Who Is Trying to Destroy RIM??

One of the really nice things about Canadian summers are the long days. Our beautiful, pleasantly warm evenings are unequaled in most places on earth. I was enjoying one of those evenings recently with a small group of friends and wondered out loud which star was Mars and which was Venus – two of the first to appear after sunset. To my delight, my friend took out his Smartphone, pointed it at the sky, and within seconds, the software had created a map with the names of all the stars above us. To say I was impressed was an understatement. As a sailor, I had used a chartplotter to establish the position of the boat on a map but it is a $3000 item and this was a $500 phone. If a phone could do this with ease, what else could it do – I wanted one.

It didn’t take long to realize that there were 3 types of phones – Blackberry, Android and Apple iPhone. Even as an alien in the smart phone world I had built up some “impressions” of what each of these systems could deliver. iPhone had been presented in the media as the leader in innovation and product development and the choice of those “in the know”. My ‘media-created impression’ of the Blackberry was that RIM was a “dying company and a brand with an inferior product”. The only reason they were in the business at all was because they started it; and Google’s Android phones were for those who couldn’t afford an iPhone. Amazing how these impressions were formed in me by the media. More amazing was that after some research I discovered that these impressions were far from reality.

I discovered that when comparing iPhone to Android or Blackberry, Apple rarely, if ever, was the leader in new features. This was completely contrary to what I expected. If it is innovation and leading technology that appeals, then Androids are the feature-rich leaders – oddly, that’s not what the media had told me about Android. I had run into this same phenomena during the computer revolution. In the late 80’s, it was common to hear zealots proclaim that Macintosh PageMaker was leading-edge and by far the best publishing program in the world, which was clearly untrue. When they stopped making PageMaker, it still didn’t have many of the important features of Ventura Publisher of almost a decade earlier. I was astounded at how effective Apple was at convincing people they were ‘the best’ when they clearly were not. They were able to so alter perceptions that perceptions were becoming reality -Ventura Publisher eventually went out of business. I likened the Apple/Macintosh “evangelists” to a cult in which its members were on a bi-polar high about the product with little regard for reality. There connection to the brand inspired “la vie en rose” induced bliss. In a recent interview, author and social commentator Malcom Gladwell (The Tipping Point, Blink) came out against the “Apple factoids” (untruths repeated in the media as facts) and Steve Jobs. Gladwell says that Jobs was not the genius creator the media made him out to be. The record shows that all of Apple’s contributions were improvements made to existing products. Jobs and Apple became very good at “prettying up stuff” and developing their elitist brand with the help of smoke and mirrors and an impressionable media.

Personally, I don’t like “wanabes”, even if they do it really well; and I don’t like how I feel when I know I have been “zoomed” by a media campaign designed to create a reality that doesn’t exist. I stroked iPhone off my list with authority.

The Google-owned Android platform would be the answer, I hoped. There’s a lot of fancy stuff you can do with an Android phone but the real test is how well it would integrate with my computer system which I still use extensively. In spite of all I had read, I discovered some gaping (Mack truck sized) holes in the Android’s system to flawlessly and easily synchronize the files I was using on my computer with my phone. Furthermore, the solutions which were being offered were also expensive. To get a mobile version of MS Office with reduced features was $59.00. Adding up all the apps I needed, I would have to spend another $200 above the cost of the phone. I decided to wait and see.

The Blackberry seemed less out-of-date than I expected. It had the email thing down to an art, but more importantly, I discovered that Blackberry’s network is proprietary. People who prefer to protect their communication from those who would spy on them, be it for personal, business, or political/government security, choose Blackberry. In countries where governments routinely spy on their citizens, Blackberry is the one island in the virtual sky. It has attracted criticism from a number of governments, including one that would not be expected – Britain. They have strongly objected to RIM founders’ refusal to open their networks to monitoring. I believe that for this and other reasons, the founders are no longer running the company.

Like the phone, I like the keyboard, the company was far less deserving of the criticism than Apple or a host of other businesses in the high tech field, but for some reason, they became the target of a systematic war to destroy the company. Shockingly, shareholders didn’t object to the media systematically destroying the brand of RIM. When I looked at the important stuff in a phone, privacy seemed paramount and integration a close second. I started to wonder “why” the unrelenting criticism of RIM. There may be some substance, but when compared it to the “media-darling” Apple, it was more than unfair – it was malicious, concerted, and unmerited. Shamefully, Canadian media and even local writers got caught up in the feeding frenzy. They forgot what RIM means to Canada and Waterloo Region economically and what it would be like without them. They forgot that when strongly advised to move their headquarters to the US, RIM executives refused, which could be another reason why the company is in this media war. There’s a lot more to this story than you can read in the headlines but the facts have only confirmed my suspicions – this is an unjustified war, what is new. There is a strategic and organized group of people who are trying to destroy RIM for malicious or economic reasons – who are they?

I started looking for a phone and ultimately got a lesson in business wars and media manipulation and how living next to a ruthless, media driven and self-centric nation can demonstrate how manipulating perceptions can shape peoples’ reality.

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