July 7, 2011
Blackberry and Nintendo 64: Why they failed for the same reasons

The current generation of Blackberry products are failing for the same reason the N64 was a failure.  I have some thoughts about this topic.

  1. Legacy Success - Nintendo dominated console gaming with the NES and later with the Super NES.  They assumed the same would happen with the N64 out of past success and past success.  Blackberry dominated the smart phone market and assumed it would just continue indefinitely.  It didn’t, you can’t be satisfied with past successes.
  2. Ignoring Developers - Development for the N64 was a pain because making games for cartridges ate into margins and increased the costs for game developers and publishers.  Nintendo ignored this because they figured people would just follow along and develop for them in mass numbers anyways.  After all, they figured their 1st party games like Mario and Zelda would be enough.  They were wrong.  RIM’s legacy mobile OS is clunky and terrible, but Exchange granted them the only advantage they would ever need.  They assumed that their proprietary email system was all they needed and ignored the fact that they weren’t developer friendly.  It turns out mobile app developers were important.

Things that are different between Nintendo and RIM

Nintendo had talented in-house personnel that were encouraged to be creative and innovate.  That’s why they were able to resurrect with the Wii.  Blackberry seems content on copying after the fact; this won’t work though.  Copying doesn’t work unless your product is less expensive.  Android based smartphones manufacturers that play copycat to Apple have success because their products are cheaper.  When they are priced similarly (like with tablets), they are utter failures.  The PS1 was successful because the all in package was cheaper than the N64. The PS2 was technologically superior and reasonably priced.  The PS3 is lost its entire advantage over the Xbox360 because its premium pricing over no significant value-add to consumers.

Blackberry needs to key in on their place in the world.  If they want to be innovative, then premium pricing works.  If they are content with a copy cat strategy, they need to start lowering the prices of all their products to compete on price.  Otherwise, they will die.

Additional notes: The all-in cost was much more expensive because Nintendo ignored developers concerns about the price associated with cartridges (as opposed to CDs which were a fraction of the cost to produce).  Blackberry also has higher costs for 3rd party developers - mostly because of an outdated OS which in turn led to more time and effort being required out of engineers/developers to create apps for their platform.

The cost of producing an N64 cartridge was far higher than producing a CD.[62] Publishers had to pass these higher expenses to the consumer and as a result, N64 games tended to sell for higher prices than PlayStation games.[59] While most PlayStation games rarely exceeded US$50,[60] N64 games could reach US$79.99,[60] such as the first pressing of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.[63] Games in Sony’s line of PlayStation Greatest Hits budget line retailed for US$19.95, while Nintendo’s equivalent Player’s Choice line retailed for US$29.95. In the United Kingdom, N64 games were priced £54.95 at their time of release, while PlayStation games were priced at £44.95. In the United States games were priced at around roughly $49.99 at the time of their release.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nintendo_64

July 7, 2011
"We often make product decisions based on strategic alignment, partner requests or even legal advice — the end user doesn’t care. We simply have to admit that Apple is nailing this and it is one of the reasons they have people lining up overnight at stores around the world, and products sold out for months. These people aren’t hypnotized zombies, they simply love beautifully designed products that are user centric and work how they are supposed to work."

Open letter to BlackBerry bosses: Senior RIM exec tells all as company crumbles around him (via soxiam)

How management decisions are made at dying companies…

(via soxiam)

June 22, 2011
futuramb:

(via CHART OF THE DAY: A Tale Of Two Smartphone Companies)

RIM is officially going to be dead when the co-CEO’s of RIM blame the decline on short sellers while ignoring the fact that their marketshare in the smart phone market has declined almost every month for the past two years.

futuramb:

(via CHART OF THE DAY: A Tale Of Two Smartphone Companies)

RIM is officially going to be dead when the co-CEO’s of RIM blame the decline on short sellers while ignoring the fact that their marketshare in the smart phone market has declined almost every month for the past two years.

June 20, 2011
underpaidgenius:

RIM is dead
(via CHART OF THE DAY: RIM’s Astounding Collapse In The U.S.)

I own a blackberry bold (got it 2 years ago), the best thing it has going for it is the durability factor.  You can drop this thing on the ground, sit on it, whatever - and it won’t break.
With that being said, blackberry didn’t act fast enough to update their outdated OS.  The blackberry management team completely missed out on the entire mobile app trend for consumer users.
Instead of spending R&D updating their mobile OS sooner, they decided to play copy cat by releasing a tablet device that is inferior compared to the iPad in every way.  That proved to be a terrible management decision.
The only thing keeping blackberry afloat right now is the fact that it has an embedded corporate user base using it for emails (that might be slow to adapt to other mobile OSs for the time being). 

underpaidgenius:

RIM is dead

(via CHART OF THE DAY: RIM’s Astounding Collapse In The U.S.)

I own a blackberry bold (got it 2 years ago), the best thing it has going for it is the durability factor.  You can drop this thing on the ground, sit on it, whatever - and it won’t break.

With that being said, blackberry didn’t act fast enough to update their outdated OS.  The blackberry management team completely missed out on the entire mobile app trend for consumer users.

Instead of spending R&D updating their mobile OS sooner, they decided to play copy cat by releasing a tablet device that is inferior compared to the iPad in every way.  That proved to be a terrible management decision.

The only thing keeping blackberry afloat right now is the fact that it has an embedded corporate user base using it for emails (that might be slow to adapt to other mobile OSs for the time being). 

(via underpaidgenius)

April 14, 2011
Research In Motion’s Blackberry Playbook: Why bother releasing?

On the left, you have the playbook which has half the screen size and half the battery life of an iPad 2.

Sometimes, it is better to wait to release a product, then to release a poor product which ruins brand equity.  It applies to Motorola’s Xoom and it also applies Research in Motion’s Blackberry Playbook.

The PlayBook, which goes on sale April 19, will match the prices of the Wi-Fi versions of the Apple iPad, starting at $499 for a base model with 16 gigabytes of storage—albeit with a screen that, at 7 inches, offers less than half the surface area of the iPad’s.

To get these features with your $500 PlayBook, you must use it with a nearby BlackBerry phone connected to it wirelessly over a short-range Bluetooth connection. Once this link is made, these critical applications pop up on the PlayBook’s screen, via a system called Bridge.

Battery life also fell short in my tests. With the screen brightness at about 75% and Wi-Fi on, I played a movie I had transferred from a computer over and over until the juice ran out. The PlayBook lasted a bit over five hours, well short of the company’s claim of eight to 10 hours for mixed use. In mixed use, and on a second test of watching video with Wi-Fi off, I did better, over six hours, but well short of the 10 hours on the iPad 2.

The hardware is sturdy and the back has a nice rubberized feel. While the PlayBook is 14% thicker than the iPad 2, it’s about one-third lighter. This lower weight, combined with its smaller overall size, will appeal to people who find the Apple product too large.

There are other reasons for my hesitation. For one, unlike the iPad, which can run almost all of the 350,000 iPhone apps, the PlayBook can’t run any of the 27,000 BlackBerry apps. It will launch with only about 3,000 apps designed for tablets, compared with 65,000 tablet-optimized iPad apps.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703730104576260953631631640.html?mod=WSJASIA_newsreel_lifeStyle#articleTabs%3Darticle

So basically:

  • The Playbook has half the screen size of an iPad2
  • The Playbook has half the battery life of an iPad2
  • The Playbook has less apps: 3,000 tablet specific apps compared to 65,000 for the iPad2 (less than 5% of the apps)
  • You can’t use a Blackberry Playbook unless you have a Blackberry smartphone nearby with bluetooth on (outside of being unusable with a blackberry phone, it will also drain the battery life of your blackberry more if you have one).   Bad decision is an understatement for this design decision as this move essentially limits the potential buyer base to existing Blackberry smartphone users exclusively.
  • The Playbook is the same price

What in the world was Research in Motion’s management thinking when they decided to release this product?  No one is going to by it!  If you want to compete with a market leader with better brand equity, you need to compete on price!  Otherwise, don’t bother releasing the product.

But it can use Flash:

The browser, while sometimes slow to load, is highly capable, even on sites designed for a regular computer, and does the best job with Flash video and Flash sites I have ever seen on a tablet—far better than on any Android device I’ve tested. I couldn’t find a Flash video the PlayBook couldn’t handle, and it even breezed through a site written entirely in Flash, which other Flash-capable mobile devices couldn’t. The iPad, of course, can’t use Flash at all.

What I take from the quote is simply this:

  • Steve Jobs was right about Flash.  It drains a lot of resources.  A flashless tablet device may have been the right move after all, as properly running flash requires a tremendous amount of resources (which drains battery life so much that the device has half the battery life despite having half the screen size).

February 2, 2011
fred-wilson:

fascinating
It’s a photo finish: Android, BlackBerry and iOS are tied in US smartphone share | Wireless News - Betanews

Wow, Asians sure love their iPhones, I suppose I am in the minority with my blackberry.

fred-wilson:

fascinating

It’s a photo finish: Android, BlackBerry and iOS are tied in US smartphone share | Wireless News - Betanews

Wow, Asians sure love their iPhones, I suppose I am in the minority with my blackberry.

June 23, 2010
Android / Open Vs Apple / Closed Systems Wars: It’s the same until it’s different

Reading some tech articles at lunch and I feel as if a large portion of the tech community is wrong about how the open (android/google platform) vs the more closed (apple) system will affect the mobile device / smartphone wars.

They are wrong because a large portion of them are assuming android based platforms will dominate and apple will die off in market share because the relatively more open app development/publishing process available on the android will eventually lead more apps being available (which is true) which will eventually lead users to prefer android platforms because of the greater number of apps (which is false in my opinion).

This theory is based on a few past situations:

Windows vs Apple: Windows provides a more open system which leads to significantly larger market share for Microsoft in the 80s.  Windows then comes to dominate the desktop market because many programs are available on Windows but not Apple.

Playstation vs Saturn vs N64: Playstation has most friendly development platform of the three gaming consoles.  N64 has the advantage of no loading times (with the use of cartridges as opposed to disk), which raised costs for 3rd party game developers.  Saturn has a more advanced system in terms of system specs, but it’s relatively harder to develop for.  Playstation has a massive victory.

Following this line of thought

Apple’s iOS vs Google’s Android vs Research in Motion’s platform (aka blackberry):  The first thing to note is that blackberry has a strong business focus, which puts it almost in its own category.  To a large extent, it has a stable basis of recurring revenue attributed to its common usage in the business community although it has made headway into the consumer market.  As such, I’ll leave it out and instead focus on…

iOS vs Android:  So the assumption among the tech community is that in the past,  ease of software / application development usually = eventual victory.

Here’s where they are wrong though:

Mobile devices / Smart Phones by most consumers for the following purposes:

  • Calling
  • Instant Messaging
  • Emails
  • Checking up on social media sites (facebook, twitter, foursquare)
  • Gaming
  • Basic Searching
  • Location / direction assistance
  • Mobile Photographs

These are all functions that can performed already on iPhones and android based mobile phones.  So given that all primary functions are already quite efficient on mobile devices, the battle then changes to a question of:

  • Battery Life - Apple products generally have better battery life because of the company’s focus on efficient simple design
  • Reliability - The closed end system makes it easier to keep track of applications to prevent any of them from causing an unstable system.
  • Ease of use / User Interface - Apple’s best known quality right there, simple/intuitive user interface
  • Security - A closed end system allows for a more secure atmosphere

All four of these arenas is where Apple is dominating.

The only benefit of the open end system is more applications, however there are already thousands of applications (with thousands more each month) and hundreds of which do the exact / similar things or are completely useless.

Let’s say that hypothetically, there is a great application that appears on Android platform but isn’t available on the iPhone.  Two things can happen:

  1. If it blows up in popularity, then that developer will create a similar app on the iPhone and RIMM.  After all, more users = more profits.
  2. They decide on principle not to develop for Apple.  In which case, another app developer will create something very similar in functionality for the iPhone and blackberry and reap all the benefits from the initial creator’s idea.  End of the day, iPhone will still get any unique attractive App that pops up on the Android platform first if it is great.  Those great apps are all that really matters at the end of the day.

Relative to larger desktop based application, mobile apps are relatively smaller and simpler.  As such, it is hard for me to imagine where a situation will play out in which the additional apps on the Android platform ever becomes an advantage.  It’s the nature of the beast, that an great app will be replicated (and quickly too) given the fact that mobile apps are smaller, simpler and faster to develop then say desktop apps.  This isn’t the 90’s where a great large clunky desktop application/program on the Windows takes several years before it appears on Apple.

For the developers believing that Apple is going “lose” to Android because of the open vs closed system nature of the two platforms, you are grossly mistaken.  Apple might loose, but the open vs closed system won’t be the reason.  There, it’s off my chest.