Is RIM losing its competitive edge? My New Blackberry Bold Says Welcome To 1998

The breakthrough innovation of 10 years ago rarely makes the breakthrough innovation of today, and the company’s current strategy is too centred on leveraging in today’s changing environment what made BlackBerry so strong in the past,” he wrote.

It’s unreal I found this article tonight. Earlier today I received my new Blackberry Bold for work. RIM’s flagship model with all the bells and whistles (3G, WiFi, GPS, visual voice mail, etc.).

It’s an OK device, but so weak by modern standards (iPhone, Android, Web OS) that it should be embarrassing to RIM. The browser is laughable. I mean really, really laughable.

Seems to me it’s the kind of device only an IT group could love, safely ensconced in the bureaucratic cocoon of Blackberry server voodoo and licensing issues.

IT fans notwithstanding, RIM clearly knows this device is on its last legs:

  • They’re trying like mad to get an iPhone-like device built. Unfortunately, the Storm (both versions) is a disaster. Even someone longing for a modern phone like me turned it down. RIM is finding that a trackball-based OS cannot be easily “optimized” for touch. 
  • They are, literally, giving phones away. They’ve had “buy one get one free” deals with various carriers for months.

Nearly half their user base yearns for something better. RIM needs to start over, as Microsoft did with Windows Phone 7 Series, or maybe buy Palm. When your flagship model looks like something the other guy left in the trash, you know the current plan isn’t working.

Blackberry Users Are Ready For a Real Smartphone

Nearly 40% of Blackberry users continue to prefer Apple’s iPhone as their next smartphone purchase, but a third of them would also switch to the Android operating system

In short: We’re using a Blackberry, but we’d rather have the best smartphone, and would even settle for second-best in a pinch.

Is it any wonder RIM and their carrier partners have maintained “buy one, get one free” deals for months? Giving the things away is what keeps RIM’s quarterly sales looking good. The bad news for RIM and their shareholders is it’s an unsustainable business model.

A Device From The Future, And A Device From the Past, Ordered


I ordered an iPad today, and less than five minutes after that I get an email from work stating that my request this week for a Blackberry Bold has been approved.

Yes, I know the Bold is RIM’s flagship model (not the Storm; it was an option but I decided against it since reviews are still so horrible), but it’s clearly a device of the 90s. It’s a fine device, but having this approval juxtaposed with the futuristic iPad order seemed strange.


Should Apple Worry Android’s Getting U.S. Market Share Gains From Microsoft?


Philip Elmer-DeWitt paints this as Android making Steve Jobs nervous, but I don’t see it that way. It’s not like Apple lost share, they gained. And they did so while selling on just one carrier, without lowering prices or offering rebates or BOGO deals.

What I see is Android gaining most of the share Microsoft is losing.

And why shouldn’t Android pick up Microsoft’s lost users? After all, WinMo users are used to a myriad of fragmented models with different hardware features and screen sizes. They run varying versions of the OS, with each manufacturer slapping their own apps or front-end on them. It’s just like Android. Yes, a WinMo user will feel right at home there.

BlackBerries Crushed By Third Outage in Last Few Weeks

The issue represents the third such failure within weeks and comes just as RIM is counting on continued strong sales to buffer itself against competition from the iPhone

If RIM keeps this up all the 2-for-1 deals in the world won’t help them. And make no mistake, those deals are the only thing keeping them “buffered” against the iPhone.

Dear Verizon: I Found Two Maps That You Forgot To Mention

Perhaps you’ve seen the Verizon ads spoofing Apple’s iPhone commercials with the tagline “there’s a map for that.” Or maybe you’ve read one of the million posts that started the night they debuted. Using that tagline, while showing coverage maps for Verizon and AT&T, Verizon could kill two birds with one stone: attack AT&T while digging at the iPhone.

It’s not a bad tack when you consider the iPhone is gaining ground at a phenomenal rate, even in the face of Verizon’s many 2-for-1 Blackberry giveaways. Frankly, they needed an ad not just against AT&T, but the iPhone as well.

Still, it won’t work no matter how many pundits applaud the ads. You see, there are two maps Verizon doesn’t bother to mention.

Map #1: AT&T iPhone WiFi Hotspots

Above is the map of available AT&T WiFi hotspots. These provide free WiFi access to iPhone users, the device even logs you in automatically when you’re in range.

This is a great smartphone advantage from AT&T because:

  • WiFi is a lot faster than a 3G network.
  • WiFi uses much less power than 3G, extending your battery life.
  • Your plan’s 3G “data clock” is not running, you’re on free time.
  • You can use VOIP apps to make calls that avoid using your calling minutes.

Available at airports, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and many other places, I make use of AT&T wireless with my iPhone every single day. It’s a huge value-add to AT&T’s smartphone equation.

Good luck finding Verizon WiFi hotspots for your smartphone. if the phone’s on WiFi it’s not on their network, and they don’t want it off their network. Watch VCAST videos, buy (cheesy) ringtones, buy (crappy) apps, etc. from their network. Heck, it’s hard enough even getting a phone from Verizon that has WiFi; they’d rather you not use it even in your home.

Map #2: Verizon iPhone Coverage Area

Above is the map showing Verizon’s coverage area for the iPhone.

No wonder Verizon wants you to select a network first, then a phone. After reviewing the wannabe and knock-off smartphones they offer, most people would choose an iPhone, which Verizon can’t provide. So instead Verizon says “Just believe our network ads and go with us, then select one of our inferior devices, never leave our network, and let us nickel-and-dime you with charges.”

Compare devices, people. It matters. If you fall for Verizon’s line, then later realize you want out, too bad; there isn’t an app for that.

Posted via email from The Small Wave.

More Apple-Bashing Nonsense: Since Microsoft Was So Bad, Shouldn’t Apple Be Stopped?


Previously I wrote that the trolls are out for Apple, and to expect more ridiculous articles. Well, who better to supply one than Paul Thurrott, that constant source of Microsoft disinformation and FUD? Occasionally Thurrott reaches a new high in low, and did so with his post on Apple’s “culture of lies”. His ranting in this piece rivals that of Jason Calacanis’ recent nonsensical babbling about Apple; it’s that bad.

So Many Words, So Few That Matter

The only two things worth noting in the entire screed are these:

As I write this, Apple doesn’t quite have a monopoly in any given market

Yep, thanks, that covers Apple.

Microsoft got into antitrust trouble because they behaved in a manner that was illegal, but only for a company that holds monopoly power.

This is Paul’s way of admitting that Microsoft was operating illegally. Though he normally spends most of his time ignoring their history or re-writing it, today he’s coming clean. He added the last bit to setup the real purpose of his piece, which I’ll get to shortly. The bottom line is you can’t abuse a monopoly unless you are a monopoly, and simply becoming a monopoly doesn’t mean you’ll abuse it.

If you read the piece and think the above two quotes aren’t the only ones that matter, I suggest you check your driver’s license to see if your name is Ed Bott, or Randall Kennedy, or Mary Jo Foley, or Rob Enderle, or… well, you get the idea.

Why The Confession?

What it boils down to is that Microsoft is incredibly abusive. The Microsoft Tax was real, stolen code was real, back door deals and threats of retribution were real. There are thousands of pages of sworn testimony and emails from numerous court cases attesting to this. Microsoft is a text-book monopoly abuse case. (Just like past abusive monopolies, when cracks in the armor appeared the founder ran off and began his philanthropy.)

So why is Paul copping to Microsoft’s true history now? Simple. If he claims Apple could become the same thing, maybe he can get the public and government to do what Microsoft and their partners can’t: Put a dent in Apple’s growth and prevent them from stomping most everyone in the marketplace with their superior products.

Apple Abuse?

But to suggest potential abuse by Apple down the road is kind of silly. What are they gonna do?

  • Threaten the non-Apple 90% of PC manufacturers that they must bundle iTunes on their PCs or Apple will crush them? Heck, iTunes isn’t even bundled now, customers have to download and install it. There is a bundled media player, but that would be Microsoft’s.
  • Sell music tracks with DRM tied only to their own players with no way to defeat it? No, that was Microsoft. Apple never did, and ultimately removed DRM on music altogether.
  • App Store rejections? Compared to the ~70,000 apps approved, the percentage is tiny, and many were reconsidered and accepted. Most have shown to be a misunderstanding, or telling only one side of the story, or simple PR. Apple has admitted they’re working on the acceptance process, that’s not abuse.
  • Refuse to let iTunes “see” third-party devices? Nope. The devices are seen as external storage free to drag tracks onto. They don’t use Apple’s wonderful “sync” because Apple made that an advantage of their software. Other companies are free to do the same.
  • Refuse to let other companies write sync software for their devices? Nonsense. As I’ll discuss later, RIM already has.

Where is the abuse when there are no barriers of entry to compete with Apple? Microsoft’s proven this time and again as they continue to enter contestants (that keep getting clobbered). Google entered the fray with Android and nary a ripple from Apple. RIM made the Storm and Apple couldn’t have cared less. Palm did their Pre and, except for their pirating iTunes software by hacking, Apple doesn’t care. Further, any of these guys can write their own desktop software for their own devices to compete with iTunes any time they want.

The reason companies don’t want to write their own software now is because it takes time and effort, and they’re already so far behind they want to take shortcuts, including hacking into Apple’s good work. Wah! We didn’t have Apple’s foresight and vision, so they must let us use their stuff! It’s like the squealing two little pigs banging on the door of the house of bricks.

“I Know You Are But What Am I?”

For a while now, Microsoft and their press buddies have utilized a campaign to make Apple out to be just like them. They do this because they know they’re hated while Apple is not. Windows 7 is a service pack? Yeah, well so is Snow Leopard. Windows 7 leaves XP users in the dust (upgrade to painful)? Yeah, well Snow Leopard doesn’t work on non-Intel Macs. Windows is strewn with viruses? Hey, the Mac had a Trojan Horse so it’s just the same.

It’s odd that no one at Microsoft questions this strategy. I mean, when the worst insult you can hurl at your competitor is that they’re just like you, it reflects more on you than the competitor. It’s an acknowledgment that you suck, but the competitor rightfully says “No, we’re not like you, but thanks for admitting you suck”.

What Thurrott Really Wants

The real purpose of Thurrott’s piece is to get somebody, anybody, to stop Apple. So he threatens us with the only “weapon” he has, which is to claim Microsoft’s been a tyrant for 20 years and, gee whiz, let’s not let Apple be the same. He admits Apple isn’t there, but apparently Microsoft was so bad that we shouldn’t even wait this time! Let’s stop Apple before they’re guilty of anything. Wow.

There are just a few things wrong with Thurrott’s plea:

  • Exclusive phone deals were (and are) commonplace, and he never cared until Apple did it with a vastly superior smartphone, crushing Windows Mobile in the process.
  • Zune’s software works with Zunes and not, say, the Palm Pre, but he never cared about this type of software being “open” until Microsoft’s failed while Apple’s remained successful.
  • Microsoft’s Plays For Sure partners were completely screwed when the exclusive Zune came out, but he never cared about that.
  • Every company is free to compete with Apple with their own software without any retribution from Apple or demands to “knife the baby“. But Thurrott didn’t care that they foolishly chose not to until it was obvious they missed the boat and have a lot of catching up to do. Catching up Thurrott apparently feels won’t happen.
  • Even the mighty Google is free to put Google Voice on their own mobile OS (Android) and compete in the marketplace — which Apple reminded them they should do. But Thurrott doesn’t care because, like Google, he knows it’s not compelling enough for people to consider as an alternative to the iPhone.

This is the most ridiculous plea Thurrott has made since he begged those who value “your very livelihood” to band with him in demanding that Microsoft “respond to the challenges”. Well, now we see how they responded. Too bad it’s in the form of shameless rhetoric, not in the market place.

Thurrott’s apologies in the past, and rant of the present, seem to indicate that a free market and competition are foreign to him. He simply can’t imagine any company doing business without either being an illegal bully, or bullied by some other company or government. The whole concept of actually earning your place by making game-changing products that work as expected and are backed with stellar customer service completely eludes him. It eludes Microsoft as well.

Is There No Alternative?

Of course there is. For example, Research in Motion gets it. They stayed true to their successful BlackBerry devices while toying with an iPhone competitor in the Storm. They’ve also brought their own desktop software to the Mac. They didn’t whine or cry like Microsoft or Palm. They’re not trying to hack into Apple’s technology and leach their hard work and foresight. They’re building their own.

Instead of crying for help, they focused on their own core strategies and business plans. It’s clearly paid off; they’ve been as successful — maybe even more so — in the iPhone era as they were before it. And if their new stuff isn’t quite up to snuff yet, at least it’s a start, and they’ll make it better (witness the Storm 2).

But Apple Must Be Evil!

Thurrott’s shameless begging for someone to stop Apple from something he admits they’re not even doing reminds me that there are only two possible reasons for which these types of articles are written:

  • To stop Apple, or slow them down, in any manner possible except via the marketplace, where attempts by all comers have failed. In short, the articles are propaganda. Thurrott’s piece, and those of the rest of the Microsoft shill choir, fall into this category.
  • Page hits, tied to ego and self-importance. Face it, if you write a “Microsoft is Evil” piece, no one cares. Everyone already knows it; it’s nothing new. But if you write an “Apple is Evil” piece, people flock to it wondering if there’s some smoking gun. Instead, it’s just self-serving FUD, innuendo, and speculation. Arrington’s recent ravings, as well as the aforementioned Calacanis crap, fall into this category.

Both categories contain nothing but garbage.