The BlackBerry is not Apple

Produce - apples and oranges woman

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.

31 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. Actually, I like the virtual keyboards, hate my Bold keyboard. Otherwise I agree.

  2. First, let me say – although I don’t recall having seen any posts from you in the past – this piece is extremely well-written. It’s not like one of those mindless CNet loser posts. Full of passion and substance.

    But more to the point, it echoes a lot of what I’ve been feeling since hopping on the Z10 bandwagon. I’m a details guy. I absolutely loved all of the intricate detail in notification management. And so much of it is gone – even with the 10.1 update. As a perfect example, when my Torch was in my holster, if my wife called me I’d get 5 short buzzes and I knew without even flinching that it was her. You can’t manage specific vibration for contacts anymore – besides, the entirety of “holster mode,” which I would always tout to friends as one of the beauties of the BlackBerry, is just not there.

    I remember scoffing at the early Apple and Android releases for missing so many obviously useful features (copy/paste ?) but it really seems like with BBRY’s new products they have gone down a similar path. (e.g. Couldn’t believe that the Playbook browser doesn’t have Find on Page!!)

    So, way to go Luciano for voicing these opinions so eloquently. Hopefully BBRY takes note.

    • Unfortunately I do think they are listening to anyone at this point, SB. I, like you and many many many others, wish they would. The notification customization IS BlackBerry and any device with the BB logo should have that ability at a minimum. The 10.1 update appears to give that option but even with .2019 from AT&T updated this morning (and .2006 that many were “lucky” to get a few weeks ago) it still doesn’t work.

    • What’s wrong with using BeBuzz for notifications? It’s always been more fully featured, even on legacy devices.

      • When normal BB notifications work that’s all I need. I’ve tried BeBuzz on my 9700 and didn’t see anything I really needed with it. May try it on my Z under the circumstances

  3. When it comes to OS upgrades, people want BlackBerry to be more like Apple, not less. Apple does not ‘force’ the upgrade and supports their hardware for 3-4 years, far more than anyone else in this industry.

    The idea that it is ok to ditch support for the PlayBook because it is two years old, is a real problem, because two years is not all that long. The iPad that came out at the same time as the PlayBook is still supported, and getting another OS update this fall…

  4. Interesting and well written commentary. I have a hard time with EOL being two years after spending hard earned money for “quality flag ship devices”. I have 6 playbooks in my family and we all love them and stay in touch over video chat. I am the only hard user, in the sense of using it for most everything. I have been mostly content with it’s performance, but, the browser is really frustrating me lately and the obvious stop in development from app devs and BB is painful. I also convinced a few friends to purchase one because of the absolutely incredible new OS that will be coming in ???? They keep asking when. :(

  5. Yeah, agree on the PB thing. BB10 on PB made a lot of sense because existing apps would work, transition from tablet os was already underway, etc etc…

    Without that, the tablet might as well die completely.

    I wouldn’t even trust BB to follow through with any PB related compensation at this point. I have been burned heavily on this device 3 different times…

    I wouldn’t buy a tablet from BB period at this point due to the way they handled these “tough decisions” multiple times…

  6. Got my PB on day 1.
    BB10 was not there at that time, so I am not upset that it is not coming.

    What I hope BBRY will do is to keep updating the OS and PDF reader, and allow for USB storage.

    I do not care about the build in email – and I think it was a mistake of BBRY to add native email to PBOS – bridge was good enough.
    But, I am shocked that Bridge is some lame on BB10 devices. For me, this is the real deception.
    And I really want them to fix that.

    One can dream

  7. No need to update the OS
    Just tune the browser, fix the PDF reader, and allow me to use my PB as a remote desktop for my BB10 device ( bridge is part of that )
    I don’t really care if no one else want to write new apps for the PB. I think the best usage for the PB is to be an extension to the BB10 experience

    The concept of a dumb table is smart I think!

    I will keep using my PBs

    • If the bridge to my Z could be made functional the way my 9700 worked with my PB I would be one happy camper and all would be perfect. Seriously!

  8. If all the PB hate drives down the retail price I might just finally go buy one!

  9. Agree with article.
    Here are the mistakes BlackBerry has made with the PlayBook:
    1. Did not include BBM and and native email at launch – which essentially a made the PlayBook a niche product.
    2. Very poor marketing – par for the course.
    3. Never got universal search.
    4. Was not made fully compatible with BB10.
    5. Poor and ill advised timing for announcement of no BB10. For PlayBook, with no mention of any future upgrades or compensation – in effect leaving PlayBook users hanging in the wind.

    Things BlackBerry did right with PlayBook:
    1. BlackBerry Bridge: which made the BlackBerry and PlayBook united; the best feature ever!
    2. Rectified much of their initial error with OS 2.0 – which brought a much improved keyboard, native email with unified messaging – which inspired the BB10 Hub, expanded. The already fantastic features of the Bridge to include using your BlackBerry as a remote to control your PlayBook and to put the website your looking at at and access files of your BlackBerry using the PlayBook.

    I hope BlackBerry continues to upgrade the PlayBook and not give upon

  10. Adding one major item to that list of “wrongs”:
    1) Tablet OS was beta at best… They charged full retail and the browser and OS crashed like crazy. Even a year later on the next iteration of the OS the browser is still incredibly slow sometimes…

  11. Thanks fot this well written article.

    In a world of quick electronics throw away, the Playbook hardware is still well above recent product releases such as the Asus Memopad. It would be environmentally wrong to let this perfectly good hardware become obsolete. Blackberry can do good by standing behind the millions of PB users with a well communicated support plan.

    I hope full Android compatibility will be provided so that Skype, Google Maps, Netflix and other popular applications will be offered. Remember Beta versus VHS ? Android applications are in a similar market dominant position. The Playbook needs a true fully compatible Android player.

    The Playbook’s beta version of the BB10 browser was benchmarked as the number one tablet browser based on on HTML5 score. The PB should have that too!

    With some good will, Blackberry should release both a world class browser and Android player.

  12. Great article and totally agree with you. When you brought up the “fashion industry” it cracked me up: that has been my pet-peeve forever. If I wanted an iPhone or Android I would own one but I want a BlackBerry not a copy of anything else. I’ve been hanging on to my 9650 ever since it came on Sprint not because it is great but because there is nothing better. I bought the PlayBook in Jan of ’12 as an extension of my device and am glad I didn’t pay full price for it. Now I’m debating on the “Q” or the “A” whenever Sprint decides to release them and one thing I am certain of is that I will NOT port anything into the phone or my tablet.

  13. and I still have my Storm…

  14. THANK YOU! Its always nice to know someone gets the frustration of not being simple minded . Blackberries are made for beauty and brains, they aren’t some toy that’s just made to be the “in thing”. And yes, blackberrys efforts to be like apple is just the tip of the iceburg, they should get that they aren’t made to be ordinary! When google realised iOS is all talk they made android and its doing great! Blackberry needs to wake up!

  15. Regarding OS upgrades, the iPad had OSX redux from the start. All Apple does now is to check if the components and apps they modify/add fit or not and, based on that, decide which devices get the upgrade.
    TabletOS is not BB10 even though they have a common ancestor. I believe TH when he says they’ve tried. For them to can the project, it must be that they have some serious problems with the OS in terms of requirements and it goes further than the PB upgrade: They can’t release low-cost devices with that OS yet and that must be a real headache.
    Now, they could update TabletOS, but I’d rather they focus on improving BB10. So much to do there and the future of the company depends on it.
    New tablets can come in 2014, if they’ve managed to change their image and can price them competitively. If not, make them enterprise products. It seems to be the only market segment BlackBerry understands.

    Oh and people really have to realise that “safe”, “secure”, “encrypted protocols” on BlackBerry only applies to BES users.

  16. What a wonderful article. You said everything I have been feeling but not able to express. You need to write more articles.
    For the PB debacle, I have been a loyal BB user and advocate since the early days and have not used any other device since. I still use the PB everyday and was very disappointed when I heard the announcement. In some way, I still prefer the PB interface to my Z10 so I think my frustration was more related to lack of upgrade than full BB10 support. BB need to understand that even if Tablets will be obsolete in the next 5 years, what do we do until then? We still need still Tablets now until something else replaces it. BB needs to understand that even if it is a loss, they should consider it Cost of Business and continue to offer a full line of products. Without it IMHO, BB has no future for me.
    For me to have faith again BB will need to do or state the following before the end of the year:
    1. Upgrade the PBOS to support HTML5 and write a new Browser app similar to BB10
    2. Upgrade the Android player and enable Android Apps to download directly from Google Store.
    3. Bring back Bridge to BB10 at least same as BBOS.
    4. Put BBM on the PB. If iOS and Android get it, PB should also.

    I could go on but these at least would keep me in the family so to speak.

    Come on BB, listen to us, your loyal users and customers. Without us no matter how much you are trying to lower your cost, you will not have anyone left to enjoy it.

  17. We need more articles from this author that doesn’t add a spoon of sugar to BB’s failings. I’m an early adopter of the 8900, 9800, PlayBook and Z10. But no more! Oh a BB shareholder too. Some much promised. So little delivered. Their engagement with customers and shareholders is poor. The tone is one of being aloof. When they actually “care” and deliver they may actually begin to get traction.

    • Have you had issues with these products? I never had the 8900, but I had the 9800 and I have a PlayBook and a Z10. They all work as advertised. The PlayBook was the perfect companion to my 9790 but I find it is no longer needed now that I have the Z10 but it still works perfect. I hope they can do a few more updates to it, universal search and flick typing are two that come to mind, but I think they would rather let the product die off, there is no business case for it. As for the Z10, the only thing I don’t like about it is that it is huge, I like my phones to be small.

  18. I do totally agree with this article!
    It explains every thing I feel; frustation, feeling having been ripped off, why the playbook does not come with decent apps? more options in those ones, a real and easy trash for deleting emails…and so on…
    and, now, I just red no BB10 for playbook ? ? ? WTF?
    It is just too bad.
    I will sell both, my playbook and my BB bold 9780 as a package.Id I get 200 bucks I am happy.
    Bye Bye Blackberry!
    Nice dream..with a brutal end

  19. Sounds like a bunch of whining to me. BlackBerry has accomplished a tremendous feat by bringing BB10 to market and are actively working on updates to address the shortcomings of the OS. I never expected the PlayBook to receive BB10 in the first place, no matter what they said. The hardware wasn’t there. Anyone that uses a Z/Q10 knows that they need 2GB of RAM to run smoothly and people are complaining about not getting BB10 on the PlayBook with 1GB???? Really people?? I love my Z10, it is a quality device, not sure where the sentiment that quality has gone down is coming from. The more we harp on the past, the worse BB’s perception will be. How can anyone say they aren’t listening to their users? That’s EXACTLY what there are doing. They have giving us an actual usable, full touchscreen device and the QWERTY diehards love! All of you sound like spoiled little children!

    They old guard screwed up, there’s no denying that, but Thor and the new guard are trying to right the ship. I, for one, think they are moving in the right direction. If you don’t, that’s your prerogative, but my Z10 serves me beautifully daily. It still manages my life as my 9930 did. No other OS has provided the work horse experience I get from them. I still use my PlayBook daily. It didn’t stop working because it’s not getting BB10. Grow up people and stop complaining or just use a different device already. Geez…

    • Finally a comment that actually makes sense. The PlayBook is a nothing but a money loser and even if it had a perfect version of bb10, it would still be a money loser. When it came out it was 600 dollars, if it sold in volume at that price point there would be a business case for it. Apple is the only company turning a decent profit from tablet sales, it is a stinker of a business.

      • I hit post before finishing my rant… The PlayBook turned out to be money loser and a lousy business case, but they made a very good tablet. I don’t have a lot of use for tablets now that I have the Z10 and a MacBook Air with Windows and OSX. I can literally do all my work any place my Z10 had 3G or better signal.

  20. Not fair to call people whiners or to dump BlackBerry over an OS that won’t run on the Playbook. I use it every day and love it. I only want the browser and keyboard from the 10. If it doesn’t get any more updates , I will be disappointed, but, will still keep rocking the BlackBerry product.

  21. Black rocks i love it

  22. Your article is stupid. I couldn’t get passed the first paragraph without dry heaving. The only problem with the Playbook was the lack of apps. If that issue was fixed I would sell my Samsung Galaxy Tab2 in a heartbeat. What tablet has a physical keyboard, you attacks on the Playbook is unjustified, and uninformed. The Hardware in the Playbook is still competitive with the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. The reason why BB10 is not coming out for the playbook is because it needs 2gb of ram for Android acceleration.

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