Media Future: BlackBerry’s corporate battery dies

by Arthur Goldstuck (@art2gee) If you like rollercoaster rides, you should ask BlackBerry for a job. Not that it’s hiring off the streets right now, but the CEO job is available, for one.

Thorsten Heins was fired on Monday after presiding over the collapse of BlackBerry’s customer base during the past two years. His interim replacement, John Chen, is best known for turning Sybase from a failing business into a leading enterprise systems company by taking a massive bet on mobile at a time when it was dismissed by most.

Media Future: cellphones still at very early stage of their evolution

Measure cellphone evolution in automobile years, and you realise we still have a long way to go, writes Arthur Goldstuck (@art2gee).

We all know about dog years (7 for every human year) and Internet years (the time it takes for online technology to evolve as much as other technology evolves in a year – typically a few months).

Cellphones and their rapid evolution supposedly obey the calendar of Internet time.

But what if we all have it wrong? What if cellphones are in fact still at a very early stage of their evolution? That sounds counter-intuitive, because they inspire such fear and bafflement.

That, however, is exactly how we can see we are still at an early stage in cellular history. See what happens when we look at the cellphone according to automobile years.

Shelf Life with Louise Marsland: selling SA wine in the States

Louise Marsland’s (@Louise_Marsland) pick of new product, packaging and design launches.

Marketing SA wines in the US is not a picnic, Top Shop provides a window on new fashions, another ‘BlackBerry’ launch, and we find out which is the most desirable tablet is in South Africa…

Thorsten Heins interview Pt 2: Secrets of BlackBerry 10

In the second part of this interview, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins tells Arthur Goldstuck about competing with Apple, how the BlackBerry’s notorious freezes have been overcome, and reveals the company’s secret weapon.

Thorsten Heins interview Pt 1: BlackBerry in Africa

In this interview RIM CEO Thorsten Heins tells us why BlackBerry 10 will restore faith among both consumers and investors and what makes the African market special..

Thorsten Heins, Chief Executive Officer of BlackBerry makers Research in Motion, was in Johannesburg last month to meet with mobile [GoldstuckHeins] network operators and introduce them to the BlackBerry 10 devices that will be launched in the first quarter of 2013. In the only interview he gave in South Africa, he spoke frankly with MarkLives columnist and Gadget editor-in-chief Arthur Goldstuck (@art2gee) about the challenges facing RIM.

Arthur Goldstuck: South Africans right now are still very loyal to BlackBerry and brand momentum is still growing. But at the same time, a lot of people are saying, ‘What is going to happen to us BlackBerry users?’ It comes down to the American market, where Blackberry has imploded. The feeling is that, what happens in America, will ultimately happen here. How does Blackberry plan to recapture the American market and therefore re-instill confidence in markets like South Africa and the rest of the developing markets?

Thorsten Heins: First and foremost, we appreciate the strong commitment of our customers to us in South Africa. This is a very, very successful market. It is a clear number one market for us, but not the only one. We have Indonesia where we are number one in smartphones. In the Philippines, I don’t know how many quarters consecutively we have been number one in smartphones. So there’s a broader business base than just in South Africa that we can appreciate. This is a customer base that carries us through to the transition to BlackBerry 10 right now.

The United States is very different. The US was very much driven by a tectonic shift to full touch screens devices among consumers and to LTE (4G connectivity) in a very short time frame in the enterprise space. All the marketing money from the carriers is going to 4G. All the major promotions: all the bus stops have a 4G sign on it. That is why we have lost and are still losing market share. But it is slowing down.

There are two routes to recapturing that market. Firstly, we are working on our installed user base. So far the upgrade ratio from BB 5 and BB 6 devices to BlackBerry 7 has increased from 8% BB 7 enterprise penetration to 22% in the last two quarters, which is really very significant.

The second thing is to get Blackberry 10 into the market and make sure it fulfills all users’ requirements, such as the full LTE experience. And there will be a touch version of it. But then we must also set BlackBerry 10 apart in terms of the user experience. So it’s not just competing on spec terms, not just competing on radio technology terms. We will go back to the market and we will, on top of that, compete on a new user paradigm that we are introducing with BlackBerry 10.

AG: Do you have a launch date yet?

TH: Last week, when we met with Verizon, they publicly stated, so its not a secret, that they will be launching Blackberry 10 in the first quarter of 2013. I would be very, very optimistic that other US carriers will follow suit.

We have a firm date when we will hit their labs for lab testing. As with every carrier, they have different cycle times for the testing cycle to get ready for first customer shipments. We’re working with the carriers on these launch dates, but it for sure will be in the first quarter 2013.

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