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Tell it like it is: Alec Saunder

ITEXPO East 2010 - Alec Saunders

Hiring Alec Saunder was probably one of the best decisions RIM made last year. The CBC, which is a major news network in Canada, sat down with him for an interview. I have to say the CBC’s questions were right on point and thought Alec answered them honestly.

The interview starts off by Alec being asked about the last year and all the things that went wrong for RIM, while Alec does provide a typical punch line we’ve all gotten accustom to hearing, he does explain that perhaps people need to stop acting as though all 75 million subscribers are all going to dump RIM tomorrow. He also points to the fact the company is still making money with all the loom and gloom predictions everyday…….as well the company has no debt he points out.

Alec also talks about RIM’s app attraction strategy, which boils down to attracting applications that will help sell the devices and then looking to bring unique applications from the general marketplace to the platform as well. He seems to understand that big name applications will help bring the masses to look at the platform and unique apps will help with making customers who purchase the product get more satisfaction out of it. So if that’s the strategy, when can we expect Netflix? My interpretation of his answer was basically when Netflix feels there is enough demand from the platform or a desire to create one. Personally, I think Netflix needs to get off its butt and support all mobile devices. You can’t tell me it’s based on market size cause last time I check RIM was still doing far better than Windows. He also points to some of the challenges developers have faced due to multiple products lines and says RIM plans to address this with BB10 phones going forward. This likely means a reduction in the handset portfolio and I think this is the right direction going forward.

Lastly, when asked if the PlayBook should have been released without an email client his answer is “that was ancient history, I wasn’t part of the company back then. [Laughs].” His answer seems to lean towards the product being held back but like he said its history now and its time (media and bloggers) to move on and see where the platform goes from here. My take is that the problem wasn’t so much the lack of email, rather it was how the product was marketed and the inability of RIM to effectively tell the PlayBook story or lack of a story. If RIM can find another version of Alec Saunder that specializes only in marketing they will have all the right pieces in place to attract consumers from other platforms to have a look at RIM. Overall it was an interesting interview and I suggest you read it for yourself by clicking the link below to make your own conclusion. I also posted a couple of the questions and answers directly below that I found interesting.

Full Article Link:

Interview Transcript (Partly):

CBC News: We can’t really start talking without addressing 2011, which was not a good year for RIM.

Saunders: Without sounding like a Pollyanna, a lot of the time people get the story wrong. 2011 was the year where we added 25 million customers, we continued to be profitable, we don’t have any debt on the books. Let’s not paint the picture that the company is another Nortel, because it just isn’t in that situation, and app developers need to know that. A lot of people look at us and say, “Should I build applications for RIM?” Yeah, you should; there’s 75 million customers you can target. This is not a company that is in a situation where we’re not going to be here next week. We are, we’re going to be here for a very long time

Q: Was it too expensive to develop for RIM, or were the tools hard to use?

A: The thing with developers is if you can make it easy to target a platform, then you’ll get people wanting to jump on board. Fundamentally, developers are creative people. We’re interested in discovering new things and building out new capabilities for customers. One of the problems that hasn’t been previously dealt with on the RIM platform is there have been many, many form factors for the devices, many different phones. So with BlackBerry 10, we’re minimizing that. We’re taking steps that will allow developers to create applications that will run on any of our form factors with little or no modification. It’s a big step forward. It will allow them to focus on the things they do best, which is the creativity that surrounds building applications as opposed to making sure it works on every single platform.

That’s a common problem across the industry. If you look at the Android platform, there’s an awful lot of energy that gets put into ports for Android applications. We talked to one Android developer about six months ago about building onto our platform and he said he had 23 different [modifications] to be on a large enough base in the Android ecosystem. It’s an endemic problem in the industry and we’re working really hard to solve it in BlackBerry 10.

Q: Is there a certain category of apps you’re concentrating on trying to get onto BlackBerry devices?

A: First and foremost, nobody can argue that BlackBerry isn’t the best communications-oriented device today. One of our biggest focuses is getting those communications apps for people who are doers as opposed to viewers onto the platform. We’re doing a very good job of that today. There are really two categories of applications. One of them is the category of applications that [sell] the device. We have an effort underway at getting those sorts of applications onto the platform and it [was] being addressed by a business development team inWaterloo [yesterday].

There’s another team that’s focused on getting a market onto the platform. There are tens of thousands of applications that are unique in the market today and we’re focused on getting them onto the platform as well. So one is an outreach program that’s targeted at lots and lots of developers, and the other is a very focused business development sales-oriented effort to get those key applications.

Q: RIM announced PlayBook 2.0 software here at CES, so the device is finally getting features like native email and calendar. Should the device have been released without such apps?

A: That was ancient history, I wasn’t part of the company back then. [Laughs]

Q: But was it bad a idea to release it without those apps? Did it hurt the BlackBerry brand?

A: I think that when people buy a new platform, what they’re looking for is to get applications on that platform. Today more than ever, these are small computers and a great deal of their value derives from the applications that are on them. So when we go to market with any device, if you look at how classic platform launches occur, you try to line up developers so that they have their applications available at launch with the device. Developers want to do that, by the way, because they look at the amount of money the company is spending on launching a device and say, “Hey, if we can draft in behind that, we’ll do better.” Years of experience have shown that if you can get an application into the market at launch, then you’ll do better, so that’s what our focus is. When those BlackBerry 10 devices launch, we’re going to have a wave of applications drafting in right behind it.



Source: CBC


3 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. The change in RIM’s approach to addressing developers and users in the last 6 months has changed so much since Alec has been on board.

    I dare say they are the most engaged company out there right now

    • A company is only as good as its people. Good products are great but they won’t be great if the right people aren’t designing it, making it work, and selling it!

      Yes, folks like Alec Saunders are making a difference, and I can safely say that RIM has turned that corner. It’s uphill from here!

      We just got a decent batch of BB7 devices last fall, 7.1 was on schedule, and PlayBook 2.0 looks to be on schedule too! Very positive signs indeed!

      I’m buying stock again 🙂

  2. SKYPE on the PlayBook!!!


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