In what I think we can all agree was a refreshing move of openness, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins answered ten questions from readers last Friday in The Globe and Mail. The questions were pointed and sometimes challenging, the answers were – by necessity – somewhat defensive. At times repeating what he has publicly stated before, Heins attempted to placate his frustrated customers and re-build confidence in the RIM brand.
Some of the more interesting questions he was asked dealt with RIM’s decision to delay the release of BlackBerry 10 until 2013. One (perhaps cynical) Alabaman small-business owner even asked about whether we should trust the new release date in light of RIM’s “constant delays” in product launching.
Heins addressed the questions about the delay of the new product by appealing to the unique nature of BlackBerry 10. He stated that “BlackBery 10 is more than a smartphone” and said that the delay was necessary simply because of the many features that had to be integrated with each other. Of course, the many features of the phone still don’t assure its timely Q1 2013 arrival. To the doubts on that timetable, Heins could do nothing but insist on its accuracy.
Heins also tried to correct some mistaken impressions that he thinks have taken ground of late:
One of the misconceptions about BlackBerry is that it’s your parents’ smartphone. BlackBerry has a loyal fan base of young people around the world. For example, in South Africa, BlackBerry was recently voted coolest brand…Obviously, we have work to do in North America, and we know that.
In response to other questions, Heins assured recent purchasers of BB 7 products that their devices will still be supported, explained why he thought BB 10’s OS is superior to that of Apple or Android, and tried to assure customers that RIM really is concerned with “the little things.”
The final question was, I thought, a very good one. It asked why RIM couldn’t “put out new handsets with the old BlackBerry 7 and allow them to be upgraded with the new operating system when it comes out.” This would give people much greater incentive to purchase BlackBerry products prior to the release of the BlackBerry 10.
BlackBerry 10 is more than just a new operating system. It’s an entirely new platform. The software and the hardware are designed together and the operating system will interact with the hardware in ways that are very different from BlackBerry 7. This is part of what gives BlackBerry 10 its power…
Overall, this question answering was a very good move on the part of Thorsten Heins. With the public perception of RIM in its current state, it’s of vital importance for their executives to reach out and allay the concerns of their customer base. Because they realize that, they have a fighting chance.
Check out the full Q&A series at The Globe and Mail