled attempt to placate customers into loyalty and stay a very short step ahead of the competition. It lacks innovation and imagination.
After all the flak directed at the Big 3 throughout the Usage Based Billing debacle, I hoped that the message might be getting through that we as Canadians are sick and tired of being raked over the coals by ISPs with little to no recourse thereafter. I honestly hoped when I read the opening pages of this survey that the fine folks at Rogers would be looking for a bigger or better olive branch to extend to the Canadian population than Rogers-centric Air Miles.
I know it’s probably not my place to project my wants onto them… but for a second, I’d like to think they care.
As a customer, and a loyal one for a number of years, I’d like to think that the company would be aiming to offer rewards, savings, and bonuses in a more organic and meaningful way. If the program is designed to drive loyalty as the name/purpose suggests, collecting points isn’t the answer. You can’t buy real loyalty. Loyalty needs trust. Loyalty needs engagement.
Logging into a web app to check my points does not equal engagement. Points per dollar don’t equal trust.
How nice would it be to rather unexpectedly, without membership in a silly program, or being forced to accumulate and manage points, to see a coupon code in your inbox to be redeemed for a free movie download? Maybe a few surcharges removed from your bill at random, or a nice surprise of a fee of some sort waived, or heavily discounted for a month?
How does that random act of kindness impact you then? How does that alter your impression of the company? More importantly though, unconscious of your impression… how does that influence your emotional connection with the company?
I’d have to think that an occasional surprise thank you to customers would have a greater emotional impact on us customers, thinking the gesture an actual act of kindness… it might almost suggest the faceless corporation actually cares about something other than the bottom line for a minute or two.
Ah, one can hope anyway.
Either way, without better options in the internet duopoly, giving anything, even if it takes the shape of a loyalty program, back to customers is better than the doing nothing at all that has been the status quo for far too long.
I’m a PC. Always have been.
For the majority of my years, I was anti-Mac. It wasn’t just a fear of the unknown, or preference for the familiar based on my limited experience. It was full-on, wholly ignorant anti-Mac rhetoric.
I remember scoffing at the nerdy Mac fanboys in middle school, thinking my IBM PS/1 486sx was the cat’s meow. I remember my Mom buying it one night at The Brick (yes, the furniture store) when she was doing some accounting classes. I remember being so taken aback by it. DOS was so much fun… wait, what?
But still, it had to be better than those other Macintosh things. I had my old-school Duke Nukem side scrollers, Wolfenstein and Doom 2 freeware. It had me at hello.
Unfortunately our little magic box found itself outdated pretty quickly. When Warcraft 2 was released and I begged my parents for a new machine with the required chops to run it. It had to be an IBM Aptiva. Oh, what a sexy machine it was, right down to the sliding trap door that hid the floppy drives. Windows 95 was better than sliced bread, the Start button my personal savior. Oh yes, my PC would leave those Mac nerds in my dust. By no means a gaming machine, but I certainly had my share of spins on it, so much so that at one point when exam time came around, my Mom went out of her way to remove the power cord from the back of it and bring it in to work with her so I was forced to study at home.
… Thankfully when my buddy came over to the house to study together, he remembered to bring a cord from home so we could play whatever game it was we were into at the time.
And through the years, my pattern continued. Well, the PC and gaming pattern. Not necessarily the not shirking of study part…
When I left for university it was PC upgrade time again. This time veering away from IBM for one of these crazy Dell machines. I stumbled across the website, and the whole notion of being able to customize the machine a-la-carte was such an awesome experience, and even presented the upsell opportunity to go overboard with the Harmon Kardon 3.1 sound system and 21” monitor. My made-to-order Dell Dimension was a dream come true. It was out of this world at the time. Soldier of Fortune 2 ran like a dream and I chugged away in our little clan tearing up capture the flag matches with my altogether haphazard run & gun style. A couple years later when World of Warcraft was in its first public beta and my roommate scored an invitation, it was my Dell that we used for that week, still holding strong as the chief PC of the household.
But nothing lasts forever. That wonderful Dell machine eventually met its end. Since then, I had replaced that machine with a “previously enjoyed” Dell machine I found on eBay for a song. It didn’t take long for that one to feel like a mistake, but it was a financial decision at the time. As I suffered with it for some time, I found my PC use dipping as consoles kept getting better and better, eroding PC gaming for me (and I gather a good chunk of the market at that time). My PC eventually became less a gaming rig, and more a modern-day jukebox.
Eventually I got to the point where I wanted to take my jukebox with me on-the-go. I got a nondescript mp3 player for around 40-50 bucks which at the time was relatively cheap compared to the iPods of the day. And either way, I was still firm in my belief; No way was I getting an iPod. Those Apple nerds weren’t getting my business. Their mice didn’t even have the right buttons, and their top-down menu was so windows 3.1, and the iPod had that weird clicky-wheely thing… Backwards hacks they were. This no name mp3 player would suit me just fine.
Yeah, it was a piece of crap.
It also, did not last forever. Or anywhere remotely close to it. Some time after it locked up and crashed for good while trying to load music to it, I wondered about the iPod. They had just come out with the massive 80GB Classic which would provide ample room for tunes, and a friend of mine at the office had a Nano that he took with him everywhere. Maybe, just maybe, it was worth taking a look at.
That was the beginning. Something changed.
Nothing lasts forever… even perspectives.
Today I tweet my 3000th tweet. For whatever reason, it seems monumental. Three Thousand. Apparently it’s the smallest number requiring thirteen letters in English (when “and” is required from 101 forward). Huh. The things you learn… Look out Jeopardy. Other fun 3000 facts (about 3000, not 3000 of them):