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Friday, 15 April 2011

Is it BlackBerry bashing season?

With so much talk of late about the BlackBerry PlayBook that is about to be launched, instead of seeing positive press for RIM, BlackBerry bashing seems to have come into vogue of late.  Sure, RIM is not Apple and doesn't carry the cool factor around it but it is one of the first few to actually launch a tablet while many others are still talking of a tablet.

Many technology sites like Engadget have had a whole host of stories that they've released in the last few days talking about the gloomy days ahead for RIM (read here: RIM, We've been here before) or the fact that RIM hasn't addressed their customer segmentation issues properly (read here: Dear RIM, I'm your customer and I don't wear a suit).

While each story would have its own merit, what does remain a fact is that a BlackBerry still has its own USP's and why we've seen so many devices being sold here in the UAE.  It wasn't too long ago, we were all in a state of panic when we heard the the UAE may ban BlackBerry services.  Faced with a potential ban coming in place, many worried how they would keep in touch with their friends if BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) was disabled or many of those who travel frequently were concerned at how they'd check their e-mails (as the BlackBerry service and the fixed fee roaming data packages you get from both local telecom providers are much more affordable than roaming on any other smartphone package).

What RIM does offer is functionality.  You can read your e-mails, chat on BBM and be accessible with a data connection anywhere you go.  Even though BlackBerry devices may not the most appealing or attractive, we've seen lots of students, grand-parents or housewives, who are non-core users for BlackBerry-type devices buy them here in the UAE.  Many of these people could've bought an iPhone or an Android-based smartphone but are still opting for a BlackBerry device.

In fact, we've seen many people adopt a second smartphone of late as they've found it difficult to totally give up their BlackBerry.  I do agree with Jacob Schulman at Engadget who says he uses his BlackBerry purely for BBM and does everything else on his iPhone.  Many of us do use the two devices like that right now but he concluded his story by saying "I'm still in college for a few more years, and I haven't found anything worthy of replacing my BBM list, so for now I'll keep double fisting. But look, I can only carry two phones for so long..."

With BlackBerry World, RIM's annual gala for developers and channel partners due to take place in a few weeks time in Orlando (where Jacky's will also be present), we're going to see hopefully what direction RIM is moving in.  Many of the tech sites that have been RIM-bashing of late know that this event is around the corner but without waiting to hear what may come, it seems they've already passed judgement it seems on what they want to say about RIM.  This seems a tad bit unfair as you never know what strategy RIM adopts here.

RIM co-CEO, Mike Lazaridis has a tumultuous relationship
with the press thus far
We've already been hearing rumours of RIM possibly opening some BBM functionality across other platforms or that the PlayBook may have some capability of running Android-based Apps.  There could be a lot more we don't know but with RIM's co-CEO's both being personalities that have had a rocky relationship with the press, you have to wonder is the press pursuing a personal vendetta or objectively reporting news related to RIM/BlackBerry.

The answer to this may come when BlackBerry World rolls around in May but whatever it is, I  hope that some objectively is seen in how BlackBerry news is conveyed.

Posted By: Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics