RIM boss joins queue to kick Jobs
Ballsy Balsille blasts Apple 'distortion field'
Research in Motion co-CEO Jim Balsille ripped into Apple CEO Steve Jobs after the Cupertinian worthy took aim at RIM's BlackBerry smartphones and upcoming PlayBook tablet on Monday.
"As usual, whether the subject is antennas, Flash or shipments, there is more to the story," blogged Balsille steamily, "and sooner or later, even people inside the distortion field will begin to resent being told half a story."
Balsille was referring to Jobs' remarks during a conference call announcing Apple's fiscal Q4 2010 results. When reading a prepared statement during that call, Jobs said that the iPhone's 14.1 million sales during the quarter had "handily beat RIM's 12.1 million BlackBerries sold in their most recent quarter, ending in August."
Jobs then asserted: "We've now passed RIM, and I don't see them catching up with us in the forseeable future."
Balsille, not to put too fine a point on it, implies that Jobs is
lying about padding his sales figures: "Apple's preference to compare its September-ending quarter with RIMs August-ending quarter doesn't ... take into account that industry demand in September is typically stronger than summer months, nor does it explain why Apple only shipped 8.4 million devices in its prior quarter and whether Apple's Q4 results were padded by unfulfilled Q3 customer demand and channel orders," he blogged.
The disagreement over sales figures might have remain just that — number juggling — if Jobs hadn't taken it upon himself to don his Harvard-annointed world's best CEO robes to offer Balsille some unsolicited — and arguably condescending — advice:
"[RIM] must move beyond their area of strength and comfort into the unfamilair territory of trying to become a software platform company," Jobs advised. "I think it's going to be a challenge for them to create a competitive platform and to convince developers to create apps for yet a third software platform after iOS and Android. With 300,000 apps on Apple's app store, RIM has a high mountain ahead of them to climb."
That patronizing put-down may have been what frosted Balsiile's cookies — that, and Jobs' scathing dismissal of seven-inch touchscreen tablets such as RIM's PlayBook. "We think the current crop of seven-inch tablets are going to be DOA — dead on arrival," Jobs opined.
He did, however, allow the possibility that a seven-inch display might be large enough if it "includes sandpaper so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of their present size."
We at The Reg know schoolboy snarkiness when we see it, and yes, Virginia, that was schoolboy snarkiness.
Balsille snarked back: "For those of us who live outside of Apple's distortion field, we know that seven-inch tablets will actually be a big portion of the market and we know that Adobe Flash support actually matters to customers who want a real web experience," he said.
"We think many customers are getting tired of being told what to think by Apple," Balsille snapped. ®
"Customers are getting tired of being told what to think by Apple."
*points at sales figures*
No they're not. Say what you want about a lot of things, but the hoi polloi want nothing to do with cross-comparing the version of this with the specs of that and determining who supports what, when and why. I’d go so far as to say that in a lot of ways, people are sick of choice – at least in high tech.
Some of us aren’t, but it really is a lot like cars. There will always be a significant chunk of the population who are gear heads. They should not be ignored; indeed, to do so is suicide. These folks know enough about cars to be discriminating. They carefully choose their cars and accessories based on their research, preferences and prejudices. They defend their choices fiercely.
The majority of the buying public cares about what the costs, what colour it is and how much it will cost to keep it fuelled. These “regular folks” however often ask the gear heads about their opinions before buying. They really don’t care what the car /is,/ they only care that it does the job and their gear head friends think it was the “right choice.”
Translated into the mobile arena this effect is the same. Nobody cares what the phone runs, how open it is, how fragmented the platform, how many apps there are or any of the rest of that pap. They care how the phone looks, what their rate plan is and whether their nerd friends think it was the “right choice.”
See a pattern?
Average people love to be told what to think. The question is simply “by whom?” In Apple’s case, they’ve managed to make quite a tidy sum by essentially marketing themselves /as/ the “nerdy friend” who can tell you what techno-widget is the “right choice.” It’s a huge thing; difficult to pull off but highly rewarding.
If you want to combat this, you will never do it by telling the milled masses what to think…Apple (and to a lesser extent, Google) have already established themselves as the “nerdy friend” that RIM, Microsoft or HP will simply /never be/. If you truly want to combat this you need to do it the old fashioned way: you need to earn the custom of the real life, meatspace “nerdy friends.”
It is only once the normals see their RL “nerdy friends” rejecting Apple or Google that they will start to question if they have been led astray. Marketing won’t save you, and neither will pretty speeches. For all the sound bites you could level at Apple, against their marketing department noone has a prayer.
Cease and desist with the lame attempts at damage control. Reach deep into your corporate well of humility and admit that you screwed up. Admit that it’s time to go back to basics and come out fighting. Give up trying to be “just like the other guys” and come out with something unique; an advantage all your own.
Unlike gear heads, nerds are fickle. If you want to win “Nerdy Friends” – and with them the bulk market share of normals – you have to make us fall in love with you all over again. So RIM, Microsoft…everyone else; I’m game. Let’s see what you got. Give me a reason to recommend you over the competition.
Something that’s more than just words.
Thing is, I think he's right.
OK, it's only a prediction, but I've been saying for a while that 7" tablets will be a lot handier for those of us who travel a lot, which defines the business market quite handily. And I'd like to see a 12" tablet for home use, with higher resolution than the iPad. Which leaves 10" devices looking to be a bit of a compromise.
Of course, I got downvoted mightily last time I said this, presumably by people who thought I was criticising The Holy iPad. I wonder if those people have developed better comprehension skills in the intervening period? We shall see....
Well said, Mr Potts
Can Trevor Potts take over writing at El Reg? It's almost a shock to read something here that is coherent, distinctive and engaging...