NYT Article: BlackBerry Is Like an "Embarrassing Relative"

BlackBerryA New York Times article delivers a harsh blow to Research in Motion (RIM), the maker of Blackberrys. Several quotes from users paint a sad picture of the BlackBerry as a public embarrassment:

  • "I'm ashamed of it."
  • "I want to take a bat to it."
  • "You can't do anything with it. You're supposed to, but it's all a big lie."
  • "I feel absolutely helpless."

The article tells stories of people hiding their BlackBerry underneath their iPad, not using their BlackBerry at cocktail parties, and getting "disgusted" looks when asking a hotel concierge for a charger.

These aren't great testimonials for the product that was called "CrackBerry" when first introduced because of its popularity and additive qualities. Now it seems people can't wait to trade it in for an iPhone 5.

The article quotes an investment analyst saying that RIM's recent video, a play on REO Speedwagon's "I'll Just Keep on Loving You," is "a sign of a desperate company."

RIM clearly is not happy with the article. Amy McDowell, senior director of corporate communications at RIM, said that the company wasn't asked for input on the story. In response, CEO Thorsten Heins wrote an opinion letter in The New York Times:

"BlackBerry as Black Sheep in Smartphones" (Business Day, Oct. 16) lacks the balance your readers expect.

With more than 80 million customers globally, BlackBerry is growing and remains one of the world's most popular smartphones. I've just come from visiting carriers and partners in all parts of the world, and they have told me that there are millions of BlackBerry fans out there who not only find great value in their device, but also pride in being a BlackBerry owner.

While any report of dissatisfaction among our users is a cause for concern that I take very seriously, the comments supporting BlackBerry both online and in calls we've received from our customers in response to your article are encouraging to me.

BlackBerry remains the leader in providing security for corporate customers, which is why more than 90 percent of the Fortune 500 rely on BlackBerry. It's true that some companies put restrictions on accessing certain applications for security reasons, but applications like Yelp and OpenTable are, in fact, among the approximately 100,000 apps available in BlackBerry AppWorld.

We've received excellent feedback from carriers, developers and partners for our upcoming BlackBerry 10 platform and are on track to deliver it in the first quarter of 2013. We appreciate the customers who have remained loyal to the BlackBerry platform and look forward to winning back many who have left.

President and Chief Executive
Research In Motion
Waterloo, Ontario, Oct. 16, 2012

Image source.

Discussion Starters:

  • Should The New York Times have contacted RIM for comment on the story before publication? Does it have an obligation to do so?
  • What examples of logical argument, emotional appeal, and credibility do you find in Heins's opinion letter?