Friday, June 01, 2012

How do you reinvent a Canadian success story? You start with a company with sales of $20 billion (Size of the magazine ad market in the USA), 33% market share of the growing global smartphone market, 90% market penetration with the Fortune 500 companies for your products and the market leading mobile email encryption solution that is used by the USA military. This would be a great start.

Critics keep talking about declining market share in the smartphone market for RIM. Smartphone adoption is estimated at 35-40% in Canada up from 10% in 2009, when Blackberry was King of the Mountain. It was so successful that the term “Crackberry” was used to illustrate the user’s addictive need to have his Blackberry with him or her 24×7. In my opinion, Blackberry is in the business of providing mobile email /internet services through their devices for the enterprise and business user. To meet the capital market’s growth expectations they entered the consumer markets.

Blackberry is now faced with consumer electronic giants such as Apple, Samsung, Sony, HP and Amazon. It is not an easy feat to migrate your business from one industry sector to another. Just ask Dell who is strong in consumer PC market but is still trying to crack the Enterprise IT market for servers for example. So switching from a business sector focus to a consumer focus with no market experience or track record and generate a hit seller on your first try is perhaps a little unrealistic to expect. Magna, the other Canadian success story faced adversity during their expansion in consumer horse racing/gambling with roots in the automobile parts industry. Successful techniques from one sector sometimes will not work in another.

How to put the chic back in the Blackberry brand? Did you know that a Blackberry with a
keyboard is preferred by women with longer fingernails over a touch phone? All the fashion
magazines should be calling them with an ad proposal.

I asked Doug Brownridge, my source for consumer marketing advice, on what he would do to help transform Blackberry. We worked together on the launch of the Motorola StarTAC in Canada and used a fusion of fashion & technology brand positioning to get the attention of professionals as the must have personal communication brand (at $2,000 a pop!).

Doug, says, first it will take a big dose of creativity and consumer insight to keep Blackberry the choice of busy professionals. They need to avoid that unappealing sense of desperation that comes across in their current ads. Does someone really get over 1,000 emails a day?  Second, RIM needs to focus on their core strength – the business sector. They need to market a solution that fits their users needs for both personal and business use, so they do not have to walk around with two devices like Batman. And lastly, their marketing communications will need to exude a little swagger and confidence to re-engage their users, and maintain positive mind share during their hardware ownership cycle.

So lets take a look at the latest Blackberry Playbook to see if the RIM team in Waterloo is up for the challenge.

Blackberry Playbook Tablet

It comes with a dual core 1 Ghz  processor , 1 GB of RAM and uses Playbook 2.0 as the
operating system. It weighs 425 gms and comes with a 7 inch screen with a 1024 x 600
screen resolution. The dimensions are 7.6” x 5.1” with  front and rear cameras. A
micro USB and HDMI ports are part of the core design.

Download Speeds
The device’s wifi download speeds handled all the needs I wanted for video, email, web surfing and book reading. You can download movies directly from your personal library via your computer. You can connect your Blackberry smartphone, computer and TV through the USB and HDMI connections. There is an iTunes app to sync it with your music collection. The Playbook is very friendly with other devices and online services and is taking somewhat an industry neutral position and supporting everyone..

Readability/Access to Content
The 7-inch form factor is my favourite size as you can hold it in one hand and the Playbook is lightweight, weighing less than a pound (0.9 lb). My experience with the touch interface is the same as the one I have had on other tablets including my iPad, the problem is still the big finger syndrome and the design of websites with small links to accommodate touching. For the avid book readers you have the KOBO e-Book store for new titles or the Overdrive app that gets you access to the public library in your neighbourhood, where you can borrow up to 10 books at a time.

The Playbook uses touch motions to navigate through the device versus the button approach in the iPad. An upward, downward and sideways motion with your fingers allows you to navigate through the tablets content. It allows you to multi-task between applications. As always, each tablet has it own unique approach to navigation that the reader must learn. This was basically very simple to learn, but the up and down needed some getting use to.

The bluetooth mini-keyboard accessory takes the touch navigation experience in another
direction with a touch pad feature built-in the design. It is available for $120.

Price Feature
This tablet has been priced at $199 and this is the sweet spot I believe for tablets. As a comparison to the Kindle Fire, Amazon’s 7” tablet, the Playbook offers more features like the two cameras and is compatible with more devices for the same price. For the business user the ability to sync it with your Blackberry smartphone saves on extra data charges. The ability to take my PPT presentation and send it to my Playbook that plugs into a projector/large screen was a breeze with the file management system.

Final Review 5 out of 5
This tablet has it all for both the business user and home life for $199 bucks for the 16 GB model. This is a work and play device that the kids can use for their YouTube and texting time, the wife for pictures, and for me the news and email. You can consume all the Apps at your leisure in the Google Play store in addition to the Blackberry one. As a proud Canadian, we should all go out and buy one and support Blackberry’s return to the chic crowd.

PS: You can still enter in my Kindle Fire contest as I will be giving one away every 3 months this year. Next Draw date June 30, 2012. ENTER HERE

About Me
Martin Seto

Martin Seto is the producer of the Canadian Online Publishing Awards (COPAS) with 30 years of life expereince in technology, advertising, media and creative exploration. He can be reached at marty(dot)seto(at) or 416-907-6562, and on LinkedIn.

Most Recent Blog Comment
Lorene Shyba says:
Full of terrific information, Thanks!...
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