The BlackBerry community and the world as a whole has not been very forgiving to RIM on the delay of the BB10 launch since word of it came out. A recent interview with Thorsten Heins and Frank Boulben gave a much clearer understanding of why the decision was made to wait. Not only were my recent thoughts confirmed, but my confidence in BlackBerry was reassured. From a product quality, marketing and carrier support standpoint, it actually makes a lot of sense, of course that won’t make waiting for BlackBerry 10 any easier but read through and tell me if it makes sense to you too.
Could the BlackBerry 10 Phone have been delivered in Q4 2012?
Yes. Heins seems to understand just how vulgar our frustration with the delay is and made it clear that he wasn’t happy about having to change the timeline either but it had to be done. He simply won’t allow RIM to ship anything that is less than 100%, which, if you are one of those that were disappointed with OS7 would understand.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Heins told a source. “I’d have loved to stick to that schedule, and I could have, if I would have sacrificed quality for it. We’re not going to put product out there that isn’t ready. We’re done with that. That’s over. This is not what we will be doing. So we gave the team the time to get it done and do it properly.”
While Heins’ primary concern is over maintaining quality, RIM is squarely focused on maintaining platform stability while integrating new blocks of code into the main “trunk”. RIM locked down the features it wanted in BlackBerry 10 for launch, and the software group went to work in teams to tackle the features in parts. The individual teams were very successful at getting their individual pieces built, but when it came to assembling all those individual bits of the system into the main OS, they found things were a bit messy (some inconsistency in the way APIs were being introduced between different software teams, etc.). At that point they made the decision to halt the process and clean things up to ensure all future code drops would go more smoothly which cost a 6 – 8 week shift on the timeline of launching the full-touch BlackBerry 10 phone. But Heins is reassuring us the definite launch of BB10:
“I’m very confident about the first quarter, whether it’s January or February, You’ll see lab entry and technical acceptance already kicking in, in Q4. Just the ramp up and launch with carriers will happen in Q1.”
It’s Better to Launch in Q1 2013 than No Man’s Land 2012
One of the concerns of the BlackBerry community over the delay to 2013 was that RIM will miss out on important holiday sales and Heins acknowledged this as the major detriment to the delay and noted that him and Boulben had intense discussions around this subject. The consensus was that even without the delay to 2013, getting into stores late in Q4 may have proved to be less than ideal.
Boulben, the chief marketing officer, echoed that sentiment.
“The carriers want to take full advantage of Q4, so if you want to have a real push from the carrier you need to be there in September / October. Then you have the marketing money, the share of voice and the staff would have been trained in September. If you are going to come to market in the second half of November or beginning of December, you won’t get the full efficiency of the marketing of the carrier.”
Heins said they actually refer to this late November/December period at RIM as “No Man’s Land” while Boulben added that some carriers reached out to him directly and advised him that RIM should target a January launch for BlackBerry 10 to which Heins made note, “It actually gives us more focus and attention in Q1.”
Why Launch a Full Touch BlackBerry phone before the QWERTY model?
“There’s two reasons for this. The first reason, without being arrogant, I think we own the full qwerty market. The Bold 9900 is doing a good job of this in the market with our corporate customers. In the US we’re most under pressure with the BYOD movement in enterprises, so we need to get in the battle. That’s why we need the entry card, which is the full touch device, so we can go to enterprises and say, hey look at this, this is the full touch from BlackBerry and it does things way better than what you have today. And I think it’s going to be way better. And then the qwerty comes immediately thereafter.”
“The second reason is technology. Building the full touch device on this platform is more complicated than the qwerty one. So it’s natural that you make the more complex product first that actually clears the pipeline for the platform.”
So that’s that.
Announcing the first two BlackBerry 10 phones together
New CMO Frank Boulben is already making an impact at RIM but while this:
Another benefit of moving the launch of BlackBerry 10 to Q1 2013 is that it gives more time for RIM’s new CMO to get the marketing plan together.
does not justify the delay in any way, seriously, we surely hope that he has a few good tricks up his sleeves as Heins says:
“Frank has a great marketing plan together for BlackBerry 10. Frank presented it to the board and the management team and they were really excited by it. It’s really the first integrated, focused marketing campaign that RIM has done. I’m really looking forward to this. I think the world is going to be surprised by how well we execute. Not just on the product but also on the marketing side of it. We will announce them together and not in sequence. We’ll just come out and say full touch available at (this date) and full QWERTY available at (this date).”
While it makes sense in justifying the delay I’m not hyped about it, but it does answer the great question “WHY?”. We’ve seen a lot of misreporting in recent weeks that RIM would be abandoning having a physical keyboard with BlackBerry 10. Those who follow the BlackBerry beat know this isn’t true, but the average consumer is not as informed. Announcing BlackBerry 10 with a full touchscreen and qwerty version together ensures there will be absolutely no confusion in the market place. As marketing ramps up from day one, everybody will know BlackBerry 10 is available in both full touch and physical keyboard flavors. They’ll be announced the same time, and the marketing efforts will benefit both devices. And it’s clear that RIM will want the world to know they have the best typing experience on both qwerty and touch phones.
Globally co-ordinated launch efforts
“The carriers are with us,” Heins said. “All these things with the carriers are progressing: launch windows, launch plans, and Frank is all over this with the sales force. We have that support. The carriers want this platform out there. They see the Samsung / Apple duopoly and they don’t like it. They want another third force. They believe we can do this. They’ve seen BlackBerry 10. They’ve had their hands around it. They can see it. And I think they like what they see. So that’s on track.”
Now you watch RIM reveal BB10 steadily to you as we approach Q4 but meanwhile I have a question everyone should start answering to themselves – Full Touch or QWERTY?