Soon to be my new toy – the Blackberry Z30!

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Open Letter to Blackberry Customers

20130131-163425.jpgAs a member of Team Blackberry Elite, I received the following letter via email today. Blackberry has published this open letter to top newspapers around the globe:

To our valued customers, partners and fans,
You’ve no doubt seen the headlines about BlackBerry®. You’re probably wondering what they mean for you as one of the tens of millions of users who count on BlackBerry every single day.
We have one important message for you:

You can continue to count on BlackBerry.
How do we know? We have substantial cash on hand and a balance sheet that is debt free.
We are restructuring with a goal to cut our expenses by 50 percent in order to run a very efficient, customer-oriented organization.

These are no doubt challenging times for us and we don’t underestimate the situation or ignore the challenges. We are making the difficult changes necessary to strengthen BlackBerry.

One thing we will never change is our commitment to those of you who helped build BlackBerry into the most trusted tool for the world’s business professional.

And speaking of those dramatic headlines, it’s important that we set the record straight on a few things.

Best in class productivity tool.
We have completely revamped our device portfolio this year with the launch of BlackBerry® 10. We have four BlackBerry 10 devices – two all touch and two hybrid (touch and QWERTY) – and all are running the third update of our new platform. If what you care about most is getting things done – taking care of your business – we have the best range of devices for you. And we continue to offer the best mobile typing experience – no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Best in class security.
Governments all over the world, global corporations and businesses that simply cannot compromise on security choose and trust BlackBerry. Security is our heritage, and the industry recognizes that BlackBerry is the most secure when it comes to the device, server and, of course, our global data network. Have no doubt that you can continue to trust us to keep your communication safe and private.

Best in class enterprise mobility management.
We changed with the market, embracing BYOD because we understand that as iOS and Android™ devices become common in the workplace, businesses still need to manage all of these different platforms seamlessly and securely.

This is not a trivial task. While there are a number of startup companies that make bold claims, BlackBerry has more software engineers and the most resources dedicated to developing the most innovative solutions to address this complex challenge.

And our customers know it. Over the past quarter, our BlackBerry® Enterprise Service 10 server base grew from 19,000 to more than 25,000. Corporate clients are committed to deploying and testing the latest enterprise technology from BlackBerry. We are committed to evolving with our customers. That will never change.

Best in class mobile social network.
We are bringing the most engaging mobile messaging platform to all, with our BBM™ launch for Android™and iPhone. There are already around six million customers pre-registered to be notified of our roll out. This number is growing every day, and speaks to the tremendous opportunity we have to expand BBM beyond BlackBerry® smartphones to make it the world’s largest mobile social network.

Yes, there is a lot of competition out there and we know that BlackBerry is not for everyone. That’s OK. You have always known that BlackBerry is different, that BlackBerry can set you apart. Countless world-changing decisions have been finalized, deals closed and critical communications made via BlackBerry. And for many of you that created a bond, a connection that goes back more than a decade.

We believe in BlackBerry – our people, our technology and our ability to adapt. More importantly, we believe in you. We focus every day on what it takes to make sure that you can take care of business.

You trust your BlackBerry to deliver your most important messages, so trust us when we deliver one of our own:  You can continue to count on us.

Sincerely,
The BlackBerry Team

Blackberry Z10 U.S. Launch

Wow is all I can say about AT&T’s lack of promotion for the new Blackberry Z10 launch in the USA! I happen to be in Florida visiting my parents and thought I would stop into an AT&T store at the mall, the day of the launch. Walking in I surveyed the store for signs of a launch promotion, but other than a tiny flyer (a flyer…really? Not even a banner, sign or poster?) at the front of the store there was no sign of it.

I asked one of the sales staff if they had the new Blackberry Z10 and he said yes. “Would you like to see it,” he asked next. I told him yes, thinking he would lead to a display in the store, but to my great surprise, he instead walked into the back room to grab one. After asking a few simple questions, I could tell he was aware of some of the highlights of the new device, but did not have a lot of training using it.

Instead of letting him know that I have had the device since it’s January 30th launch in New York City, I simply handed the device back and left the store.

As AT&T is the first U.S. launch partner for the Blackberry Z10 I am simply blown away by the lack of effort and marketing on its part. What a joke. From my experience, the Z10 is a new bread of Blackberry. It delivers on all of the promises, and I think if people just pick it up and play with it for a few minutes they will love it.

With Verizon launching the Z10 this week, let’s hope that AT&T’s miserable excuse for a product launch doesn’t hurt sales too much. With all the bad things I hear about AT&T service in the U.S. I am just glad I don’t have to deal with them, living in Canada!

Blackberry 10 Launch – My Experience

I attended the Blackberry 10 Launch event in New York City last Wednesday. As a new member of Team Blackberry Elite, I was invited by RIM (now Blackberry) to attend the event as well as several other events and activities exclusive to the Elite program.IMG_0406

My first impression of the event was the grand scale of the location, and setup. Walking into the building at pier 36, which looked deceptively unassuming from the outside, I was met by a large crowd of people registering for the event. After obtaining my name tag and checking my coat, I shuffled to another much larger area filled with hundreds of reporters, analysts and other invitees enjoying a nice spread of bagels, pastries  fruit and more.

Surrounding us were large images of the back of new Blackberry, imagery outlining the new features of BB10 and screens showing live Tweets of the event. After having a bite to eat I wandered around taking it all in.

This was a huge day for RIM.  Some would say a “make-or-break” day. BB10, now over a year behind schedule, is in many people’s eyes, RIM’s last hope for survival in an industry it created a decade earlier.

Glancing down at my watch, I realized it was getting close to 10:00AM. I checked my email and had received a message from a RIM staffer who was to seat me that morning. I located Kari and she led me through the crowd into the main venue. An even bigger room, filled with rows and rows of chairs, even more people, and a large stage at the front. As we approached the stage, Kari led me to the 2nd row centre where I took a seat. Wow. What a seat!  The reality of the whole even was starting to hit me.

IMG_0418I removed my camera from its case and began snapping pictures. As people moved into the main hall, the atmosphere began to grow with excitement.

We were moments away from the biggest announcement in the company’s history. The previous year had been one of struggles, layoffs, bad press, the appointment of a new CEO and plenty of nay-sayers calling for the death of RIM.

Some said it was too late for RIM. The Blackberry’s world market share had gone from close to 50% 4-5 years earlier to just over 5% today. Apple’s iPhone and the newer Android phones had changed everything. Each new model stealing more and more of the market away from RIM. As the bring-your-own-device movement has grown, more and more people have gone from having a work phone or carrying two devices, to using just one device of their choice.

But during this time, even with plenty of defections to the competition, RIM had still managed to grow their user base to 80 million. Nothing to sneeze at for sure. But can it hold onto them? If RIM can help it…BB10 will change everything.

Thorsten Heins takes the stage to great applause. CEO for just a year, Thorsten has had his work cut out for him. He begins by welcoming the crowd and acknowledging the difficult year leading up to now. One of the first announcements made is that Rim (Research in Motion) will now become Blackberry, one brand.IMG_0428

The next hour or so are full of announcements,  demonstrations and plenty of cheering from the crowd. As Thorsten introduces BB10, dubbed a “mobile computing platform”, he goes on to explain that BB10 represents a platform for the next ten years.

Capable of running powerful devices, connecting devices like your car, and launching Blackberry into a new era. With growing anticipation, the new Blackberry smartphones are finally introduced to the crowd to great applause. As anticipated, they include a touchscreen model, dubbed the Z10, and a physical keyboard model — the Q10. Both models boasting larger screens than any previous Blackberries. The Z10 features a full 4.2 inch screen with higher resolution than the iPhone 5!

New features are highlighted, like Blackberry Balance — the ability to separate work and personal files and apps,  Timeshift photos, peek, and flow, Blackberry Hub and more. The integration of all social media together with email and instant messaging is RIM’s solution to information overload and the need to open various applications to check for updates on other devices.IMG_0452

Through various demonstrations we preview the new BBM video chat function and BB10’s ability to share a user’s screen with another across the country or across the globe. Next, the subject of apps!  Over 70,000 apps will be available at launch — the largest number of any “new’ platform at launch. Apps like Skype, Amazon Kindle, Angry Birds and over 1,000 of the tops apps for other platforms.

For me personally, a native Amazon Kindle app is absolutely huge and a welcome addition. As an ebook author and reader, the lack of a Kindle app for the Blackberry Playbook tablet had always left a big hole in my user experience. I look forward to trying it out on the Blackberry Z10!

At one point during the presentation, Thorsten pointed out that there were six launches happening around the world simultaneously — New York, Paris, Toronto, Dubai, London and Johannesburg — before pulling up a live screen showing the crowd at each event.  Truly a global launch!

Blackberry also used the launch as an opportunity to announce that Alicia Keys, the singer and performer, will be Blackberry’s new Global Creative Director. Alicia used an analogy about dating to describe how she had been a faithful Blackberry user years before, but began to notice newer, cooler looking devices at the gym and began “seeing other phones”. With the launch of BB10 she was now going steady with Blackberry again because it now met both her work and personal needs and looked sexy again. IMG_0451As one of her first assignments, Alicia will be travelling around the world, talking to customers and Blackberry users — and will document her experiences using her Z10.

When would the new devices be available?  The Z10 will be released first followed by the Q10 in early April.

Due to carrier testing they would not be available in the U.S. until March, but were available the next day in the UK, and on sale in Canada February 5th! Although prices may vary, Thorsten did acknowledge that the Z10 would be priced at $149.95 with a 3-year contract in Canada.

The one month delay for a U.S. release was a disappointment to many and could have a negative  impact on the momentum Blackberry is trying to build around the launch. Both the UK and Canada represent large, important markets for Blackberry and it will be interesting to see what sales look like in the next few weeks.

In his closing remarks, Thorsten told the crowd that everyone would leave with their very own Blackberry Z10 so they could try out all of the exciting new features for themselves. The crowd erupted!  It felt like an Oprah moment when she would give everyone in her audience one of her favorite things!

As things wrapped up, we all made our way to another room to demo the phone for ourselves and get some lunch. The event had left me feeling positive about Blackberry and its future. The devices looked great, and some of the new features were really cool. I was looking forward to trying one out myself!

I have now been using the Z10 for 5 days and I really like it. I am hoping to do a full review next week. Stay tuned.

To watch the live event, you can see it here.

The events didn’t end there for Team Blackberry Elite members. Following lunch we boarded a couple of buses and the Blackberry staff took us on a tour of the city/scavenger hunt type event. It was fun and we got to try out our new phones while seeing incredible NYC. Blackberry really went out of their way to not only show us a great time, but also to meet with all of us and answer our questions. I even met Thorsten Heins.

Later that evening my wife and I attended the Blackberry Fan Event at Milk Studios, where we were treated to free drinks and great music.  The place was packed and when Thorsten arrived he received a rockstar welcome! He even posed for pictures with all of the excited fans. What a fantastic trip, event and experience. Kudos to the Blackberry staff and management for a great day!

Blackberry 10 Launch

Blackberry 10 launchI attended the Blackberry 10 Launch event in New York City on Wednesday. As a member of Team Blackberry Elite, I was treated to a day of fun, food, excitement and city tours and ended with a Fan Experience party. I also left the event with a brand new Blackberry Z10 smartphone!

I am still in New York and have been using the phone quite a bit. I hope to do a full review soon. Stay tuned!

Is RIM Finished?

I feel compelled to write something following the most recent quarterly earnings by Research in Motion (RIM).

I have defended RIM over the past couple of years as it has taken its lumps from haters and analysts alike.  The company is going through a significant transition, not only in product lines (BB7 to BB10 platform) but with senior management as well.  With co-CEO’s Balsillie and Lazaridis stepping down in January 2012 due to significant shareholder pressure, and the appointment of Thorsten Heins as new CEO, the company got a bit of relief from the relentless thrashing and death knells in the media.

With new leadership came the hope that the company could make changes and right itself in time — before RIM’s plummeting market share did further damage to the brand and the company’s future.  Many feared it was too late to fix, and BlackBerry would go the way of Palm and Nokia.  Nokia is still with us, although barely — they have partnered with Microsoft and have abandoned their own operating system, Symbian, as it was suddenly outgunned by the Apple iPhone and Android-based smartphones on the market.  Nokia continues to struggle, lose market share and their future is very much uncertain.

Many call for RIM to make similar moves — abandon their BlackBerry platform all together, or sell off pieces of the company, get out the hardware business and just focus on their Blackberry platform and BBM messenger product or even license their platform to other companies like Samsung to produce their own phones.  The company continues to explore all strategic avenues, and cut costs.

But with their earnings report today, the company announced it lost $518 million, it will layoff another 5,000 employees and perhaps most devastating — the company is once again delaying the launch of its BlackBerry 10 smartphone line.  The company was to launch the new platform and phones this fall, but is now pushing the launch back until early 2013.  The company will now be another 6 months behind Apple and Google Android phones. Apple is set to launch the iPhone 5.0 in October — which is rumored to have a 4 inch screen and will sport iOS 6 to boot.

I fear that BlackBerry users and investors will now completely lose faith in this company.  The further delay of BB10 is perhaps the worst thing they could have possibly announced today, and shows that the company cannot execute.  The platform is now more than a year behind schedule, and RIM’s current crop of BB7 phones are growing older and older each day.  The company is only growing in developing markets.  Their market share in the U.S. and even Canada continues to plummet.

It is growing more and more doubtful that RIM can survive.  The company’s value is shrinking and will increasingly become a target of a buyout, which some see as their only hope anyway.  It has been a sad fall from grace for this Canadian icon.  The company created the wireless email and smartphone industries, but has now been overtaken as the industry leader and fights for its very survival.

Only time will tell if RIM can survive as a company.

 

 

 

 

A Look at the Last Decade in Tech

By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine, January 2010

Wow. 2010…it’s hard to believe! If you would have asked someone 50 years ago, what it would be like in the 21st century, they might have said we would all be driving around in flying cars or communicating with our wristwatch picture phones.

We have come along way, and this last decade is no exception. So when reflecting back on the last ten years of technology, I wasn’t surprised at all that there was so much that I could talk about.

The year 2000 brought with it a new millennium, the Y2K bug – which never fully materialized, and the end of the Dot-com boom. Amazon.com was already the most successful online retailer, and Google was still a fledgling start-up company – not a verb!

This decade has seen the creation of the iPod, iPhone, Blackberry and other smartphones, HDTVs, and next-gen video game systems like Xbox 360, PS3 and the Nintendo Wii. Blu-ray beat HD-DVD, ebooks finally began to catch on, and Netbooks became one of the most popular computers in years.

As an “early adopter” I tend to jump in to new technologies as they come out. I picked up the iPhone when it hit Canada – and can’t live without it. I own all three video-game consoles, which I use not only for gaming and movie/music streaming, but with my new Wii I can also get fit!

I was rooting for HD-DVD during the high definition video war (it was cheaper and more advanced) because I already had the add-on unit for my Xbox 360, but I am ok with Blu-ray winning the war. It still appears that DVD is king, however. When you are an early adopter, you sometimes get burned because it is inevitable that technology will become cheaper, faster and better. But even though my $2,500 HDTV now costs $700 to buy, I have enjoyed every minute of it over the last 4 years.

Getting back to innovative tech, digital music was revolutionized when Apple launched the iPod in 2001, and then iTunes in 2003 – now the most successful digital music marketplace in the world, with almost 10 billion songs downloaded.

Apple did it again with the iPhone – a smartphone that puts email, Internet, music, video/movies, games and over 130,000 apps in your pocket. It is now the number two smartphone in the world, behind RIM’s Blackberry, which had a significant headstart. Over three billion apps have been downloaded since the App Store was launched in 2008.

Apple is expected to announce a new “tablet” computer in January 2010 – could tablet computing (which has been around for at least 10 years) finally be the next big thing?

From its early beginnings in the first half of the 1990’s, theWeb really came into its own in the last decade. Websites went from being cheesy-looking experiments, to truly attractive, engaging, and interactive mediums. The concept of Web 2.0 has taken this even further with web-based communities and social networking sites, video-sharing sites like YouTube, blogs, wikis and other online technologies.

Social networking exploded in the last five years, first with the popularity of MySpace — perhaps the first successful mainstream social networking site, followed by the current king, Facebook. I personally use Facebook to keep up with my friends and share a little bit of my life.

Blogging became a hit as millions of people took to the web to express themselves, provide professional advice and information, or just voice their opinions about everyday stuff. There are now hundreds of millions of blogs on the Internet. I too have a blog – mostly for posting articles I write such as the one you are reading, but I hope to do more with it in the future. You can check it out at www.digitaladventures.ca.

Twitter is another popular service (referred to as micro-blogging) that allows you to express yourself in 140 characters or less, and share it instantly with all of your followers. Personally this is one online innovation I just don’t get…but if you want to know what Ashton Kutcher is up to every moment, be my guest.

YouTube has become so popular that the site hosts over 100 million videos and over 13 hours of video is uploaded every minute. Google bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion. The site costs over $1 million a day to operate, but Google says it will soon be profitable because the number of people viewing videos supported by advertising is increasing.

The web continues to grow as technology evolves and more and more users log on. It is estimated that the number of Internet users has increased from 361 million in 2000, to over 1.7 billion in 2009. This is over 25% of the world’s population.

The technologies and products I have discussed are only a fraction of the innovations we have seen in the last decade. And if that is any indication of what is to come, then we have even more to look forward to in the coming years! If you are like me, then I know you can hardly wait to see what is ahead.

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