When a product is launched, eventually it goes one of the two possible ways:
1. It flops and eventually dies out – and a lot of people don’t ever get to use it (not saying that the product may be bad, but it just fails to catch on) – like the Ping by Apple and WebOS by HP. The latter being a supposedly brilliant tablet OS, but had to give way to weak Marketing (well, that’s another story, so we’ll leave it at that).
2. It becomes a hit (overnight or over time), and people start loving it and eventually swearing by it (I solemnly swear by my BlackBerry that whatever I write is going to be he truth).
When a product is on a high, it gives birth to what we call today as “fanboys” – basically the same as fans, but because boys are more gadget crazy (probably a very broad generalization – could be wrong), and because those gadgets wind them back to their infancy, making them as enthusiastic as a little boy – the term “fanboy”.
Now when something revelutionary happens – it gives rise to fanboys, like BB did when everyone wanted that “Sent from my BlackBerry” on their emails. And, then along came Apple – with iOS that was – and I quote – “5 years ahead of any other mobile platform”. Was it? – Well yes it was, in 2007, and it revelutionized the Mobile Industry. It was definitely 5 years ahead (give or take), and allowed a whole new array of things that you could do with your mobile – other than sending mails or taking calls. Probably was the first mobile handheld device,do correct me if I am wrong, which allowed Skype.
Now, fanboys are not just going to appear out of thin air – are they? Well, no. There are always those who transfer their allegience to something that is better and new in the market. So, that means that the old favourite lose a part of their charming bandwagon. And that is exactly what happened. Personal example – two of the guys who pressed me to buy a BlackBerry (8900, Javelin) in 2008 when I was going to buy an E-Series Nokia, are now hardcore Apple fans. Do I hate them? No. Do I feel inferior – Well no. Because I buy BlackBerry by Choice. But then they are fanboys of Apple iPhone – a company that is probably at it’s highest point – Phones are selling faster than they can manufacture, and demand is outstripping the supply. And, like they say -”Success has many fathers, failiures none.”.
So this brings us to the question – is RIM a failiure – I would say Yes and No (because we still sell phones in Africa and India and South East Asia – actually if you remove USA and China, you would see RIM doing a healthy business).But all the same, I see no shame in accepting that we screwed up, and were complacent, riding high on the revelutions we had brought to the Mobile Technology (and because we were a tech-centric company – didn’t believing in harping on and on about it) – RIM did bring Push Email to Mobiles, RIM did bring Apps to Mobiles, RIM did bring Instant Messaging to Mobiles, RIM brought the best QWERTY keypads on Mobiles (and I’m sorry Mr.Jobs – as much as I respect you, and I respect you a lot, I refuse to believe anybody out there on an iPhone can type faster than me on my 9900.) and a bevy of small little features (yeah, notifications were there on Blackberries before anyone else, and so on and so forth) - hell! BBM is now officially a part of the English Language. But they did not market it, and make people believe that they had just given them a pathbreaking technology, and that was their mistake – RIM did not massage their consumers’ ego. We like to feel that we have got the best thing on this planet, even if it is not, and today Apple is succeding in doing exactly that. The perception drives both the sales and stock markets. They lost their way in thinking that Innovation is done, and now they could sit back and relax.
And it was punished. Well, not just punished, but almost tortured. They went down in the stock market – and went down bad. For a company that was going to make it big in a couple of years, today they are precariously balanced on the success or failiure of the next product they deliver. And this brings us back to fanboys and loyalists. Well, Blackberry had fans who, over the last 5 years, have defected. Today the loyalists support RIM because they believe. They believe in RIM, and Mr. Heins to deliver a product of unprecedented quality and features that would “Wow” you to say the very least. Believe it or not – they still have Gary Klassen (and a lot many other guys) - and that bloke, in my humble opinion, has brought around a revelution that is far more powerful than anything else today. For those who don’t know him, he is the guy who created BBM. A single feature- that is keeping RIM alive today, a feature that probably compells people to buy a curve despite having an iPhone or an Android, an Instant Messenger that till date is THE BEST IM on the mobile platform.
Then there is the issue of the fightback. For those, who need a refresher – here’s a link – http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2009/08/dayintech_0806/ - Aug 6, 1997 when Apple had to be bailed out by Microsoft. When they had lost (or lets say not won over) their fanboys, and everyone had started saying the writing is on the wall – they fought back. And we all know where they are 15 years later.
Just because one person/company revelutionizes an industry, does not mean that others can’t build on it. If that were so, the only rubber manufacturer would be Dunlop, the only Mobile Phones would be made by Motorola, and the only car manufacturer would be Ford. But that’s not how the world works – if today you do something pathbreaking, someone else tomorrow could build on that and make it better, and you would have to get something much better. If that were not true, then we would all be re-inventing the wheel all the time. I accept Steve Jobs gave us a technology that was 5 years ahead of time. But 5 years are up, and we are preparing for 2013. And, as much as people might hate to admit – the only pathbreaking thing in an iPhone since 2007 has been SIRI. The competition is out-innovating them, and sooner or later (later is my guess), people are going to realize, that choices because “It’s an iPhone” is not going to work. When you see someone with a supposedly normal phone recharge their phones without wires, or glance at stuff while in the middle of something, without having to constantly doubletap the home button, people will realize – not now, but they will. (Disclaimer: IF AND ONLY IF APPLE DON’T REFRESH IT SOON.).
I believe in RIM and Blackberry, not just because I want to say it, because I see them working hard to make a difference, and make up for their lost time. I see them making technologies and features that would revolve around the consumers, and make life quicker and easier for us. And, I believe in them because their CEO is not an ostritch trying to shove his head down a hold and think everything is ok. He has taken the challenge head on – accepted the weaknesses and is trying to kick them out. I believe in RIM because what they decide to succeed at – they do succeed (they decided to make security a priority, and today the PlayBook is the only tablet that cannot be rooted - as and when I write this article without downgrading it back to an age old OS).
And that’s why my friends, I call myself a Loyalist – I don’t believe in them because I said so, or because they are BlackBerry – I believe in them, and as do all the people I dedicated this post to, because we have a reason, a hope, and faith that like so many other companies that almost went bankrupt – RIM will live to deliver a Blackberry that will atleast take your breath away for a second, if not longer. RIM should know that we are not your fanboys (who will jump ship), but loyalists who will stand by thick and thin (especially the thin), because when the going gets tough, the tough get going.