Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
RIM thought iPhone was impossible in 2007 (electronista.com)
220 points by evo_9 on Dec 27, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 77 comments



So much for the frequent claim that Apple is all marketing and no new technology, I guess.

Analysis like that tend to focus on single technologies like capacitive touchscreens or e-ink displays. Pretty much all the different single technologies many recent Apple products brought together existed in some way, shape or form before in consumer products. Single technologies don't make a product. Oh, and the UI matters. Having the same exact hardware with a better UI really does matter.


RIM wasn't the first one to be schooled by Apple in the "UI matters" lesson. Did anyone else own one of those Archos 20gig Jukebox players in 2000?


I had an Archos 15 gig when the iPod came out. Although it is now long gone and I have an iPod 40 gig from a few generations ago, a nano from the tall thin era, am on my second iPhone and have an iPad, I'll say this for Archos:

It still totally takes any Apple music playing device completely to school when it comes to classical music.

iPods are really wrapped up in the idea that you have artists, who produce albums, which contain songs, and if you don't want to organize your collection around those three dimensions, screw you.

In classical, we want six dimensions, not three: composer, orchestra, conductor, soloists, composition, and movement or piece within the composition.

Yes, iPod lets you list by composer. However, that just brings up a list of songs (tracks). However, most (all?) iPods have arbitrary and small limits on how long a title can be and still allow you to see everything in it. For instance, on my Vivaldi list, I see 3 different "Concerto für Laute, Violi...". If I'm lucky, maybe I can remember that the one I'm looking for is relatively short, so the 2:06 one is the one I want, not the 3:30 or the 5:03.

Let's compare to my old Archos. With the Archos, one option was to simply put a directory hierarchy on the device, and then access it via a simple file browser interface. If you hit "play" in a directory without a particular track selected, it would play everything in that directory, in alphabetical order.

So, I'd rip each CD into its own directory, with each track file starting with its track number (padded with a leading 0 if less than two digits). I could then organize these directories in a tree any way I wanted. For my rock, folk, and pop, I could use artist/album. For classical I could do composer/conductor/orchestra/composition for those that did not feature a soloist. For those with a soloist, I could toss in a directory in there to organize by soloist.

With the Archos, I never had to fish around to find what I wanted to find. With iPod I've sometimes spent several minutes trying to find something I know is there.

BTW, I used the same organization on my desktop machine, and made sure to use a music player that would handle drag-and-drop reasonably--drop a track on it and it plays it, drop a directory on it and it plays all tracks in alphabetical order. Then all I needed was a file browser on the desktop and music playback was dealt with there, too.

People have made classical work reasonably with iTunes on the desktop, by repurposing some of the fields. But that doesn't stop the suckage on iPods.


Actually, what you describe doesn't make the Archos brilliant, rather it seems to me as if it is so simple, that the burden of organization shifts to the user. Which of course worked out great in your case, and would probably for most people here, but, in my mind, a really good device would take care of organization all by itself, in a way that just works.

I too would love to see the iPod improve in areas other than "just" organizing contemporary music. (Besides classical music, audiobook support for example is almost ridiculously bad, and even podcast support is lacking in major ways.)


I don't have an Archos (and actually have never seen one) so I don't know but it's possible it doesn't force you to organize your music yourself: the post you replied to says one option was to dump a directory hierarchy.


Right. They also bundled player software for the PC that would organize things for you by metadata, and generate playlists to sync to the player that reflected that organization.

You didn't have to organize your music into directories and manage it yourself unless you wanted to.


Neither method really works for Jazz, though. Sometimes, the group would have a name, but many times, only one person's name is on the album cover. But, some great musicians never fronted a band, and none of them are bandleaders for their whole career, and sometimes the lineup of a group would change while the name stayed the same.


Total Off-topic but have you been to the Rutgers Jazz Library?

http://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/rul/libs/jazz/jazz.shtml


It sounds like this could be handled using smart playlists with abuse of the comments section to store extra metadata.


And unfortunately, which you switch from the main part of desktop iTunes to the iTunes store, all the problems return in force. I once mistakenly bought the no-choir version of a song I was looking for because I couldn't see the whole title.


While brilliant in some respects, Apple’s sometimes selective attention is also pretty well known ;-)

The popular thing to do is to speculate that Jobs just doesn’t care about classical music at all and for that reason it’s neglected.


Archos didn't care about classical music either.

The reason it works for tzs is because Archos didn't give a shit about metadata at all — they implemented the crappiest thing that could possibly work. Apple's use of a metadata database prebuilt by iTunes makes using the iPod massively easier for the vast majority of people.

This infuriates the drag-and-drop anoraks that had been obsessing over their folder structure ever since they started downloading metadataless MP3 files from FTP sites and IRC fserves in the 90s.


The player didn't care about metadata. However, it did understand playlists, so Archos would bundle with player software for the PC that DID use metadata to organize things, and would sync with the Archos by writing out playlists that reflected that organizaion.

Thus, an ordinary user could indeed have an iPod-like experience of letting software manage his player for him (although the player Archos bundled was not as good as iTunes).


classicalarchives.com does the the best of anyone out there, right now. Go see for yourself. Unlimited streaming from a huge catalogue for $10/month. And the site is well-organized; easy to find anything.


You might want to try COWON mp3 players -- they have the directory structure for tracks and a very good sound quality. I never looked back and everyone how tried COWON do not look at iPods either anymore.


I had one of their cheap new 10" Android tablets in my hands today. We have come so far and they have learned so little

(Samsung’s Galaxy Tab has much better hardware but Android just doesn’t feel right for tablets. At least not right now.)


(Just a reply to the parenthetical - probably because Android hasn't been tuned for/doesn't support tablet-sized screens yet - 2.3 is the first release to be designed for tablets.)


People keep saying that as a defence, and I agree 2.2 isn't made for tablets. But it makes me wonder: why did Samsung even ship it then?


Samsung’s Galaxy Tab has much better hardware but Android just doesn’t feel right for tablets. At least not right now.

And people keep wondering why there's both Android and Chrome.


"Did anyone else own one of those Archos 20gig Jukebox players in 2000?"

I doubt it. The 20GB Archos Jukebox was released in October 2001. Archos' models from 2000 had 5GB and 6GB hard drives. [1]

Just like the 20GB Archos Jukebox, Apple's 5GB iPod was released in October 2001. [2]

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archos_Jukebox_series

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPod_classic#First_generation


Or the Creative Nomad Jukebox...


what? the UI really wasn't very good at all on it. The old school iPod UI was superior

The Nomad Jukebox was great for the tactile-feedback buttons and it's durability. It was a tank.


It took forever to boot. When I dropped mine and broke its disk I then swapped in a 6GB disk and it took even longer, around 2 minutes. I went back to an mp3 discman instead before getting a Mac mini in 2005, which opened my eyes to the fact that Apple made more than just pretty devices, they cared about UI and paid attention to details like having different volume settings for headphones. I then bought a 60gb iPod w/ video and haven't looked back.


Tough to compete with Apple after they began duplicating their success in UI design to hardware, manufacturing, elegant chip design with a pointed purpose, etc.

Apple's most underestimated strength is their continued march towards vertical integration - buying make the right processor company (PA Semi) and a team of 150 processor gurus to minimize power use, developing a proprietary manufacturing process to make seamless aluminum notebooks, etc, etc etc.

A good read from 2008 about Apple's strategy . . . http://www.forbes.com/2008/04/24/mitra-apple-pasemi-tech-ent...


A fun flip side is that you have companies like Vizio who are making a killing in commoditized electronics who outsource virtually everything and still have less then 200 employees (About 1/3 are support).

http://www.vizio.com/about


Boy, you weren't kidding:

Stats from 2008:

* Recognized as the #1 Fastest Growing CE Company by Inc. Magazine * Total of 100 employees * Shipped a total of 3,500,000 HDTVs * Total revenue exceeds 2 Billion Dollars


Had not really noticed Vizio before, seems like an amazing story.

10million revenue per employee is a huge number (as a comparison Apple, Google had 1 million per employee in 2009, which is already considered on the high side)

Just doing some casual research: One of the founders had two other monitor startups (MAG and Princeton Digital) under his belt, so that sort of explains some of the success. Still, it seems like an amazing achievement to get into the big retail channels so quickly.

How do they manage to create so much value, while keeping track of all the outsourcing? Surely, there must be times when things go wrong, really wrong with the outsourcing.


Revenue per employee makes no sense. What makes sense is profit per employee. Vizio outsources stuff and pays loads to other companies, their profits have a lower ration that 10 million per employee

Edit: AmTran sometimes swallows shipping costs and pushes component suppliers to ensure Vizio's products are high quality and on time. AmTran now gets about 80% of its revenue from Vizio. In turn, Vizio sources as many as 85% of its TVs from AmTran, according to research firm DisplaySearch.


"besides the Playbook much of their plans remain a mystery"

Likely to RIM as well.


Mean. Probably true too.


I must sigh and agree.

As lost and flailing as RIM can seem right now, though, the company seems to have its path for the next 18 months cut out for it. In theory, they finally have everything they should need–a solid next-gen OS with a cadre of engineers who understand it inside and out, a hardware division with a wealth of experience, and now a surprisingly forward-thinking and experimental UI design acquisition that could work wonders if allowed to inform the entire product design process.

They just need to get them all working together. And that's the part I'm most worried about.


Yea I mean there are tons of examples in the tech world of a bunch of disconnected features that on their own are great but aren't properly integrated or carry some simple flaws that prevent them from shining.

When trying to predict the weather, asking what the weather was yesterday is always the best prediction model.

What will RIM do next year? Probably what they did last year.

Flail and lose market share :)


Mean. Probably true too.


> buying make the right processor company (PA Semi)

There still hasn't been any hint of PA Semi in Apple's work. Even the A4 is pretty basic stuff, the work of Intrinsity (very good at optimizing the power/consumption ratio of existing systems) rather than PA Semi (very good at actually creating innovative chips from scratch).

I have no idea what the PA Semi guys are working on at Apple, but I still hope we'll see something interesting for the "A5" (or whatever the chip in the iPad 2 / iPhone 5 is called)


I thought it was the PA Semi guys that all quit (because they didn't get much of a cut from the sale), formed their own company and then got bought by Google?

First story I found (not very high quality journalism, but you get the drift):

http://nation.towergaming.com/2010/04/google-how-to-acquirin...



Which is why I mentioned Intrinsity in my comment and indicated that the A4 looked like Intrinsity's work (optimization and improvements of existing designs) more than PA Semi's (new chip designs from ground up)


>Apple's most underestimated strength is their continued march towards vertical integration

... maybe ... Markets swing back and forth between integration and disintegration. Apple was very vertically integrated in 1995 and paid a heavy price for that when the PC market exploded into a million models with multiple operating systems at low prices. Integration is usually best when innovation is lowest since value chain segments are mature and cost reducing and you can integrate the value chain, squeeze out waste between segments, increase coordination between segments and capture a nice profit. Innovation all throughout the value chain is very high right now, so this does not seem like the time to vertically integrating.

An interesting aspect of the RIM versus Apple thing is that they are both pursuing integration strategies, but RIM seems to have focused on integrating the wrong things for 2008 and then had an deeply integrated ball-and-chain around their leg just at the moment they had to be nimble. Apple seems to be in a similar spot w.r.t. Android: using the iOS UI is terribly frustrating after using Android 2.2 for a while (no back button?!); Apple's terrifically integrated, dogmatic approach leaves them little room to respond to competitors.


They're integration is still pretty limited... they're just much more integrated than their competitors. They still outsource all manufacturing and fabrication, battery tech, display tech, and storage tech. They're just integrating enclosure design, chip design, OS design, media sales, and carrier sales. Of those 4, Google and MS only do OS design. RIM does OS, enclosure and carrier sales.

Importantly, Apple is very easily able to disintegrate when needed. They're doing their own chip design now, but if someone comes out with an off the shelf chip design that's better than the A4, there's nothing stopping them from building it.

Your point makes sense in theory, but I don't think it applies here.


Good article ... looks like the author predicted something like the IPad.


The title is misleading. RIM thought the iPhone 2G was insanely power hungry and must have terrible battery life.

As an owner of iPhone 2G I attest that was completely true. This is the first phone I'd ever owned that lasted less than two days.

(Apple themselves even cited battery life as the reason they couldn't do 3G, and the iPhone 3G, when it did come out, was thicker than the iPhone 2G)

What RIM probably didn't counter is that customers were willing to trade 24 hour charging cycles for an awesome user experience.


I have never understood why some people find 24-hour charging cycles to be such a problem. Humans have a 24-hour charging cycle too, and while charging they are unable to use phones, so I don't see why it's such a trouble to charge the phone at the same time.


Battery use isn't linear. If 24-hour charging cycles are required for the average case what that means is that you're limiting use for a lot of normal cases. Use the phone a bit more than average or have a long period of poor reception, and then you've exhausted the battery. Which is precisely the case today, it's trivially easy for anyone to exhaust the battery on a modern smartphone in much less than a day.

In contrast, a phone that requires charging every week, for example, you'll tend to keep at a higher total charge and will survive periods of heavier usage better.

That's not dismissing the fact that most people are willing to accept the tradeoffs of modern smartphone battery life, but make no mistake the necessity of daily recharging for average use is a problem.


> it's trivially easy for anyone to exhaust the battery on a modern smartphone in much less than a day

Watch a 90 minute youtube video over 3G and you're pretty much there. (On my iPhone 3G at least)


How common is that case?

I'm probably on the opposite extreme (never have watched a movie or tv show on my iphone nor any youtube video longer than about 3 minutes), but I'd be shocked if long video watching was a common case.


Battery life on any iPhone sucks the big one. Hell, it sucks on any smartphone I've ever seen. Big, power-hungry touchscreen phones are simply not in a place where we can afford to use them all day.

I sit down and play Mirror's Edge for 10 minutes and out goes 10% of my battery. Holy crap.

But even taking gaming out of it, even moderate browser usage over 3G burns through that battery like kindling. I have to charge the iPhone at work if I plan on going out in the evening. Even with judicious limitations on usage (and isn't that defeating the point of a smartphone?), if I leave with a phone at 9am, go somewhere after work, there is a good chance I won't have enough juice to call for a cab at midnight.

I don't have a problem with a 24-hour charging cycle, my problem is that current smartphones - iPhones and all - have trouble lasting that full 24-hour period unless you severely handicap your own use of the device.


It rapidly consumes your precious battery. Of course it's not a common case.


Not sure but I did it once because I had a lot of time to kill waiting for my girlfriend to finish up at work.

Another annoying scenario is when you lock the screen but keep a high CPU app running. Go back and resume a couple hours later and your battery is decimated.


I don't see why it's such a trouble to charge the phone every night

It isn't a problem ... mostly. But it's the edge cases that will get you.

e.g. Sometimes I stay the night at my SO's house. Or I go from work to drinks to a club. Any break in the routine and the phone's remaining charge is now an issue. These are also the times when you are more likely to need to send and receive texts, use maps or other helpful smartphone apps. What are you going to do, say "I can't; I have to go home and charge my phone"? These devices are supposed to liberate us from rigid schedules (and they did, if you remember that far back).

So I keep a charging cable in my desk at work, it solves a lot of things. Office-wide emails that go "does anyone have a charger for a..." happen regularly in any office.


It's a problem if you aren't a highly organized person like most hackers tend to be.

My gf - a sales/marketing pro - had a lot of trouble with this when she switched to iPhone; she was use to not paying much/any attention to her battery until the phone complained... She had to get use to charging every night.

It's easy to discount this but it was a pretty significant issue at least initially.


I find it hard to not charge mine, since it's my alarm clock. I just stick it in the dock as I'm about to sleep.


Whenever I go camping now I have to turn my Android G1 phone off for large periods of time so it will survive the weekend and be available if I need it. Never had this problem with my old mobile phones. They'd last a week or more a lot of the time.

I don't get the obsession with thin phones. I'd much rather have a thicker phone if it lasted 2-3 days instead of 1.


I haven't had a smart-phone yet, but I made a similar observation once about antennas - I would much rather have a stub antenna and better reliability than an internal antenna and have to worry about reception. I wonder if there is a market for a really reliable, long battery-life, etc, phone that was maybe the size of a small walkie-talkie?


Take a look at Philips Henium 9@9 series. http://www.asia.philips.com/promos/xenium/en/phone_other.htm...


I'm still using my G1 and when I first had it the battery life was terrible to point of me taking it back to the shop to demand another phone. The shop upgraded the software and it has been more reasonable since then. I had one of the first G1's in 2008, so there were still enormous battery issues on new phones even after the iP.


Why not just bring an extra (charged) battery when you are camping and swap it in when your phone tells you it is low?

Rather than being stuck with the extra weight everywhere you go, you just incur it when you actually will be away from a charger for multiple days.


Yeah exactly - I have 2 USB extenders hooked to my charger next to my bed so I can read emails and play Shredder Chess when I wake up... plus the alarm clock.

But again, we are not normal folks though I bet this isn't that unusual the more I think about it.

They started making USB wall plugs after all (which is a great idea).

http://www.engadget.com/2009/12/05/10-usb-power-outlet-leave...


>> As an owner of iPhone 2G I attest that was completely true.

It really depends on what you compare it to. I owned a Treo, a Sidekick and a few windows mobile devices in the years before the iPhone. All had worse battery life. Yes, Blackberry and feature phones were much better. But they weren't modern smartphones either. The iPhone was the first to combine truly impressive software, a large screen and 8 hours of active use in one package. My Sidekick was dead by 2 pm; my windows mobile phones needed a battery swap around noon.


"Imagine their surprise [at RIM] when they disassembled an iPhone for the first time and found that the phone was battery with a tiny logic board strapped to it."

Step 9 iFixit teardown of original iPhone:

http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iPhone-1st-Generation-Teardow...

Witness the size of the magical iPad battery in Step 22:

http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iPad-Teardown/2183/3


I suppose this speaks to Apple's need for secrecy too, stealth and secrecy mostly seem overrated but if you're going to disrupt a huge market, they can be pretty powerful in making entrenched competitors believe that certain things are impossible.

This happens all the time, established competitors become complacent and lose the intense focus that made them successful in the first place.

Apple and Netflix are two companies that are admirable in this sense. And perhaps it is because they're (supposedly) ruthless about hiring and firing.


Anyone able to locate the original source for this claim? The link in the article ends up at shacknews with a 'bad id' message and I've been unable to locate the source on that site

Interestingly all the sites I've looked at trying to find the source, and there's been a few, all link back to this article in electronista (except sites like apple.findtechnews.net which rip off the entire story, pic and all and then remove the source link)

I guess I'm looking for a blog post or even a forum post/comment, but so far I've drawn a blank.


I got that too. Did a search for user "Kentor" on the site and was able to get a list of his comments on shacknews, and there is a ghost of a comment from Dec 25 that says "you guys could have avoided this conversation..." and has the same comment id as the link from electronista. Looks like it was deleted, along with several other comments that appear to be on the same topic. http://www.shacknews.com/search.x?type=comments&terms=&#...


Thanks. Most I can get is You guys could have avoided this entire conversation by just defining what Apple created as something more than a smartphone. ... from google. can't get anymore from google cache, but probably because I've not used it before so I don't know what I'm doing

To clarify - there's now been several thousand words written across dozens (probably more) of sites and numerous comments all based upon a single deleted comment (id=24854573) by user Kentor on Shacknews.com

Whilst I think the (supposed) claim plausible, I do have a bit of a problem with the way we can take a single quote and turn it into news, which tends to become treated as fact down the track; "Everyone knows RIM thought the iPhone was impossible in 2007"


managed to locate the full original quote

You guys could have avoided this entire conversation by just defining what Apple created as something more than a smartphone. What we call a smartphone today is a rather different than what was meant when the term was first coined.

The first smartphone was pretty much the Nokia Communicator back in the late 90s. It had data connectivity and some limited ability to run applications, and that pretty much what a smartphone was at the time. Today we take it to mean handheld wireless computer that happens to have a phone, but back then if you send a few packets you were a smartphone.

I was hired by RIM in 1999 just before they began work on their first phone and spent a good number years writing RIM proprietary protocol stacks that layered on top of the then new GPRS. Coming from a two-way pager background, RIM decided that phones should have two-way push synchronization of pretty much everything that Exchange provided along with a limited WML browser. The general thought was that phones would never have sufficient power density or radios sufficient bandwidth to allow anything more. That was incredibly predictably wrong, but it's how things went down.

Along with RIM was Ericsson, Palm, Motorola, and Qualcomm. Motorola came from a similar background as RIM and went on to build very similar devices. Both Nokia and Ericsson had come from phones and had decided feature phones should have far more sophisticated PDA functions. Palm started with PDAs then moved to the phones, but adamantly dismissed ideas like wireless synchronization for years making their first attempts at smart phone far more like early Nokia Communicators than early Blackberrys. Oddly enough, though Nokia made the first smartphone, which was followed by two more with RIM and arguably Palm in 20002, it was Ericsson that popularly coined the term in the mid 2000s.

So the point is that all these companies were fighting over what amounts to overgrown PDAs with phones and wireless stacks strapped on. Everyone assumed power density was no where even close to what was needed for general computing, that a full featured browser and heavy duty Internet services were impossible due to bandwidth and latency. Take a look at how our Java expert groups named standards, how people at the time talked about what features smart phones should have, and its clear that no one thought an iPhone was possible. Even Danger, which eventually went on to work on to create Windows Phone 7 and Android, was just working on a better Blackberry.

The iPhone did many amazing things, but what stands out in my mind was how it proved that these assumptions were flat-out wrong beyond any reasonable doubt. Apple pretty gave everyone the finger and said, "Fuck you guys we can build your distant impossible future today."

I left RIM back in 2006 just months before the IPhone launched and I remember talking to friends from RIM and Microsoft about what their teams thought about it at the time. Everyone was utterly shocked. RIM was even in denial the day after the iPhone was announced with all hands meets claiming all manner of weird things about iPhone: it couldn't do what they were demonstrating without an insanely power hungry processor, it must have terrible battery life, etc. Imagine their surprise when they disassembled an iPhone for the first time and found that the phone was battery with a tiny logic board strapped to it. It was ridiculous, it was brilliant.

I really don't think you're giving Apple enough credit here. They did something amazing that many very prominent people in the industry thought was either impossible or at least a decade away, and they did it in a disgustingly short time frame.


Thats why even years later they tried to replicate iPhone and failed (see Blackberry Storm)


Torch still isn't there.


They were working on Storm since before iPhone came out. My initial RIM meetings basically said as much with heavy hints at touch interfaces, and this was six months before iPhone was introduced.


Thank God for the spirit of innovation and the never say die attitude.


One of the things that people consistently seem to forget is that the iPhone isn't just hardware. The iPhone is an aggregation of things that collectively make up either an ecosystem or something akin to it. And in most cases, the pieces of that ecosystem had been built up over a considerable time before the iPhone was a twinkle in Jobs' eyes.

For RIM to duplicate the iPhone would require them to give up on a lot of long held beliefs (e.g. physical keyboard), to ignore most of the tech pundits (the pundits themselves don't like to remind us that they were busy ridiculing the very concept of a one-button phone right up to and in some cases even after it started selling like hot-cakes), to focus on the consumer instead of the business user and last but by no means least to madly start implementing and iterating on their own consumer eco-system.

Now the iTunes store is by no means perfect, but if you don't have a drop in replacement for it, what are you going to replace that part of the eco-system with? I think a lot of people grossly underestimate the time and effort it takes to create a system like the iTunes store, and never mind even all the iterations in features... how about the task of sitting down with every single recording industry association in every country that your product will be sold? How about doing the same thing for movies and then telcos? You'd have to be a masochist of the first degree.

On that note, one of the enormously revolutionary things that Apple did was to break the choke-hold that telcos had over the handset manufacturers. On an iPhone, you always have access to the App store and iTunes stores... on a Blackberry it is up to the telco whether you get App World at all.

In any case, RIM should play to their own strengths, not Apples. RIM groks business the same way Apple groks consumers. (But of course business users are also consumers, while this 'should' give Apple a big advantage breaking into the corporate market, they consistently fail to capitalise on it. I think the difference is they have to fight for the corporate space, whereas in the consumer space everyone else is falling over themselves competing to make the cheapest (read as: least profitable, also in the sense of 'nasty'), ugliest and hardest to use devices).

RIM has their own eco-system in the corporate space, mainly revolving around the BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server)... but what does that do? It encrypts your email and pushes it to you (via Canada). But is that really such a big deal now?

They have a plethora of device models, with differentiation based on presence or absence of things like GPS, trackballs and cameras, and also how wide you want your keyboard to be. I'm not convinced that having so many options is helpful, but they seem to have a hard time deprecating the old ones.

Lately they have been making inroads with the teenage market in the UK because they have a cheap alternative to SMS (one advantage of running your own server infrastructure I guess). But I wonder how many of those teens also carry iPods?

It is easy to look at a Blackberry and say something like "oh, this is why they're failing, their camera is bad and the browser is worse". But that is overly simplistic. When comparing the iPhone to other smartphones, the iPhone has two killer features: ecosystem and ease of use. You may put out a phone that physically has all the features of an iPhone, but you get an extra 10% megapixels... and the world is not going to beat a path to your door.


Anecdotally, RIM has been making significant inroads amongst the smartphone-buying youth in South Africa by heavily advertising BBN and offering discounted models. Whether this will prove sticky enough in the end and whether it's applicable elsewhere are open questions, but every single one of the sub-25 year olds I know who had the choice of getting a premium phone opted for a Blackberry instead of an iPhone or Android device, and they did it purely because of BBN.


I agree. As an outsider it seems odd to think that their best two markets are CEOs and teens. Kind of like the game "which one of these is not like the other". I think the common link is that both of these groups have a heavy emphasis on what I'll call "high availability communicating".

I can offer some more anecdotal evidence about the outrageous prices of SMS driving market behaviour... I was in NZ for a while when Vodafone (?) had a free text to other Vodafones in the weekend deal. _Nobody_ I knew had a Telecom (the main competitor) phone unless they actually worked for Telecom.

So we might say "okay, just specialise in texting"... but I think the other trend driving smartphones is convergence. I went looking to buy an iPhone the other day, but they are all sold out in my area. So instead, I bought an iPod Touch and am using a beat up old Nokia - but it annoys me that I need to carry two devices.

What the iPhone bought to the table (or rather, massively accelerated - since apps were available before but not in great demand) is convergence of things that we never would have actually carried around before - like a compass, barometer (weather forecast), pocket games etc.

Another example that comes to mind: when in London I used to carry a "Pocket A to Z" guide, which is basically a book that is a high level map of the city. It was my top priority purchase on arriving in the UK. Now though I would simply use an iPhone or Android phone instead.

And it is in this area of convergence that I think RIM is falling behind and their lack of vision and bad products (storm etc) are most telling.


I don't know what the point of this article is except as some kind of Apple gloat. As far as I know everyone was blown away by the 2007 announcement, the event was a worldwide shock, it would be news if a competitor hadn't reacted strongly. Techies such as everyone here went into straight nerdgasm, the media went gaga, consumers went into gotta-have-it mode, and the entire rest of the industry went into shock and then desperate reactionary mode.

The announcement was a historical event in computing and consumer electronics. But it is ancient history, 4 years ago, what's the point of this now?


"ancient history, 4 years ago, what's the point of this now?"

The point is that 4 years after the introduction of the iPhone, RIM still hasn't managed to ship a phone that competes with the iPhone.

And since they have a long way to go with QNX, I don't expect RIM to catch up in the next two years.

Which raises the question: what has RIM been doing the last 4 years?


It's also important to note that Google has been able to ship a mostly-competent competitor to the iPhone, and is improving incredibly quickly. Palm, a company with vastly inferior resources and shallower pockets than RIM, has been able to also.

Both of these companies were largely reacting to the success of the iPhone and got sideswiped much like RIM. Unlike RIM, though, both companies recovered quickly and were able to ship compelling products (though not all commercially successful).

RIM hasn't shipped squat that would even begin to compete with the user experience on iPhone. Hell, RIM hasn't shipped anything that I'd use over the first-gen iPhone, much less iPhone 4.


RIM has been the entrenched market leader. Abandoning all that made it successful would be equivalent to the Digg redesign. Instead of placing bets on RIM's comeback play we'd be analyzing the wreckage of RIM's sudden implosion.

Google and Palm had no users. They could afford to completely change focus and abandon the existing user base.


Especially when entrenched within large organizations everyone's perspectives and imaginations change and, often, diminish. And then you tend to imagine that the entire world is restricted by the same limitations that you and your organization are, even when many of those limitations are things such as dysfunctional management structures and ineffectual leadership.

And then you get surprised when a competitor does what you thought was fundamentally impossible. And what you thought was a secure and cozy dominance of a high-markup market actually becomes a fight for the very existence of your company, and with the poorer footing to boot.

RIM getting caught with their pants down by the iPhone is just one of a countless string of similar examples from history.

It can happen to you too, that's why you should pay attention. Because if you want to avoid such circumstances you need to pay attention to the root causes and figure out how to avoid those well ahead of time.


It's an excellent lesson in just how thoroughly you can be defeated by your own preconceived notions.




Registration is open for Startup School 2019. Classes start July 22nd.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: