A few days ago Brad posted on the odd rantings of one Galen Gruman, Executive Editor at infworld.com. Galen, as you may recall, mixed a whole load of old thinking, with, er, old thinking, sprinkled on a bit of iGnorance and came up with, well, nothing basically other than misinformation and claptrap about BlackBerry and it’s products.
This led to people disagreeing with him in the comments to his blog and attempting to put him straight to enlighten readers as to the actual truth of the situation, as opposed to the tosh he was spouting as fact.
And Galen didn’t like this.
He didn’t like it at all.
So, with pronounced keyboard bounce, he then produced this:
The dangerous delusions of the BlackBerry fan
Last week, I wrote about the new danger signs around BlackBerry’s current comeback attempt, including the lack of carrier support for its new BlackBerry Classic smartphone.
BlackBerry fans were outraged, with some taking my analysis as a personal attack on their choice of the BlackBerry platform. Some resorted to the worst impulses of a fan, with the Internet’s modern equivalent (“you’re an Apple fanboy” ) of the “your mother wears combat boots” insults from the era of my boyhood.
That’s childish emotionalism, but what struck me was the number of wishful-thinking arguments that BlackBerry the company and its ardent fans having been making for years. A set of delusions has let BlackBerry become endangered and will finish off the job if fans continue to believe them. BlackBerry needs a realistic strategy if it hopes to prosper again, not more delusion.
Oh dear. This can’t end well.
But let’s hear Galen out. After all, UTB IS THE UNASHAMED HOME of the BlackBerry fan. Let’s see if we can’t learn something here. Ok, Galen, off you go, what are the delusions we’ve been spouting my friend?
Delusion No. 1: BlackBerry’s problem is a marketing failure
One delusion is that BlackBerry’s products are amazingly attractive, but bad marketing is hiding that fact from the world. With good marketing, everyone will abandon their iPhones and Android smartphones for a BlackBerry. After all, that’s what these users did.
Marketing can get people to consider a product and reinforce that you made the right choice earlier (so you buy again). But marketing can’t make people buy something they don’t want.
Galen is wrong here. Very wrong, on two counts.
One, BlackBerry fans are RIGHT about that fact that BlackBerry handsets are APPALLINGLY marketed. It has been this way since spring 2013 (and some would argue a long time before that) – more details on that to come as Galen expounds on his point.
Two, Marketing allows the consumer to make an INFORMED choice. In the first instance by making the consumer aware of the products existence. No awareness, no chance of sale. Simple as that. To put it more bluntly – how can you even consider buying something you don’t even know exists?
And ‘marketing can’t make people buy something they don’t want’ is TRUE. But actually the point of marketing (once you get past the awareness) is to make the product so attractive that a large enough proportion of the market WANT TO BUY IT. In other words, marketing doesn’t make you buy something (that’s SALES anyway). It makes you WANT to buy it. Enough that you enquire as to HOW you can get it. Which, of course, leads us to what happens when the public enquire at places such as US or UK carriers – and are told that the product they are interested in doesn’t exist and ‘would you like a Samsung or iPhone?’
The truth is that BlackBerry has a product problem, and it’s not clear it can solve this problem: BlackBerry fans rejected the touchscreen Z10 in 2013, as well as the keyboard-oriented Q10 that year. That rejection cost BlackBerry more than $2 billion in write-offs. Instead, BlackBerry fans bought the old-style BlackBerry 7 devices — suggesting they want no modern smartphone technology at all.
That leads me to suspect there’ll be few buyers for the new BlackBerry Classic, which puts the BlackBerry 10 OS on the beloved BlackBerry Bold hardware design — exactly as the Q10 tried.
Only in the last few months did BlackBerry finally run out of the old models, though they’re still available at some carriers. Going forward, you’ll have to buy a BlackBerry 10-based model if you want to get a new BlackBerry.
We’ll see how many actually do — the fact that neither AT&T nor Verizon Wireless is selling the BlackBerry Classic is a bad omen, though both say they will at some point.
No. BlackBerry fans didn’t ‘reject’ the Z10 and Q10 in 2013. In fact, BlackBerry fans were pretty much the buying base for these products and, by and large, with some gripes, they loved them (and still do). The problem was that BlackBerry, under the old regime, were the first company to discover that the upgrade gravy train had left town. They expected the entire user base to simply switch. Why not? Samsung, HTC and Apple were doing it for fun so the inventory ordered matched previous expectations.
With disastrous results seen again and again with Samsung and HTC now. Only Apple have managed to keep it going but then they’ve marketed the hell out of the iPhone 6. Why? Because they saw what had happened to BlackBerry, the HTC One M8 and the SG5.
Couple that with a lesson in marketing stupidity (blowing $1 million on a Superbowl ad for a product not yet launched in the US should be taught in schools as a lesson in how NOT to launch a product) and you ended up with a board that floundered at high speed. Marketing died almost instantly as the predicted bonanza failed to materialise, and consumers, UNAWARE of the BlackBerry 10 products, bought BlackBerry 7 ones instead as they thought that’s ALL THERE WAS, a fact carriers were happy to reinforce as they had lost money too.
As regards the Classic, it’s simple – BlackBerry since John Chen took over, as any BlackBerry fan knows, has been split into seperate divisions. The handset business being but one. It’s brief is to be profitable and the Classic appeals to a niche market. As the Passport was, so shall be the Classic. Right now it doesn’t have to change the world, it simply has to make money.
Something I’m sure HTC, Sony and Samsung wish they had with their last models.
Delusion No. 2: BlackBerry’s struggles are a U.S. phenomenon
BlackBerry fanboys like to say it’s all blue skies outside the United States when it comes to BlackBerry adoption. But if you look at the sales data for BlackBerry for 2013 and 2014, you’ll see that BlackBerry sales are heading only one way: down.
Sure, in some countries, there was a slight uptick in BlackBerry sales when the company released its first BlackBerry 10 devices, the BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry Q10. But the slide continued soon after. People looked at the new BlackBerrys when they debuted in spring 2013, then resumed buying other devices.
Kantar Worldpanel’s data on smartphone sales in key markets shows this trend clearly. I’ve created a chart showing BlackBerry sales trends for two years in key markets; in not one has BlackBerry grown, and in most markets its share of sales is now less than 1 percent.
Er… hello? BlackBerry fan in the UK here! BlackBerry’s struggles (as regards handset market share) are by no means a US phenomenon and I don’t know of any BlackBerry fans around the world who think so! Whilst it is true that in countries such as Indonesia (where the Z3 was launched and, guess what, BlackBerry launched an aggressive marketing campaign) market share is doing ok, in the Western world it has dropped.
Why? Well, whilst us BlackBerry fans are incredibly frustrated watching inferior products being touted as the next big thing (iOS8 springs to mind!) Chen has had to right the ship first before expanding again. That’s just a fact – one which Galen, had he known anything about BlackBerry, marketing or, frankly, business at all, would have known.
The US is highlighted as the attempts to stifle BlackBerry, particularly through carriers, is mind boggling. Why do ATT get an exclusive to sell the Passport only to ensure they don’t, for example? Why do ATT and Verizon hold back on the Classic? The questions are asked from people who wish to throw money at them and they repeatedly refuse to answer.
And, as to the Kantar data, Galen doesn’t quite understand that it reflects market share, not sales. The two are different – but never mind.
Delusion No. 3: iPhones and Android smartphones are toys
You hear this argument mostly from IT staffers: People don’t need apps on their phones; they’re time-wasters and potential data leakers, after all. That of course is why 99 percent of the world isn’t buying BlackBerrys, right?
BlackBerry co-founder Jim Balsillie made the same statement in 2010, three years after the first iPhone and two years after the first iOS apps. His self-delusion is a key reason why BlackBerry continued making messaging devices for email and texting, not true smartphones. It’s also why people stopped buying BlackBerrys.
Today, that delusion has put BlackBerry in a very bad position. Few apps are available for BlackBerry devices, so they’re not attractive to users. Additionally, the IT folks who hate apps reinforce the message to managers and users that BlackBerrys aren’t real smartphones.
Not going to spend too long on this one. The truth is that, in comparison to BlackBerry 10 iOS and Android ARE toys. The iPhone 6 has many failings, but one of the biggest is that it is almost unusable as something to make a call on. A phone, in other words. Jim Balsillie left BlackBerry a very long time ago and, as any BlackBerry fan knows, BlackBerry 10 can run 230,000 apps from BlackBerry World plus pretty much any Android app that doesn’t require Google Services. So to claim ‘Few apps are available’ is just bad journalism.
And why is this the case? Because BlackBerry, far from being the 2010 dinosaur Galen paints it as, recognises that customers want apps and they can’t build their own ecosystem fast enough.
This entire argument is just tosh.
Delusion No. 4: BlackBerry doesn’t need devices to succeed
The current BlackBerry CEO, John Chen, has said he’ll get rid of BlackBerry devices if they don’t become profitable. That’s reinforced an attitude that BlackBerry can succeed on the strength alone of its BES12 mobile management server or maybe of its QNX Internet-of-things operating system.
As mentioned previously, BlackBerry has been split into divisions. Actually the others (ie. not the Handset division) have been doing very nicely thanks. QNX and BES are romping away and the Handset division has made up a very small part of BlackBerry’s return to profitability.
There’s about 4 paragraphs extra from Galen on this subject but the honest truth is that he’s got it all so badly wrong I can’t even be bothered to repeat it. Suffice to say his assertion that BES12 is limited in terms of iOS and Android support and that it can only succeed if the devices division does is way off beam.
Delusion No. 5: Security needs will pull customers back to BlackBerry
If this thinking were true, nearly everyone would be using a BlackBerry in a corporate context. But they don’t. Users may have forced iOS and Android onto their IT departments, but if those devices were not secure enough, they would have never broken past IT’s defenses.
IT may claim security concerns, but the truth is iOS is secure enough for all but the highest-level needs. Android has many gaps, especially around malware, and Windows Phone lacks key capabilities for security and management. But all can be secured at a basic level, and IT can use other technologies to secure corporate data. Plus, none of these OSes is less secure than Windows, which almost every company uses as its computer standard despite the high cost of malware remediation and data loss.
Oh dear God he said it. ‘iOS is secure enough for all but the highest-level needs’. And then made an excuse for Android.
This is no delusion. It just hasn’t happened yet – or maybe never will. As BlackBerry users highlight time and time again, the public just aren’t aware of what their phone is doing to them. And phones have become such a sexy and personal commodity users, including IT departments, make excuses for their failings and blind themselves to the possibilities.
Last year’s iCloud, Aviva insurance and Sony hacks, to name just 3 examples, should have shaken some trees. But it’s not enough, not yet. Maybe it’s the case that the general public will continue to sleep walk giving away their personal information, right down to the conversations they have when they think the phone is switched off, for the sake of owning such a device.
Or maybe, one day, there will be a backlash against the companys who allowed these practices to happen on the alter of their own profitability. We’re not deluded enough to think it will all happen tomorrow. But isn’t it strange how the Aviva’s and Sony’s of this world came straight back to BlackBerry when their security was compromised by iOS and Android. No delusion here Galen, thanks.
Galen finishes with this:
I don’t know what BlackBerry can do to grow again — I wish I did. But I know that BlackBerry fans, and BlackBerry the company, need to stop deluding themselves about the platform they love. They won’t save it with delusions.
Well, perhaps as someone who has, according to his bio, written 40 How To books on ‘iOS, iPad, Windows 8, OS X, and desktop publishing.’ he might want to write another:
How to research a company before pontificating about it.
With hilarious consequences.