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What is RIM’s Jim Balsillie thinking?

Blackberry Bold launched yesterday in Canada in a low-key affair, compared to all the hoopla that surrounded iPhone.  Why?

  • As many commentors have noted, the price point is corporate, at $599 without a contract, and $399 with one of Roger’s punitive 3 year contracts.
  • RIM themselves aren’t explicitly positioning Bold against iPhone.  It’s widely known that Thunder and Kickstart will be coming soon, which have more consumer friendly form factors.

It’s a theme that seems to be propagating throughout the industry.  Citigroup’s Jim Suva wrote this week that Blackberry Bold is a strong product, but not revolutionary.  He sees it as a great upgrade, not a game changer.

Aside from a few Blackberry enthusiast sites, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of excitement about this product.  Caveat: I haven’t held one in my hands, so I don’t really know what the experience is like.  However, with 3G, an enhanced 480×320 display, a 2 megapixel camera and integrated GPS, it has the specifications to compete strongly.

This muted launch strategy is thus very surprising.  It does nothing to counter the Cupertino hype machine in any meaningful way.  Corporations considering iPhone will continue to look at it.  Moreover, despite RIM VP Patrick Spence’s assertion that consumers will also find much to enjoy in Bold, consumers are likely to still flock to iPhone.  Cool is meaningful to consumers and the price point on Bold is out of reach.

From this morning’s Globe and Mail:

“The BlackBerry Bold continues RIM’s tradition of targeting the corporate user, but at a high-end price point with a three-year commitment, uptake may not be great even in enterprises, let alone the consumer market,” said Mark Tauschek, a senior research analyst with Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont. “And RIM is late to the party with its BlackBerry Bold considering Apple’s iPhone has been available for over a month.”

After months of anticipation, one is left with the impression that Blackberry Bold is an expensive incremental upgrade to the existing product line; a nice-to-have but not a must-have.  Surely that’s not really Waterloo’s marketing strategy?

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{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Ben Lucier August 22, 2008, 6:00 am

    I agree Alec.

    The Bold is a fantastic product, and should have had more marketing muscle behind it on RIM's part. I was thinking the same thing about Rogers lack of "ooomph" with respect to the Bold as well.

    I've got a BB Curve and the 3G iPhone. I was very excited about the Bold in earlier months, but couldn't resist the temptation of the larger iPhone screen and Safari browser.

    Although I'm not in the market for the Bold, I know a number of current BB owning fence sitters that would have been easily pushed into the Bold had the marketing efforts of Rogers and RIM been stronger. Then again, these same people may just upgrade anyway.

  • Alan A. Reiter August 23, 2008, 11:51 am

    Hi Alec,

    Long time no see!

    I have had a Bold from RIM, with beta code, for about a week. It's a great device, but it's not the Phone Messiah as a few slobberingly enthusiastic reviewers seem to write — a score of 5 out of 5? Gimme a break.

    Excellent screen — but somewhat smaller than Curve's — difficult-to-use external microSD slot (recessed too far into the handset and mine "catches" the card so it's very difficult to remove), good keyboard (still deciding whether it's better than the Curve's), still mediocre audio player software with few controls (iTunes sync is a plus), 2 megapixel camera with very few settings, video recording (awful quality — beta code), and good, but not sterling, construction.

    GPS seems excellent and Wi-Fi seems to connect fast.

    But the browser, although miles better than under OS 4.2/4.3, is infuriatingly SLOW on EDGE, 3G and Wi-Fi. Sometimes it's too slow to even use. Granted, I'm using beta code. So, I hope, the "gold" code will eliminate the sluggishness and perhaps improve the quality of the camera's photos and videos.

    For my weekly wireless Internet column, I wrote a comparison about the Bold vs. the Nokia E71 from the standpoint of whether they represent the future of wireless Internet.

    Both handsets have lots of excellent capabilities and I enjoy using them. But the bottom line: Not really pointing the way to the future.

  • Jim Courtney August 25, 2008, 12:07 pm

    RIM has been doing a lot of marketing but not in the traditional media. During July they did an unpublicized road show, along with Rogers, targeted to all their Canadian corporate customers in major cities: Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver and maybe Ottawa. When you're embedded into as many businesses (and have as many major enterprise software/business partners) as RIM, you start with your current customer base.

    The challenge will be to see how they market other rumored new offerings this fall which, with the speculated feature set, will be targeted more to the consumer market.

  • Bob August 25, 2008, 12:12 pm

    I really can't stand the iphone. It's a pretty slow device and the only thing it has going for it is hype. I have had 6 blackberries over the years, and haven't had one problem. Amazing battery life, screen quality, SUPPORT, and a real java api.

    On top of all this, most blackberries feels like a vertu or a bang and olufson in your hands, whereas the iphone feels like rushed production (is modern stainless steel sexy now?) chinese factory garbage

    Most importantly however, is that the iphone is only ONE phone that mac offers and nothing else. Blackberry offers TONS of different phones, and they ONLY DO PHONES. Who do you think spends more time and money understanding phones?


  • Andrew August 25, 2008, 12:26 pm

    I honestly thought the pricing on the BOLD was a typo. Are they nuts? You cannot sell this product for a penny more than the iPhone 3G.

    RIM has just opened the door for mass corporate sales of the iPhone. This is RIM's bread and butter (as Jim illustrates) and letting Apple slip in at all is a business strategy so completely asinine it defies description.

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