Archive for Crackberries

128GB Devices Referenced In iOS 6.1

How’s that for a to-the-point headline? iOS 6.1 is available for your Apple small-screen and compact-screen devices today, and if you are using the new firmware with your SDK, you will see this interesting addition to the partition keys:

Does it mean that 128GB iPhones, iPads, and iPods are a done deal? No, not at all. But adding the reference structure to this much memory is not a trivial amount of work, and someone at Apple has decided that it was important to invest a serious chunk of development time and effort into this potential capability, so it’s a good bet that Apple is going to raise the bar on tablet and possibly phone storage this spring. A nice card to play in a development season when two desperate former competitors – RIM and Microsoft – will be making high-profile “Sydney or the bush” efforts to claw back into the game.

Stay tuned.

Rob Enderle Lands On His Feet

A lot of people in the geek community were genuinely saddened to hear that The Enderle Group lost their one (and only) client last year. Rob was one of the most genuinely amusing figures in the tech world – his “studies” were generally comedy gold – and he was handy, too: If you saw an article in the news that quoted a study by “The Enderle Group” you immediately knew that the reporter writing the piece was a know-nothing hack. It’s rare to have such a cut-and-dried metric about anything these days.

So it was unfortunate for all of us when Microsoft terminated their contract with the Rob and his phantom group. Would we never again see quotes from some breathless study exploring the awesomeness of a company that just happened to be his client? Or better yet, a hand-wringing condemnation of a company or product that just happened to be a major competitor to his client?

Of course not. Guys like Rob are amazingly resilient. So it was not a huge surprise when The Enderle Group picked up a shiny new client in Research In Motion and wasted no time in getting to work.

Welcome back, Rob … we missed you.

Research In Marketing

If you have been paying attention to the ongoing disaster that is Research In Motion, you will know that one of the more interesting developments in recent months has seen the top executives blaming of the marketing department for the majority of the company’s sales woes. This, of course, is patently absurd. If you make a product that nobody really wants, all the marketing in the world isn’t going to put you back on top.

Repeat after me: The product is the problem.

However, that doesn’t completely absolve the sales creeps of responsibility. While all the clever marketing in the world probably can’t help a shitty product, it’s a fact that really bad marketing will tank the thing even more. RIM’s current advertising campaigns are decidedly shitty – and no, I am not talking about the Power Rangers over there. I am talking about the double whammy of RIM’s mainstream ad campaigns being two decades behind the times and targeting a group of people who doesn’t generally make the purchasing decisions when it comes to high-end smartphones.

Compare the latest Blackberry commercials to those of the company who came in and changed the smartphone market forever and kicked RIM’s corporate teeth out. Apple commercials show little more than what you can do with the product. There are no thumpa-thumpa soundtracks, no cutting-edge fashions, just actual screen shots of things like “removing red-eye from a photo” and “sending a video to a friend” and “buying a movie and having it already on your computer when you get home”. Simple things that normal people generally want to do.

RIM’s latest 30-second wankfests, on the other hand, show cool people doing cool and trendy things while carrying their Blackberries around. And the screen images are, of course, “simulated”. So if you are an average Joe who wants to invest his money in a smartphone and get maximum use from the purchase, which image is more appealing to you? Actual footage of the phone actually performing a fast that you actually want to do? Or a bunch of hipsters riding glow in the dark bikes?

The only people who could possibly be swayed by this sort of smoke-n-mirrors campaign are 14-year olds. And despite all the changes in the world, those kids generally don’t have 400 bucks to drop on a phone. For every teen who does have that kind of dough, there are a few thousand grown-ups who are going to spend that money based on actual utility and not the DJ stylings of LL Kool Moe Diplo Kiki Dee. The head honchos at RIM have to sit down and decide which market they actually want – one kid, or 10,000 adults.

Playbook Sucks A Half-Billion Out Of RIM

So there was interesting press release action coming out of Waterloo today. In a nutshell, Research In Motion is going to suck a 485 million dollar loss on the Playbook this quarter. It’s not a giant surprise or anything – everyone knows that they have sold less than 100K of the things and great teetering stacks of unwanted shipments are piled up and gathering dust in the retail channels.

What is interesting is the crazy amount of spin going on in the guts of the statement. My favourite bits of smoke-n-mirrors are these two gems from CEO Mike Lazardis:

“Although a number of factors have led to the need for an inventory provision in the third quarter”

“Early results from recent PlayBook promotions indicate a significant increase in demand across most channels. We look forward to continuing to grow the installed base of PlayBook users”

For those of you that don’t speak RIM, the effective translations are:

“Sure our app store sucks and the thing doesn’t even have email, but we honestly thought our brainwashed business users would buy it anyway.”

“Two weeks ago we dropped the price to below cost and managed to move a couple of handfuls. So we’re going to drop the price to 99 bucks next month.”

What’s really vexing here is that it didn’t have to be this way. With their purchase of QNX and an army of smart and creative people on staff, RIM should have been able to come up with – at worst – a basically competent tablet. And really, given the entrenched legions of “Blackberry über alles” diehards at the top levels of the corporate IT biosphere, that would have been all they needed to grab second place in the market and go from there. Instead, they dropped a big ol’ turd and then seemed honestly surprised when no one wanted to pick it up.

I’ve thought about this a lot and two possibilities come to mind as far as the possible cause for getting blindsided this badly.

One: Someone sold them a bill of goods regarding Adobe Flash and – despite there being no valid reason for and a bucket full of compelling reasons against having Flash on a mobile device – they stuck with it even when it became evident that Flash was going to cripple the thing in crucial areas like response time, browser speed, and battery life.

Two:  The decision makers at RIM’s very top level still can’t see how tablets are changing the mobile and personal computing markets forever, and (fanatically clinging to the idea that their two-decades old handheld is still the pinnacle and the rest of the world will come back home sooner rather than later) they have mentally and technically positioned the Playbook as a Blackberry accessory instead of a stand-alone player in a new marketplace.

Truth be told, I’m leaning towards number two. If you look at the Playbook as an add-on to enhance your Blackberry experience, it suddenly makes sense. Was this less of a tablet and more of a way to preserve Blackberry sales and functionality going forward? We might never know. But I wouldn’t bet against it.

A Not Terribly Surprising Development

Memo To: Research In Motion – Marketing Department

Subject: Trademark Properties And Possible Lawsuits

Have you ever heard of something called a search engine? There is a pretty famous one called “Google”. Or, as it is known to Republican senators, “The Google”. You should try using it sometime – it might help you avoid looking like a bunch of complete tools. We understand that you may have an aversion to using the dismal web browser on your Blackberries, but in the interests of appearing at least half-way competent either suck it up and suffer or go out and get yourselves an iPhone. You can hide it in your lap for the fifteen seconds it would take you to find out that someone else has already trademarked your name.

Thank you.

Blackberry Outage. Or Outrage. Whatever.

So the near-global service outage for Blackberry users is into its third day. Ho hum. What is interesting here is not the actual outage – with the way RIM has their service black-boxed away from the “real” internet it’s actually surprising that this doesn’t happen more often – but rather the bits of fallout surrounding it. To wit:

The supposed user “outrage”: Yeah, whatever. The media loves to jump on the dirty laundry with both feet and start stomping away, but the fact is that for every mope quoted in the news who claims to be fed up and ready to abandon ship, there are five or six thousand who just glumly sit there and take it. RIM benefits here from the way that wireless carriers around the world have built an industry around treating their customers like garbage. When it comes to telecommunications in general, and wireless service in particular, most consumers have been trained to bend over, take it hard, and say thank you when it is done. And because the average schmuck doesn’t know enough to understand the difference between a handset maker and a wireless provider, they are more than willing to shut up and swallow on this one too.

User shock at the fact that all Blackberry traffic goes through RIM’s hands: Now this is a surprise. There has never been any real secret about the fact that every single bit of the proprietary data – email, calendar and contact data, and messenger traffic – on a Blackberry goes through RIM’s own super-secret servers. Not a month goes by that there isn’t some government or some potentiate out there that gets all high and mighty over the fact that RIM controls / owns / not-so-secretly archives all of this data. But apparently most people either glossed this one over in their minds or just didn’t understand it in the first place, because there are a lot of folks getting pissy over this one. Far more, in fact, than are bothering to get worked up about the fact that they have no service at all.

The fact that RIM has no “fall back to regular ol’ internet” strategy: If the blackberry.net infrastructure goes down, that’s it. Radio silence. There is no failover wherein at least basic traffic (email and messenger) is routed via some sort of standard internet protocol. It wouldn’t be terribly difficult for email, it would require some serious re-jigging for messenger, neither would be as fast as the regular service, but both are definitely do-able if planned for and programmed for in advance. You may be out there boggling at the fact that no one seemed to have this sort of foresight, but if you are it just means that you don’t know anything about the top corporate structure at RIM. Much of the company’s direction and strategy is based on the twin pillars of “our way is the best way” and “we’ve always done it that way”. If you are a student of World War 2 history you would be able to find a lot of parallels between RIM and the Japanese military: Both find it incomprehensible that there may be a different way, and unfathomable that anyone would show enough weakness to admit that the nonexistent different way might be better. Death before dishonour, and all like that.

Things are already falling back into place, so it is completely conceivable that by the time you get up and read this most of the problems will be gone. And after all the posturing and chest-thumping, it is more than likely that this will have no real effect on RIM, the blackberry infrastructure, or their customers. There will be no mass exodus, everyone will go back to sleep, and the entire story will be nothing but a footnote until next time.

An Innocent Question

The next time someone asks a RIM spokesdroid about the rumored (and quite possible, since the only product Quanta is making right now is Amazon’s Kindle Fire) death of the Playbook, wouldn’t it be awesome if they asked “So tell me, is amateur hour over?”

RIM Slashes Playbook Prices … To Free?

Research In Motion has gotten desperate in trying to move the piles of unsold Playbooks. There is now an across-the-board price drop of $100, $100 retailer rebates and/or gift cards with purchase, and a $100 coupon that is being offered in the United States. That means – depending on the model and how hard you are willing to work for your discount – that you can now get RIM’s much-unloved tablet for either two or three hundred dollars off the original price.

Unless, of course, you live in Europe where RIM’s telecom partners will be giving the thing away for free when you buy a Blackberry and a contract. This actually makes sense, considering that the Playbook doesn’t really do anything useful without a companion Blackberry. But it’s a pretty terrible strategy for making actual money.

Will Playbooks finally fly off the shelves at this almost-but-not-quite-as-low-as-the-Touchpad price? Will they fly off the shelves for free? Or are these questions moot at this point? Perhaps the real question is this: Is the Playbook “failing” or “failed”?

It’s really a sad and vexing state of affairs. The Playbook could have been so good, but an excellent operating system and some impressive hardware specs were torpedoed by RIM’s insistence at keeping its corporate head buried in the sands of the 1990s.

Blackberry 9800

Speaking of RIM … on Tuesday they are going to venture forth with another touch-screen Blackberry. The development and impeding launch of the new handset has seen a bare fraction of the hype and hullabaloo that preceded the Storm, and I think this might be a good thing. After the disappointment of the Storm – a fabulous piece of hardware that was fatally crippled by RIM’s aging and user-hostile generic OS – coming in with zero expectations and no preconceptions is a good thing. If the 9800 is just another Storm, well, no harm no foul. But if the whispers are right, and the mandarins up in Waterloo have finally opened their eyes and grokked onto the idea that the user experience is actually important, then we may just have a sleeper hit.

So – fingers crossed, and here’s hoping that sleeper hit is indeed where this is going. RIM is full of smart people with smart ideas who somehow end up turning out the same product over and over because the people at the very top of the company either can’t or won’t open their eyes and see what increasingly-sophisticated customers want in a mobile computer. The smart people need to start winning out over the top people, and soon, or the Blackberry platform is going to go from being “dated” to “irrelevant” in a very short time. And that – for everyone – would be a shame.

Blackpad

If you point your browser to “blackpad.com” you get … nada. Blank page. But if you look up the whois record, you will find that the domain is being held by CSC on behalf of some outfit called “Research in Motion” in Waterloo. Which gives some serious credence to a story that just moved on the Bloomberg wire, RIM will release their first pad computer in November, and not surprisingly it will be called the “Blackpad”. I don’t have a link to this yet, since Bloomberg has a short embargo time between items hitting the wire and those items showing up on their web archive. When I do get a link, I will slap it in here.

I can’t decide if they name is “yea” or “nay” yet. Still mulling on that one. But it sure beats the hell out of “Slate”.

UPDATE: Link to the updated Bloomberg story.