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“War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”
– George Orwell, 1984 

Reading John Gruber’s Native Apps Are Part of the Web feels like reading a George Orwell novel.  Gruber argues that native apps are simply alternative interfaces to HTML, but that they both connect to the same back-end.  Therefore, they are part of the web.  What he’s describing is a client-server app, which was the predecessor model to web applications.  As an industry we abandoned the client-server model in the late 1990’s because web applications were less expensive to build, more maintainable, and less brittle over the long-term.

John says “users love apps”.  True, unless they’re not available on the users platform of choice.  Take, for example, recent flights that I’ve been on where in flight entertainment systems have been replaced by iPads and streaming video.  What if you don’t have an iPad?  The helpful folks at the airlines will rent you an iPad for your trip.  I know I love shelling out extra cash to airlines to watch a movie.

“Developers love apps”, Gruber writes.  It’s true that developers love the revenue opportunities from apps, but they don’t love the fragmentation that multiple proprietary platforms require – APIs, marketplaces, media formats, etc.  As a developer, your choice is to invest three or four times as much to have apps on multiple platforms as a single HTML app would cost; provided of course that all platform vendors implemented HTML5 to a consistent level.  And they don’t.  Sigh… feels like Netscape vs Microsoft in 1995, doesn’t it?

The promise of HTML5 was that we could finally get to a unified and rich app model across all operating systems.  Too bad that didn’t happen.

No, those who love native apps the most are the platform vendors. Apps make customers sticky to platforms.  Apps are the walled garden that deny users freedom of choice.

Welcome to AOL… circa 1994.

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Excuse the dust

You might have noticed that the blog is looking a little different.  I’m updating the theme to the latest version of Thesis (2.1) which is not completely compatible with Thesis 1.8.  That’s what I used to build this blog originally.

Anyhow, now that I’m outside of BlackBerry, and not subject to the usual oversight that a corporation might demand of a blogger, it’s my intention to get back to writing here on a regular basis.

There are just a few cracks in the plaster in the meantime.

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Alec, Chris and Marty at Jam Asia

In September of 2011, I sat down with the BlackBerry Developer Relations team, after being introduced as their new leader. I vividly remember telling the group that opportunities like BlackBerry 10 only come along rarely in a person’s career; that we were all going to work harder than we had ever worked before; that we were going to learn from each other; that it would be a roller coaster to get there; and that once BlackBerry 10 had launched, we would all look back on that experience as a “career defining moment”. They gave me their support and loyalty and we accomplished truly remarkable things in the two and half years until launch.

As you know, times and business circumstances change. Sometime between now and November 3 will be my last day at BlackBerry and QNX.

A number of folks have expressed regrets, or said they were sorry. No need. During my time at BlackBerry and QNX, we’ve achieved significant business results, built lasting friendships, created hundreds of fantastic memories, and learned lessons that we couldn’t have learned anywhere else. These are far more important to me than a pay check, and I look back on what the company and our teams accomplished over the last three years with pride.

How about growing from just 16,000 applications in BlackBerry World to 265,000 in two and half years? That’s a 1,650% improvement. To get there, we had to grow our developer base from 7,600 to over 70,000. We orchestrated programs in 44 countries, built three generations of dev-alpha handsets, and seeded over 40,000 devices in 18 months.

Or how about going from zero to launch with Project Ion, including recruiting a team of 8 people, in just 90 days? Nearly 1,000 companies signed up for early access to information on Project Ion as a result.

Numbers aside, my favorite part of the last three years has been the people I worked with.

  • During the BlackBerry 10 launch, my team of 200, the Global Alliances team, the BlackBerry App World team, the amazing engineering and sales teams, and our unflappable PR teams.
  • Of course, the tiny Project Ion team, plus all of the fantastic folks at QNX who welcomed me back for a third stint at the company and pitched in to help with the Project Ion launch and marketing afterward.
  • And how about the legions of BlackBerry fans and developers I’ve met? You know who you are… BlackBerry Hank, Morten, CrackBerry Kevin, Jerome… to name just a few. I met thousands of you over the last three years. It’s impossible to name all of you, but know that you made my work rewarding and memorable.

We worked hard, but we also played hard too. Whether it was recording goofy music videos, the “Leap of Faith” at the Stratosphere hotel, or eating roasted bugs to encourage developer teams to fix software bugs, there was always time for a few laughs on the way to achieving our goals.

So I leave with a light heart, and best wishes for today’s BlackBerry team. I know that turning BlackBerry’s business around will take heart, gumption, and hard work. I have faith that you will succeed, and I wish that you may look back on this period as one of your own “career defining moments”.

And just as I promised my team in September of 2011, you have individually and together — every one of you BlackBerry employees, BlackBerry developers, BlackBerry customers, and BlackBerry fans — given me the gift of three years of “career defining moments”.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for that.

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I just got the  following email from Morten Lindstrom — my friend who’s running a fundraiser to save his wife Nicole’s life.  She suffers from sickle cell anemia.  Anyway, long story short, he’s put together a raffle of a new BlackBerry Passport for anyone making a donation of $20 or more. Details below…


 

A BIG Thank you, for helping with our fundraiser!

Here are some important information, and opportunities for you:

With all your help, we have managed to get access to better medication, that has given us some more time, and we now have a good chance of reaching our goal and be able to get the proper treatment and care to save Nicole’s life before it is to late!

But not all is good.

Nicole had to do a immediate surgery the other day, which turned out to be unsuccessful. A next attempt will be done soon, but her body cannot handle it just yet. So time is ticking and running out.

As of today, we have managed to raise a total of $17.300, so the road ahead to $40.000 is shorter than before, but still have a distance left. And because of recent added problems she got, we might even have to reach more than the planned 40.000

With your help, we also have gotten a pretty good exposure, and 7100 has visited the fundraiser website, although – most only were curious and looking around, but a total of 261 donated before leaving the page.

RAFFLE!

In appreciation of all those who have donated, and to help drive our fundraiser, we have decided to do a raffle.

All donations of $20 or above, will be counted as a “ticket” in the draw, and you can have as many tickets as you want, by doing more donations.

The draw will be held as soon as the fundraiser reaches it target of $40.000

And the prize, will be a brand new unlocked BlackBerry Passport device, with free shipping!

As you might know, the Passport will be launched officially on September 24th, so we will have to wait until the device is available before being able to ship it.

If you already have donated, don’t worry, your donation (if $20 or more) will be part of the draw, but please feel free to get more tickets.

The winner will receive email to the same address used for the winning donation ticket.

About the donations done via PayPal, we have a minor challenge, that You might be able to help solve.

PayPal automatically have a “hold” on any funds for 30 days, before releasing and making available for transfer to our account. To avoid this, every payment must be marked as “Confirm Receipt”, (that is what PayPal told me it say). To do this, You must, After you do the payment, logg back in to your PayPal account, find the transaction, perhaps you must even click on it, and there should be an option to click to “Confirm”. When that is done, the funds would be released already after 30-60 minutes.

To make things even easier to donate, we have set up 2 Fundraiser sites, one that is preferred if you use PayPal, and one if you use normal Credit card.

The websites are:

http://www.youcaring.com/nlindstrom

http://fndr.se/NC4a

A good friend even wrote about our fundraiser in his blog:

http://www.saunderslog.com/2014/09/10/what-are-friends-for/

So please, if you can help us more, getting more exposure, or contributions, please see what you can do.

Humbly

Morten & Nicole

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What are friends for?

“Happy is the man who finds a true friend, and far happier is he who finds that true friend in his wife.” Franz Schubert, the composer, apparently wrote that.

Three years ago I joined BlackBerry. Since that time I’ve connected with and befriended many of the BlackBerry community, especially the developer community. It’s a tight knit and fantastic group.

One of those folks is Morten Lindstrom, a Norwegian guy who somehow found himself living in Trinidad. I’ve met him at countless events, and we invited him to be one of our BlackBerry Elites.   He’s a thoughtful, sweet guy, who always has ways to help BlackBerry succeed in the Caribbean.

Aside from the fact that the Caribbean is gorgeous, I could never figure out why he chose to live there. Trinidad is hardly the center of the tech universe, after all. He moved there to help people. As he said to me “The Caribbean being a developing region, with many smaller countries, it allows a small man like myself to bring knowledge, experience and energy from the outside world in to this region, and even a small man’s work can make a big impact. Being able to guide and empower the youth would require so many more resources abroad, much more than we alone could manage. Just being able to every day feel that my work has done good for somebody – it is all worth it.”

That’s why he, and his Jamaican born wife Nicole, live in Trinidad.  To give back.

I’ve recently learned that Nicole suffers from sickle cell anemia. She’s dying.

There is treatment available in the United States, however. To buy that treatment, Morten has raised a whopping $250,000 from insurance, from his personal funds, bank loans and folks in his local community.

However, Nicole is too weak to travel to the United States to be treated. Morten is trying to raise an additional $40,000 to fund a local specialist to build up her body strength, to fund the travel, and to get her to the treatment she needs.

I tweeted about this when I learned about. My twitter peeps (mostly BlackBerry folks) collectively raised $4,640. Thank you. That’s a good start but obviously not enough.

You all know I like challenges, whether it’s recording goofy music videos, or jumping off tall buildings attached to a rope.   So here’s my challenge to you.

Personally, I have donated $200. Here’s what else I will do: I will donate another $250 when the campaign reaches $10,000, $250 more when the campaign reaches $20,000, $250 more when it reaches $30,000 and $250 more when we achieve the $40,000 target. That’s another $1,000 I’ll contribute.

Morten also offered to work, if anyone wants to hire him.   Unfortunately, I can’t hire him, otherwise I would.  If anyone wants to hire, I’m sure that would be appreciated.

So please take up the challenge, join me in helping my friend Morten and his true friend, his wife, Nicole.  Click to visit Morten’s fundraising page.

Note: I met Morten while employed by BlackBerry, but he’s my friend and this appeal appears on my personal blog page. It is in no way affiliated with or endorsed by BlackBerry.

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Next Up – The Internet of Things

Always remember that the future comes one day at a time.  Dean Acheson, American Statesman.

Last Thursday, news broke that I had accepted a new role as the Vice President of QNX Cloud, a new business at QNX (a BlackBerry subsidiary).  As an industry we’re closing in on connecting every phone on the planet — maybe 5 billion in total.  What’s next?  Connecting up all the machines.   QNX Cloud is a business focused on building enabling cloud based technologies for Machine to Machine and Internet of Things businesses.  QNX Cloud is infrastructure that enables a wide range of connected devices (ranging from automobiles to power plants, consumer electronics, and more) to be managed, updated, and remotely monitored.  Our goal is to facilitate so-called “big data” analysis of data coming from these connected devices, and to provide programming interfaces that allow the creation of sophisticated new applications that deliver real business benefit to our customers.

John Chen, writing on Inside BlackBerry, described this move as a “return to his roots”, but I prefer to think of it as a continuation of a path that I have been walking on for most of the past 20 years of my career.  A future that, for twenty years, has been coming “one day at a time”.  QNX Cloud is a developer product, first and foremost.  It’s targeted at networked and embedded devices. To be successful, we’ll need to build an ecosystem, channels to market, and recruit strategic partners.  And because it’s a new initiative, it has many characteristics of a start up.

Wish us luck.

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Last week was a whirlwind for BlackBerry developers.  BlackBerry 10 Jam was the official launch of the BlackBerry 10 platform to the developer community – SDK’s, tools, and of course the BlackBerry 10 Alpha device.

This was a moment we’d been working toward since before DevCon Americas in the fall.  I know there was a lot of pressure to show a phone last fall, but until the SDK’s were ready, and developers could actually use them, there would have been little point.  Instead we steadily built first the PlayBook OS 1.0 SDK, the PlayBook OS 2.0 SDK, and the PlayBook OS 2.0 software release, knowing full well that these releases, accompanied by the over 20,000 playbooks we had seeded into the market, would be a good foundation for the next phase – the actual BlackBerry 10 devices.

The excitement in the air was palpable. Folks started lining up at 7 AM on Wednesday morning to get the first Dev Alpha devices. And by noon, I couldn’t walk the hallways of the show without someone stopping to show me the code they had been working on.

Since then there has been great coverage (checkout the BlackBerry Developer Blog) we’ve been bombarded by requests for Dev Alpha devices from developers who didn’t make the show.  The good news?  We’re going to take the show on the road – so come jam with us in a city near you, and pick up your own Dev Alpha device at the same time.  Check out the BlackBerry Jam Road Show page for more info.

A couple of thank you’s are in order.  Thank you to the developers who came to the BlackBerry 10 Jam last week – you’re investing your energy, time, and money in making not just your own products successful, but ours as well.  Also a very public thank you to all the teams at RIM who have worked for months to pull the BlackBerry 10 Jam off – the developers, product managers, marketing, and of course our very own developer relations group.  Thank you!

Now go code something!  We’ve got a monster of a product to ship together!

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It’s time to hang up the spurs, Alex.

Last Friday, YouMail released their latest visual voice mail client for BlackBerry.  At the same time, they put up a blog post telling the world that this was end of the line for the BlackBerry customers – no new work would be done on BlackBerry.

I thought it a little bizarre.  As publicity stunts go, it was the equivalent of a drive-by-shooting — guaranteed to generate coverage from gawkers and bystanders. And it sure has. It even made CNN!

The basic premise behind the post is wrong, though.  Although BlackBerry has some challenging times ahead during our BlackBerry 10 transition, our developer efforts are booming. Developers are making money on BlackBerry, and last quarter we recruited 14,000 new developers to the platform, and launched 25,000 new apps.

YouMail’s CEO Alex Quilici and I go way back to 2006 when AOL and iotum inked a deal for iotum’s Relevance Engine to connect up with the AIM Phoneline product.  Shortly after AOL canned the AIM Phoneline product, Alex joined YouMail as their CEO.  So, we’re a couple of voice industry veterans, and guys who’ve been in the CEO chair at voice startups.

YouMail’s flagship product, visual voicemail, isn’t a business anymore – it’s a feature that comes on your phone, and it has been that way since Apple first launched the feature in June 2007 on iPhone.  It’s no surprise, either, that YouMail’s business on BlackBerry is declining.  BlackBerry already provides visual voicemail on most of the major US carriers — TMobile, Verizon, and AT&T… and YouMail is a US only business.  Competing with TMo, Verizon and AT&T is tough! And so YouMail, despite some press characterization of the company as a “top app developer”, simply wasn’t a marquee partner for us at RIM.

I know where Alex is coming from, though, and that’s what makes this post especially difficult to write.   Entrepreneurs are passionate about their products, and they believe that they can solve every business issue in front of them.  I know, because I’ve been there.  Sometimes, though, we’re just not super-heroes.

Alex,  one (former) CEO to another, one entrepreneur to another – I think it’s time to hang up the spurs cowboy.   From where I sit, it looks like YouMail needed to pivot five years ago to remain relevant, and you missed the window.

UPDATE:  I just connected with Alex.  We had a good chat, and I sent him a free pass to the the upcoming #bb10jam.  I wish YouMail and Alex the best.

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Chatting with @Scobleizer about RIM

“So, did you see what I wrote?”, he asked?

And that’s how my conversation with @scobleizer started.  I had dropped him a note a couple of weeks ago when our Alex Kinsella and he were having a little dust up on twitter, and suggested we grab some time.  Today was the day.

“Yes, I saw what you wrote.  And I disagree.  There’s no money, Robert, in being just another undifferentiated Android handset.”

“But developers are abandoning BlackBerry, everywhere”, he said.  And when I countered that wasn’t the case, two sell-out developer conferences in Asia and Europe being the evidence, Scoble opined that eventually developers in other parts of the world would do as the developers he knew had.

I believe that if we did nothing, the world would unfold as Robert said.  But we’re not doing nothing. We’re running successful events, seeding devices, and building up evangelism teams across the globe.  No doubt, it’s a fight, but we’re focused on retaining our existing developers and growing our ecosystem.

We’ve got two key weapons in that fight.

Open Standards.  After iOS and Android, the next thing developers are focused on is HTML5, because they’re looking for a solution that will let them target multiple handset vendors, not just one.  RIM has, hands-down, the best implementation of HTML5 in mobile today.  PlayBook OS 2.0 benchmarks better than any other mobile implementation (just point your PlayBook at HTML5Test.com), and better than every desktop browser, except Chrome 16. It also includes WebGL for accelerated 3D graphics, and with WebWorks, we can free HTML5 code from the browser, let you upload it to AppWorld, and turn that HTML5 website into a revenue generating HTML5 application.  How ‘bout them apples?

IMG_00000015

For those that really want performance, PlayBook OS and our upcoming BlackBerry 10 OS are POSIX operating systems that you program with C and C++. Another open standard, with over 30 years of code written that’s compliant.   As one blogger recently wrote, Cross Platform Begins With C.

Soon we’ll add our secret sauce – a graphical UX framework called Cascades.  Stay tuned for that!

Open Communities.  One of the things that we’ve worked hard at is to embrace communities of developers.  So, you can build applications on our platforms using Flash, Android, gaming frameworks like Marmalade, Unity, and Shiva3d, open source like Qt, Boost, Cocos2dx, scripting languages like Lua, and so on.  If you’ve got a code base that you’d like to bring to BlackBerry, we want to help.

Open Source, Open Communities, and Open Standards like HTML5, C and C++ running on a POSIX framework.  What’s more mom and apple pie than that?

We finished up by agreeing to chat again at South by Southwest.

It wasn’t my intent to change Scoble’s mind today, but rather to engage in a conversation.  It’s time for us to start a dialog with the Valley, and what better way than by starting with one of the Valley’s most prominent voices?

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Try Something New Today!

I’m in Las Vegas for CES.  I’ve been coming here for industry events for 25 years now.  Yesterday, however, I did something I had never done in all that time.  I rented a car, and drove out of the city to see what else Nevada had to offer besides gambling, hotels, and shows.

An hours drive north led me to the Valley of Fire State Park, where I took in the sunset, and the rising of the moon over Lake Mead to the east.  It was stunning.  I’ll go back there again, just to see the rock formations along the 20 mile scenic route through the park.

So, what does that have to do with anything?

If you’re a mobile developer, I’d encourage you to try something new today.  Take another look at BlackBerry development.  Our HTML 5 development platform, including the WebWorks framework, and the Ripple simulator, are great.  Developing on the Playbook platform is getting easier all the time too, as we bring more open source, and more development partners to the platform.   And there’s a great opportunity in building apps for BlackBerry.

So go ahead.  Give it a shot.  Try something new.

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