While we’re all still hurting from BlackBerry’s decision not to bring OS 10 to the Playbook, Ronen just published his commentary on the sorry outcome, based on an article published by our friends at Crackberry.com. I decided to check the original piece, less for the piece itself than for the comment section, because Crackberry.com succeeds in bringing in a much broader audience, some of which is quite vocal. It’s interesting to see what is going on there.
I was not pleased with what I saw. Let me explain…
First, some people think that BlackBerry should compensate the betrayed user base with… another Playbook or a discount on another Playbook. Why??? The product is bad as it is, why would you want to have more of it? Are you running out of doorstops in your household? It’s the classic joke of the patron who goes to a restaurant and complains that the food tastes awful and the portions are too small.
But the worst part comes from those who think it’s a good idea to compare BlackBerry with Apple:
“Apple also limits what updates get to be updated on the older models. They also need us the USERS to purchase NEW hardware to keep the business running!!”
“…Apple uses software updates to force people to update their hardware…”
Look, BlackBerry is not Apple. For one thing, Apple users are a lot more satisfied with what they have. By the time Apple forces their sheep to upgrade, said sheep have generally spent some pretty good time with something that met their expectations, though silly such expectations may be. They upgrade because they have NEW expectations and Apple delivers most of the time. Apple has been running out of steam lately, but they still can boast a pretty good track record.
The Playbook story is fundamentally different. Leading the user base along for two years with a dangling carrot that is suddenly pulled away is bad enough. Expecting the user base to open its mouth and wallet and march towards another carrot is insulting. “Fool me once, fool me twice,” etc… BlackBerry cannot afford to force an upgrade just because Apple does. The two companies do not stand on the same level.
Morevoer, BlackBerry users have always been a lot more critical and conscious. Apple gear is generally designed for the masses, preferably the mindless ones. When Steve Jobs removed buttons and what else and said “you don’t need this” or “you don’t need that,” he wasn’t improving the computing or consumer electronics experience; he was shaping the minds of the target audience. He was telling everyone, “That’s what you’re getting and you’re gonna like it,” like Rhett Butler taming Scarlett O’Hara, that spoiled brat. Jobs had a pair. BlackBerry never grew one. And all that manipulation was artificially embezzled with a sense of pretentiousness, ostentation and elitism that was not new, the fashion industry and several other industries have been doing that for many decades. Yawn…
Now, how has BlackBerry shaped its audience? With confidence, with trust, with reliability and attention to detail. A BlackBerry was a device that would bring you closer to your work and the ones you loved with BBM, with excellent and addictive email, and with a very, very convenient keyboard that really put you in control of the little beast. It even had Auto Correct, which no other phone had back then. The BlackBerry had many configuration options for that time, like ability to change font face and size, something even the Android still doesn’t have. And the granularity of the ringtones and LED notifications would let the user be aware of much that was going on without even picking up the phone. And let’s not forget the security, so important to everyone, especially businesses. Encrypted protocols AND encrypted media, all duly covered. That was the face of the typical BlackBerry user, someone who knew, who cared, appreciated being cared and had nothing to fear. The BlackBerry was fuzzy, warm and empowering. That’s when the ‘crackberry’ moniker came up, and it was very justified.
But I am talking about the looong gone times, precisely before the iPhone came along. The whole market panicked after the iPhone, most notably BlackBerry, with the infamous Storm, its first fiasco. And we can see BlackBerry trying to imitate Apple over and over. The signs are all there:
It’s lost its confidence, it’s lost our trust, it’s no longer reliable and the attention to detail is spotty at best. The Playbook dispensed with BBM, to the dismay of everyone. Everyone, I say. Email on it is undescribably awful. There is no physical keyboard, and the virtual one is absolutely frustrating. Reading ebooks or even Web pages on it is a challenge because you have no control over font face and size. All kinds of granularity have become distant memories of a distant past. Security is there, but with a heavy price: no media card slot, no mass storage mode, no generic USB for a keyboard, no sideloading (not officially). Clearly, the Playbook was designed by Mordac, Preventer of Information Services. The Z10 has no physical keyboard, and it’s not selling well. The Q10 sells better – duh! But no one is really impressed. The new face of the typical BlackBerry user is long, sad, frustrated, humiliated. What a rough ride the last few years have been.
Another kind of comment I hate comes from the cold, broad shouldered thugs who proclaim that BlackBerry did the right thing by cancelling the Playbook roadmap in terms of streamlining the synergistic pipeline strategy paradigm towards the bottom line vis-a-vis the time to value margins, because business. Aw, give me a break. This ruthless corporate attitude is most definitely NOT what made me love the BlackBerry many years ago, and BlackBerry cannot afford to be ruthless with the small portion of audience it still has. If you want ruthless corporate steamrolling attitude from geeky thugs that get richer while you get poorer, just buy an Android already. You will get banged for the buck just as much, but at least the whole experience is better, because a BlackBerry is no longer a BlackBerry. The legendary BlackBerry I used to love is in the past and I want it back.
A BlackBerry has no place catering to the vain, mindless masses. A BlackBerry should be a cozy, safe haven for those who think and pay attention to detail. That is the BlackBerry audience, or at least it used to be. None of what Apple does should apply to us. The case for this is even more so for BlackBerry 10. We want that sense of detail instead of a notification system that takes us back to what BlackBerry had in 2007. We want something more than OS updates that take ages to roll out to users. We want more of what made us fall in love with BlackBerry and we do not want to keep on having to wait on promises of it getting better.
How I think BlackBerry users should be compensated for the Playbook fiasco:
By all means, keep it coming, keep making it, keep marketing it, and keep selling it so it never gets old, but FIX IT. FIX THAT MESS. The hardware is good, it just lacks good software. Give us BBM. Give us decent email. Give us a modern virtual keyboard. Improve fonts, background processes and notifications. Stop spaying the USB port. Let me turn off GPS to save battery, I never use it anyway. Turn this tablet into something that doesn’t keep whispering “You’d have none of those problems if you had bought an Android, wink wink.” Because an Android tablet has all that plus SD card slot and some more, and it is doing fine, it sells like hot cakes. Just admit you have been wrong and TURN AROUND. Push useful, relevant OS updates, not the distractions and false alarms we’ve been given for two years. Take it seriously. Take USERS seriously. Please.