Open mouth, insert BlackBerry
RIM CEO Jim Balsillie may wish he'd stuck to texting and gesturing last week. A statement to the press that buggy new hardware is just a fact of life isn't engendering much love from consumers who invested hundreds in that "new reality."
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Balsillie described the mad rush to get the new touchscreen BlackBerry Storm out the door before the holiday "Black Friday" shopping frenzy. When queried about the fairly widespread reports of weird and/or sluggish behavior from the handsets, Balsillie called the bugginess and necessary subsequent fixes part of the "new reality" of smartphones.
We are, of course, talking about complex, feature-rich devices that scramble to gain even a few weeks' worth of attention in the crowded smartphone marketplace. But we're also talking about a gadget that costs, depending on one's Verizon contract, between $250 and $500 before a single call has been placed or finger-smudge deposited. The online response has thus been fairly predictable.
Gizmodo opened its screed with "Buggy, Busted Ass Smartphones Are the "New Reality" and went fairly thermonuclear from there, pointing out that even the notoriously final-release averse Google managed to release a reasonably bug-free G1. ending with a disgusted "If you're not even gonna bother trying, why should we?" (We at Betanews do, however, support and endorse Gizmodo's mid-article declaration that "beta culture is here to stay, and you better like it.")
The feisty RIM-arkable blog drew a dark comparison to a company that, ironically, may be positioned to benefit from a serious hit to RIM's reputation. "Did RIM not pay attention at all to what has happened to Palm over the years? If this is RIM's attitude when it comes to making cool devices that just work, they may get a a front row seat as it happens to them."
Of course, for the Pre to benefit from Storm's trouble, Palm would have to rush it to market perhaps sooner than later... and the beat goes on.
Consumers and the blogosphere had their turn at the microphone today, but tomorrow may prove far more informative as to whether Balsillie's prioritization of speed-to-market over bug-zapping was the right move. Verizon, which has an exclusive deal on the Storm in the US, releases its earnings report tomorrow. It might be more entertaining to ask the phone tech-support staffers at Verizon what they thought of the handset's problems, but it's likely that the telco's quarterly sales results will tell the story of whether Balsillie's "new reality" makes real sense.