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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?


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?

{ 39 comments… add one }

  • hookflash February 17, 2012, 6:09 pm

    Give 'em hell Alec :) Looking forward to the new OS!

  • Aniya February 17, 2012, 6:35 pm

    I for one really hope RIM can pull it off and show people they are wrong..

  • Nevin February 17, 2012, 10:15 pm

    There are many, many people who still believe in RIM and its products. Hopefully Playbook 2.0 will show the true potential for the Playbook, and future OS10 platform. Time for RIM to show the non-believers what it is all about!

  • Yup February 17, 2012, 10:39 pm

    The problem is that Scoble has blinders on and wants to anoint a winner rather than analyze the marketplace and synthesize for himself…

  • Ilya Billig February 18, 2012, 3:05 am

    Alec, I do believe you can pull it off. Look forward to see you taking RIM to the top again!

  • aashish February 18, 2012, 12:39 pm

    Alec, I will repeat what I said on google+ (in reply to Scoble's post). I had BB for 4 years and loved it. Just switched to galaxy nexus (not because of apps, but because of hardware). I am sure there are lots of people who love a million apps for their OS but IMO most of iOS and android apps are just fluff. I have a playbook and absolutely love it. I have used iPad, HP touchpad, and android tablets (which are the crappiest). None of them come close to BB playbook. I thin QNX has a great UI. You guys should work on it and come out with great phones (hardware way). And you will have the market back. If you do, I personally would switch to BB in a heartbeat!

    • asaunders February 18, 2012, 1:27 pm

      Thanks for the note Aashish. For you, what is "great hardware"?

      • Paul June 7, 2012, 4:08 pm

        In my opinion (9900 user), and I think many would agree, is that if RIM could pack a quad core processor into the first bb10 device, it would attract a lot of attention. Dual core has been around for a year in devices (and I know # of cores isn't everything) and bb10 could really reverse the partially true pretense that BBs come out with 6 month old hardware. Right now there is no quad core North American device, and the iPhone 5 probably won't be either. It would also somewhat legitimize Mike Ls rationale for the timing of bb10 (not that I'm bitter about it) Thoughts on that Alex?

        Paul (London, ON)

  • John February 19, 2012, 1:55 am

    Alec, can you describe why the BB10 user experience will be distinct? How will multi-tasking or other QNX capabilities drive a distinct experience?

    • Alec Saunders February 19, 2012, 8:44 am

      I know this is an unsatisfying answer, but I can't quite yet John. We're holding a lot of those details for later in the year as we get closer to launch.

      • John February 19, 2012, 7:13 pm

        Hi Alec, I read the comments on Scobleizer; the vast majority felt RIM should adopt Android. Unless RIM paints a CLEAR, compelling picture of the future, it will be very hard to get the stakeholder support they need ( developers, media, shareholders). I doubt free play books and promises of future riches will be enough – re developers. You have made great progress, but are still far behind. Scobleizer also has a piece about how HTML5 is NOT attractive to some of the big developers…I am a fan of RIM, but I am worried. I can not help but worry that the emperor (BB10) may not have clothes. I hope management appreciates how poor sentiment is…

        Best of luck to you and the team, Alec

  • @king_nalin February 19, 2012, 1:00 pm

    RIMPIRE STRIKES BACK!!! BB10 will dominate, Icannot wait to see what you guys are working on!

    PS. I am glad you guys are waiting to bring it out later, patience is key to perfection.

  • Jesse February 20, 2012, 1:25 am

    I like my PlayBook so much it makes me resent my bb phone.. 😐 It just feels like its lightyears ahead haha. I am due for an upgrade this May but i think i will be holding out for a BB10 phone.

  • Matt Quanstrom February 20, 2012, 2:38 am

    I think this kind of relationship building is exactly what RIM has been needing. Customers (And Bloggers) respond to engagement and interaction. You see how active RIM is on various social media channels to engage customers, and here we have Alec at RIM (plus the evangelists) reaching out to bloggers, developers etc… to engage and build relationships. I am anxious for what's coming later this year, building this foundation ahead of time will be significant ammunition in addition to what I'm sure BB10 is going to offer. Thanks for the post Alec!

  • Michael Leuker February 20, 2012, 5:59 am

    I agree that adopting Android would be the end of RIM as a major player – just look how Huawei ist struggling to present their entry into that market as something people should care about. And even HTC probably wishes the bad old Windows Mobile days back when they were top-underdog.

    Speaking of MS, Windows Phone probably isn’t an option for you either because Nokia has already grabbed the pole position. With MS’ current strategy of keeping the lid on customization while trying to appeal to a wide range of manufacturers it remains to be seen how the Finnish gamble p(l)ays out anyway.

    From what you write I gather that this is a long-term project and I really hope that the people in charge at RIM now get enough time to work things out. There’s definitely room for a fourth distinct smartphone platform if -and only if – you guys get it right.

  • Michael Leuker February 20, 2012, 7:00 am

    And a bit off-topic, but I’d be interested to hear your perspective on where RIM is standing when it comes to BB Enterprise vs. MS Exchange server. It seems to me that this is a battle that RIM lost years ago. From a Windows Mobile perspective, MS made the “mistake” of licensing Exchange to everybody else, but it clearly puts RIM in a bad spot: The central architecture that used to be a strong argument for the BB platform has become a liability, something that RIM needs to address down the road as even a few days downtime every couple of years are a few days too much.

    • MobileAdmin February 20, 2012, 12:03 pm

      You are confusing two seperate things:

      1. the use (need) of an MDM solution to manage an enterprise mobile deployment
      2. the delivery & security of mobile email / PIM

      EAS only can provide #2, EAS is not a MDM. The fact that there is no consistent policies across iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows mobile etc leaves much to be desired. Microsoft has done little to improve EAS since Exchange 2003 SP2. Exchange 2010 barely added any functionality nor does EAS support all the API Apple has released for iOS.

      Without a MDM your basically limited to password enforcement and remote wipe. Hardly enough with all that is entailed with a mobile device strategy. How do you handle applications? corporate data?

      In case you have not kept up to date, the new BES solution coming will be EAS based for delivery. The extra management will be handled by BB fusion and limited to the same controls every other MDM has at the moment. What is not known is how will RIM price this compared to something like Good Technology which has seen record adoption to manage iOS and now Android.l

  • Jagmohan Swain February 20, 2012, 7:42 am

    Apps will matter for tablets.No doubt about that because that will eventually replace laptops.So apps is a huge determinant of success for tablets.But even there by selling for a lower price RIM can drive adoption.And once there is a critical mass developer support will come.I am not buying this Apps will lead tablet adoption nonsense.A virtuous cycle can start in many ways.And RIM has been very smart in supporting ANdroid runtime.It would be stupid for devs to not port their apps when money can be made.

    If RIM had supported Java Blackberry dev support would have taken off considering how many java resources are there.But Oracle greediness means we won’t see that happen.

    Coming to phones I don’t buy this apps as only factor why a phone is purchased.Price, looks, form factor, ability to browse, play music, video, awesome camera and many will be happy.I ask many of friends what apps they use and mostly it’s limited to a talking tom, seach app, GPS and music.Grab 10 popular apps from each category and that’s enough to keep your user base happy and in the meantime cultivate developer base.

  • Superfly_FR February 20, 2012, 10:42 am

    This is only a brick in the wall.
    I can guess now the "vision" of RIM, both the vertical (devices, unified OS) and opening (Fusion … what a hit !) strategies mix, from servers to mobile devices … great !

    We miss an over-active evangelist team here in France. Media kinda forget the word "RIM".
    May you need some, I'd be glad to help or more.

  • EchoTango February 20, 2012, 11:48 am

    While I agree RIM lost it's connection to the market some years ago, they are slowly reconnecting and re-building their product line to reflect the realities of today's market and technologies.

    Even the pundits are blind to what RIM has been doing over the last year to pave the way for this new direction. Along with Alec's new developer outreach program, RIM has quietly launched products like Mobile Fusion, Balance, Music Store and OS2 are all foundations to enable RIM to launch BB10 products into the future mobile market.

    Like Scobleizer, many media folks have blindly bought into Apple's "ruling the world" marketing campaign and naturally can't get their heads around others players market contributions. The fact is, the mobile market is large, diverse, global and expanding every day. More than enough room for many players in many different segments.

  • Johan Cyprich February 20, 2012, 6:37 pm

    Are there any plans for running .NET applications on Blackberry devices? I would prefer to build apps with Mono/C#.

  • jrm February 20, 2012, 6:53 pm

    Quote: There’s no money, Robert, in being just another undifferentiated Android handset.

    This is just completely bogus and right out of the Stephen Elop playbook (pun intended). If you can't differentiate on Android than it's your failing. Ask Amazon.

    You could do whatever UIX that you're doing for BB10 on Android. You could bring BBM and enterprise services that RIM is known for to Android. You could bring the Blackberry name and do unique hardware. You could do all of those things while shipping with Android Market and all the advantages that brings.

    Good luck, you're going to need it and more.

    • Alec Saunders February 20, 2012, 9:03 pm

      Respectfully, I disagree. I had a front seat while we (at Microsoft) during the 90's made PC manufacturers into low value commodity players. That's what Android will do to the smartphone industry. RIM's shareholders deserve better than that.

  • John B February 20, 2012, 10:48 pm

    From my experiences I’ve seen trends that should be alarming to RIM.

    1. Where are you seeing the latest features/functions released? Take for example, Mobile Remote Deposit Capture from banks? From my experience, iPhone first and then Android second. Not sure of anyone on RIM.

    2. Look at the devices people carry at non-platform specific mobile conferences. I’m seeing fewer and fewer Blackberries, and even less discussion about RIM.

    I disagree with the Android comment. It could be differentiated by touting themselves as the most secure implementation and have an App Store that performs a review of all submitted apps. I would still allow installs from the Marketplace though (Amazons short coming).

    I’m hoping that RIM can pull it off, the more competition the better innovation we should see. But RIM needs to stick to a DEV platform and think outside the RIM box. Good luck!

  • Gary February 20, 2012, 11:21 pm

    Didn’t those sellout conferences cost very little to attend, and include a free Playbook? They were virtually paying people to attend. I remember seeing an ad for the Thailand one. Not exactly proof of RIM’s traction.

    RIM needs to listen hard to people like Scoble, or die. With QNX the Playbook could be the best Android tablet out there if they can get it right, but some of RIM’s moves should have failed in the boardroom, not in the market. eg. the idea that we’ll buy a RIM phone to support our Playbook, or the original hurdles to becoming a developer. It seems they just don’t get it.

  • Scott Golembiewski February 21, 2012, 12:38 am

    There is a very critical message being shared in the commentary here, and on forums where a lot of your customers are looking for information.

    The message is to step up your brand’s presence and let people know you are releasing an update. Build a small group of highly engaged users and hold a conference call for them and give them something they can go back to their blog or the forums and share.

    I think if you asked Scoble what it would take to get him using a PB over any other product, then incorporating the changes in a transparent way it would show that you are creating something that would likely get some great exposure if Robert were using it often.

  • AnonGuy February 21, 2012, 1:30 am

    RIM can't really be this ignorant.

  • zelrick February 21, 2012, 7:09 am

    Somewhere above you asked what killer hardware would be. First of all Ghz don't count. what does count is that the hardware touchscreen and keyboard models are unique and well designed using good materials, not plastic. Look to some of the designs from Apple and Motorola, distinct and stylish. Most importantly though the UI has to be fluid and responsive to touch and key input.

    Also you need to remember you're trying to win back customers such as myself, that have left their Blackberrys for iOS or Android. Many of us look fondly back at the days when we were using our Blackberries and went moths between reboots and the batteries lasted all day and then some.

  • Paul February 21, 2012, 9:05 am

    RIM releases another feature-poor, half-baked version of its future flagship operating system. Promises things will only get better.

    Rest of world yawns drearily.

  • @leicaman February 21, 2012, 12:39 pm

    RIM couldn't even pull off email on the Playbook. And this ambition set of goals is going to happen?

    • Alec Saunders February 21, 2012, 1:06 pm

      These aren't goals. We're already doing all these things. We're running the events, seeding the devices, the browser is already built, and we've got the repository of ported open source already open… Go visit http://blackberry.github.com to see it all.

  • Joe February 21, 2012, 5:55 pm

    Hi Alec. I'm a huge fan of Blackberry, but one circumstance drives me crazy. You've released 7.1 for phones such as the 9900 (my current BB), but it's nowhere to be found? It's failures such as this that give the company a bad name.
    If it's the carriers that are refusing or delaying release, then don't announce it until the carriers are prepared to release it.

  • Liz February 23, 2012, 6:18 pm

    With the growing popularity of tablets, there will probably be more development related to sharing either apps or merging technologies – the question is who will do it first? Android? Windows? BB? It's an open field.

  • marco February 24, 2012, 12:42 am

    Alec this is to your point of html5 http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-24/apple-co

  • Joe March 19, 2012, 4:41 pm

    It's funny how many people are being drawn to the dark side (iphone) due to the hype. Their even abandoning BBM.
    Like it or not, RIM is going to need to consider taking some of that cash on hand and subsidizing the carriers to allow people to upgrade from current BB (or iphone or whatever) to the new BB OS10 phone at no charge. You're going to lose to the hype war otherwise. and then you really WILL be done.

  • wall paint April 4, 2012, 10:59 am

    Looking forward to the new OS!

  • Ravi Shanghavi April 4, 2012, 8:54 pm

    Thanks for this post, glad to see we're making progress in Ottawa. -Ravi Shanghavi, Ottawa

  • sean June 7, 2012, 9:14 pm

    Nicely written Mr Sanders. I am so proud of you. You are the type of people that your work and your passion makes the world a better place

  • Superfly June 8, 2012, 6:17 am

    Dear Mr Saunders,
    I'm a web developer. Yeah, a markup and scripts language guy. Not even close to a "real" developer for some guys. Yet, I deal with large corporations, security, data management, payment, U.I, languages, design …

    What surprises me most is that the world of "mobile" does not – so far – paid any attention to my needs nor my constraints.So much, I had never considered the mobile platforms other than synonymous of compatibility nightmares, functional limitations, graphic distortions and upgrades side-effects.
    HTML5/Webworks is what I needed for years.
    I know now that I have a chance to port my work – headache free – in a reliable and safe environment that is perfect to my target customer. Obviously – I'm not blind – it will require to leverage new skills to achieve some critical applications levels, but the prior discovery of this "new" environment using "my-well-known" technology will help much.

    Back to topic, I would like to testify that I won't ever consider the option to embrace the "bread or sandwich" world nor the BigFruit one. I must admit this might not be 100% rational; it's just the way I decide it: I don't support a mobile world ruled by the above evoked corps. This freaks me to death. Please preserve what makes me convinced : RIM D.N.A.

    If – and I do not doubt – next Tuesday BB10 Jam world tour in Paris confirms what I have wondered after the DevCon in Amsterdam (I was there), there is no doubt that the development of HTML5 mobile application will be a core axis in my (small) business strategy. I do think this will be an amazing competitive advantage.

    You and M. Heins can be thanked for that, by me first.

    Antoine Bapst aka Superfly_FR.

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