BlackBerry & The Power Pig

May 11, 2012

Did Samsung hire Randy Michaels?  Or was it BlackBerry?  Somehow the “Smartphone Wars” have devolved into tactical warfare that has “’80s radio” written all over it.

After reading a story about how a mysterious black bus pulled up in front of an Apple Store in Sydney, Australia, to stage an apparent “protest,” I couldn’t help but think of those sophomoric Jacorian hijinks that used to be so common in radio.

A video below, narrated by a guy named Blunty (who was apparently set up to be there to capture the moment), takes you through the sequence of events.  The bus was wrapped with huge “WAKE UP” signage, loaded with a group of young people dressed in black with professionally made “Wake Up” signs.  That’s Samsung’s slogan for its new Galaxy Android phone, but of course, Samsung denies having anything to do with this.  And recently, BlackBerry stepped up and actually took credit for pulling off this stunt.


What does it tell you about the state of smartphone competition, as well as Apple’s domination?  In reading comments about this article and others that are related to Apple versus Android, these factions often seem as fervent (and irrational) as the two sides at a Michigan/Ohio State game.  Maybe that’s how BlackBerry figured it.  For many, it has the whiff of desperation and just comes off as desperate.

What’s next?  Going through the Apple Store’s trash?  Soaping their employees’ car windows in the parking lot?  Or sending out fake letters on Apple stationary to their “Geniuses” about fake management changes and policies?   Hey, it worked in radio, didn’t it?

Techsurvey8 shows that Apple has the strongest degree of loyalty of all cell phone platforms and brands.  A larger percentage of iPhone owners tell us their next phone will be another Apple.  Android’s “next smartphone” numbers are impressive – but lower.  And then there are the pathetic returns for BlackBerry where more of their current owners say they’ll switch to Apple rather than buy another R.I.M. phone.

You may have read the story from a few weeks back that Research In Motion – maker of BlackBerry – was ditching the consumer market and refocusing their efforts on the business (“enterprise”) market. Thorsten Heins, CEO of RIM, has recently tried to reassure customers that BlackBerry is not abandoning them but is just eliminating some in-house services.  Too bad, because the consumer market is abandoning BlackBerry.

In every metric you look at, BlackBerry has become the MySpace of smartphones.

Maybe instead of hiring a bus and a bunch of unemployed kids, they should spend more effort determining why consumers have left them in droves.

And you thought it could only happen in radio.


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5 Responses to BlackBerry & The Power Pig

  1. Mike Anthony on May 11, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    Fred –

    I’ve concluded that people leave relationships of any kind due to “lack of relevance”. At some point because you weren’t sensitive to or in touch with the current or changing needs of the target customer you become irrelevant to their path in life so the relationship changes for the worse and then dies.

    There is such clarity in this quick Bloomberg interview with Ashton Kutcher. He really gets the state of media as it is at this moment. At the 1 minute market he talks about fragmentation. At the 2 minute mark he talks about the need for cannibalization. Anyone who owns a media channel of any kind should listen to the points he’s making. This is who you’re competing against for relevance in the lives of you customer.

    • Fred Jacobs
      Fred Jacobs on May 11, 2012 at 5:05 PM

      Thanks, MIke. There’s another post here. The cannibalization line will now be with me all weekend…and beyond. Appreciate your contributions as always.

  2. Bob Bellin on May 12, 2012 at 10:05 AM

    Blackberry’s complete failure to compete is really surprising, almost shocking. They STILL haven’t been able to release a product with a decent browser and up to date operating system. They still have lots of money…why can’t/didn’t/don’t they hire the best development people on earth and pay them whatever they want and get back in the game?

    I’m amazed at how many people still own and use a Blackberry. I was hesitant to dump mine a year ago because I knew the device front to back and how to do anything it could possibly do. Ultimately, it couldn’t possibly do enough and I decided that being half fluent on a true smartphone would offer me more than being an expert on an obsolete device.

    The parallels to radio are uncanny. Lots of people still loyal to a product that in its day was truly cool – one that many people still love and many more could love again. How much of a chance does Blackberry have of attracting people whose first smart phone was an iPhone or Android and only know of Blackberry as the thing that their Mom/Dad/Aunt/Uncle use for their job and doesn’t do much? What about today’s 17 year old and radio? He/she is going to be 25-54 in eight years. What will tech survey 16 show as the in car entertainment system percentage?

    The biggest warning sign to me for radio was a tiny one – when my wife started using Pandora along with Sirius. She’s on her second smartphone. She doesn’t listen to terrestrial radio anymore. And shes not tech savvy, not an early adopter, not musically hip at all…and (she’ll kill me if she ever reads this) not even 25-54.

    • Paul Jacobs
      Paul Jacobs on May 14, 2012 at 8:31 AM

      Bob, a couple of years ago I went to CES and met with RIM’s head of their app initiative. After the meeting I called our app team and told them that BB is in trouble. They scorned apps. Didn’t get them. Didn’t want to do them. They saw themselves as an enterprise platform and didn’t understand the way the entire space was changing.
      Today, their app effort is still terrible. jacAPPS has stopped developing for the platform, and we rarely, if ever get a request to develop one now. RIM is stuck with phones that you can talk on, text, and email.
      How quaint.

  3. Fred Jacobs
    Fred Jacobs on May 14, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    Bob, the warning signs abound. By not recognizing changing public tastes and the impact of new technology (ie. apps!!), RIM let their dominance erode to a point where a comeback is doubtful. Perceptions, in this case, are reality.

    Thanks for the eloquent comments, and your wife’s secret is safe with me and the thousands who read this blog.

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