Enduring Brand BlackBerry
Last week, I argued the brand would endure; this week, I had to endure it
Tim Querengesser is senior editor with Alberta Venture. He once snowmobiled to the Arctic Ocean to interview a guy in elf shoes about reindeer. Really. Peace Pipe is his critical look at the intersection between Indigenous peoples and industry. Email Tim
by Tim Querengesser
This blog begins with a sound: my hands, wringing.
See, I still stand by my original argument on BlackBerry’s future – that the brand will endure. It’s just that I’m admitting, and publicly, too, that I no longer think BlackBerry deserves any other path than the one it’s on, which is toward a breakup and fire sale.
If you follow Alberta Venture blogs (and of course you do), you’ll know that Max Fawcett, the managing editor, and myself, also an editor with the magazine, recently had what amounted to a blog off over the future of BlackBerry. We wrote blogs arguing (in my case) that BlackBerry as a brand would endure, and in Fawcett’s blog, that it will expire. We then asked readers to vote. The results? Fully 74 per cent of readers supported my premise that BlackBerry will endure, while 26 per cent voted for Fawcett’s argument that it will expire.
So, it’s here I should admit that since writing my pro-BlackBerry blog, my own BlackBerry, the Z10 – the phone that the company offered for sale this February as a not-very-disguised iPhone 5 knockoff (indeed most people that see it think that it’s the iPhone 5) – made me hate it.
I downloaded a recent software ‘upgrade’ that BlackBerry pushes to handsets through its carriers (mine’s Bell). I would have done this when the update first pushed, in early August, but I continually read about the upgrade disabling phones, destroying text messages and generally behaving like a downgrade, not an upgrade. After three weeks of waiting, I assumed the bugs had been worked out. So I downloaded it.
I assumed wrong.
For 24 hours, my BlackBerry could do little other than surf the internet. I lost every text message I’ve ever sent or received in six months of ownership. And all my contacts were gone, too. Worse, I lost the power to make or receive a simple phone call. To fix the phone, Bell (as well as BlackBerry) suggested I go to a store very, very far away from me so that they could re-install my phone’s operating system (which Bell didn’t do, nor did BlackBerry, but let’s just leave that point alone).
Bell also offered a candid look into the relationship between cellphone carriers and BlackBerry. A Bell technician assured me I wasn’t the only one dealing with this dilemma, and said that he wasn’t impressed with BlackBerry. “The more [BlackBerry] updates that get released, the more clients we have that are impacted by [problems],” he said.
While bugs are normal for a new operating system – which my phone’s BlackBerry 10 OS is – so, too, should be the assumption that a flaw will be fixed, pronto. Waiting three weeks after reading dozens of posts about the update’s problems made me sure that BlackBerry knew about the issue and that they’d fix it. But they didn’t. They just did nothing.
And this, I think, is why BlackBerry’s future is full of uncertainty. The company excels at screwing up the small things while getting the big things more or less right. Remember the PlayBook? It was a great competitor to the iPad on all fronts except for one thing: the first version didn’t have the ability for you to check your email. This is much like Ford releasing a great handling and looking car to compete with BMW but that nonetheless doesn’t allow you fill the gas tank. The PlayBook, like all other BlackBerry products in its wake (and, as the Wall Street Journal reported today, even the believed company savior, the Q10) flopped. Because of one detail.
Unfortunately, like so many BlackBerry owners, I’m now tied to the company and its clearly flagging ability to deliver on the details. I still think Brand BlackBerry will endure. But I no longer will be buying one again until another company comes and injects some needed money, talent and sense of reality into Canada’s once great tech giant.
Dear potential buyers of Apple, Samsung, Cisco, Microsoft, Huawei, Lenovo et al: BlackBerry needs your help. And in a way so do I.