I am now a reverse switcher - I switched from a BlackBerry to an iPhone about six months ago, and now am switching back again. Why? Basically it comes down to the fact that the iPhone is really good at the stuff I do 10% of the time, but pretty poor at the stuff I do 90% of the time. This is not to bash the iPhone. It has been a transformative device in the wireless industry, and forced everyone else to up their game. It has shuffled the power structure between device makers, service providers, developers, and the broader ecosystem. But such a sophisticated device is a very personal choice and people have very different priorities for something they use and carry around with them almost every waking hour. My phone is provided by and for work, and I primarily use it for work purposes, and for that I find a BlackBerry much, much more efficient. Now after having a BlackBerry Bold for a week, I realize how much I was fighting with the iPhone the whole time trying to get it to do what I wanted, at the speed I wanted.
Entries in blackberry (3)
A startling report on Cnet reveals that Research in Motion, maker of BlackBerries, records all employee calls. The extent of the recording is not quite clear — do they just log the times and the numbers, or do they literally record the content of the call? If the former then there is nothing unusual in that, but if they are recording the content then it seems another kettle of fish. Is it even legal? It’s one thing if the employees know about and agree to it, but my understanding is that the other party on the line also needs to know the call is being recorded.
The Cnet article about RIM’s CIO Robin Bienfait says:
When asked exactly whether it was conversations, rather than just written information she kept tabs on, Bienfait answered: “Everything. I record everything.”
It wasn’t a violation of privacy, according to Bienfait, who maintained the workers were aware of the surveillance: “They’re doing business inside of RIM. Everything they can say or do can be patented…We’re not violating anybody’s privacy. They’re aware that their information is transparent and in visibility.”
It goes on to say:
[S]taff can only use BlackBerry devices for work. Bienfait said she had never had to deal with a request to put the iPhone on the network.
She said it freed her from some of the problems which plagued other companies, where IT departments had needed to deal with people wanting devices to be hooked up to the network which might compromise security. “I think it is a challenge for the industry to be able to manage some of the Gen Y’s,” she admitted.
Aside from the legal question that I’m not an expert on, there are a couple of other worrying things that come out of this — worrying for RIM that is:
- If you can’t trust your employees, then you’ve either hired the wrong employees, set up the wrong culture and incentives in the organization, or created such a widespread sense of paranoia that everyone assumes that everyone else must be doing the wrong thing, so it’s OK for them to as well. The idea that they can uncover new ideas for patents simply by tracking phone calls is absurd — and certainly about the least efficient way imaginable of coming up with new patents.
- Maintaining a monoculture of devices is bad practice. I saw this at Sun Microsystems when I worked there years ago (I don’t know if it’s still the case). We were not allowed to use non-Sun machines for anything, even if Suns were patently unsuited to the task. This mentality leads to a lack of understanding about what your competition is doing, and creates a monoculture of devices that other customers are probably not experiencing. You should buy and use all your competitors for extended periods of time and find out what makes them tick. Besides, any large company’s IT organization most likely has some sort of heterogeneous infrastructure of different types of devices, users, needs, technologies and security systems. By forcing a monoculture and not “dealing with” requests for new devices like iPhones, you put yourself in an idealized world that makes it hard to empathize and design for the vagaries of more complex systems.
- Lastly, the high-handed and dismissive comment about managing Gen-Y’ers really bugs me. This is another example of the holier-than-thou attitude I’ve seen from RIM executives before. Get over it.
Underwhelming. That’s the word that comes to mind when I look at the new Palm Treo Pro. Yes, nicer looking for sure, with a strong influence from the lower-cost Centro model (and looking rather like the upcoming Blackberry Bold). And it has 3G and WiFi, which is great, and the newest version of Windows Mobile, and GPS, though these can also be found on existing competitors. So it’s got a decent package of features, but what’s so compelling about it that isn’t being offered elsewhere?
In this day and age, offering a screen that takes up less than 50% of the device, especially with as big borders around it as the Pro has, just doesn’t cut it. I’m not suggesting touchscreen only here, as I definitely prefer typing on a physical keyboard to tapping on a virtual one, but really, even a business-oriented device like this one is going to be used to show off photos, looking at web pages, etc. which all benefit from a large screen. 320x320 has been the Palm standard for years now. Heck, even the Palm Tungsten T3 I had 4 years ago had a 50% bigger screen, albeit without a physical keyboard. The Pro’s screen already looks small, and will look even more diminutive over its product lifecycle given how slowly Palm brings out new models.
Size-wise the Pro is almost identical to Blackberries, though longer. It’s fatter than the iPhone. So no real advantage in pocketability or bragging rights there.
The talk time and battery life are good, but the 2MP camera is ho-hum.
In this video Palm talks about how the Windows interface is great because it mimics what people are used to on their desktops. Ironically, as Rob Haitani, the software architect for Palm back in the day used to talk about, the whole philosophy of the original Palm OS was that you should not try to mimic a big-screen mouse/screen environment, because it was not optimized for small-screen direct touch interactions. Transferring desktop interaction patterns onto a handheld was just not efficient, and which is why the early versions of Windows Mobile were slow to use. Now they’ve adopted the Windows platform on this device, Palm has to sing the opposite song.
Palm got a lot right in their earliest models, but they’ve struggled to stay innovative and focused in the last few years.
In the video they also talk about how they wanted to take care of all the little details. It looks like they’ve done that, but by focusing on the small things Palm’s come up with a device that treads water in the market. There are no big things that really push the boat out further compared to other smartphones, no marquee features that really stand out from the increasingly large and diverse crowd. With the current state of the smartphone market, that’s just not good enough to move the needle on their dwindling market share and attract new customers to the Palm brand.