Why Did BlackBerry's Marketing Chief Walk Out?
3/8/2011 by: John Oram
In an "Elvis has left the building" moment on last Friday, BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) said its chief marketing officer, Keith Pardy, has decided to leave the company for "personal reasons". This comes just weeks ahead of its most significant product rollouts, their first tablet - the PlayBook.
Back in 2004, Nokia brought this marketing executive from Coca-Cola with a mission to take over brand management as part of its plan to keep the market share growing. RIM hired Pardy from Nokia in early 2009, and his leaving this soon says volumes about the uncertainty inside RIM.
RIM is known for their end-to-end secure email system and reliable handsets. Recently, RIM's handset sales have been slipping. They have not shown growth compared to Google Android and Apple phones. This is because RIM phones lacked cool interfaces, interesting non-business apps, and they were slow to come up with the touch-screen display.
In April 2010, RIM surprisingly bought QNX Software Systems, a widely known maker of a real-time operating system. RIM is still bringing the successful QNX brand into their fold, without destroying QNX's cash flow. QNX has the Neutrino real-time operating system (RTOS) which has high-reliability and real-time functionality. Neutrino is widely adopted by the automobile industry to power Bluetooth integration, device connectivity, and to control critical systems.
Are we seeing more of that old corporate culture clash scenario raising its head again, this time in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada?
The PlayBook tablet will feature a revamped look-and-feel. In December, RIM was claiming their new, faster operating system - a renamed QNX OS, now called Tablet OS; was going to put them on top of the marketplace for the next decade.
The RIM PlayBook sounds good when you read their specifications. RIM's tablet size, has a height of 5.1 inches (130 mm), a width of 7.6 inches (194 mm) and a thickness of 0.4 inches (10 mm) while weighing in at 15 ounces (425 grams). Apple's iPad 2 is 9.50 x 7.31 x 0.34 (241.2 x 185.7 x 8.8 mm) and weighs 21.62 oz (613 g). The thinness of the iPad 2 is what made Samsung's mobile division VP Lee Don-Joo say "Apple made it very thin... We will have to improve the parts that are inadequate".
The RIM PlayBook has a 7-inch touchscreen tablet powered by a 1GHz TI OMAP4 4430 variant of the dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor, a high-resolution WSVGA (1024x600 resolution) display and two HD cameras; a 5-megapixel camera for shooting video and snapping pictures and a 3-megapixel camera facing the user for video conferencing.
The Wi-Fi-enabled .9-pound tablet includes a browser that supports Adobe Flash-based websites and has a micro-HDMI port to connect to a high-definition source, such as an HDTV or projector. But, complicating matters is that the PlayBook will have its own app store. That is, it won't support BlackBerry apps the way the iPad can run most iPhone apps, so RIM must start from scratch.
Succeeding in getting developers to dedicate their limited financial and time resources means that you should be as open and helpful as possible - otherwise developers will just stick to proven devices. While RIM was claiming they had a ten-year life OS, developers couldn't get their hands on a PlayBook to work with. Analysts who had worked with early examples said the battery life was unacceptable. RIM is planning a Web development platform that will ship next year called WebWorks. The approach is similar to what Palm does with the webOS. That means they are at least two years behind all the competitors developer tools.
Jack Gold, principal at J. Gold Associates, a technology consulting firm, said RIM has never been a strong marketing company in part because it never had to be. He added "They've been hit by a competitive pressure that they didn't feel three or four years ago."
It seems that hiring a chief marketing person from Nokia was not RIM's best long-term decision. Especially after watching Nokia thrash about last month justifying their new Microsoft partnership. Neither RIM nor Nokia have had much of a "cool appeal" factor in their phone products.
BSN* felt RIM's PlayBook was floundering in late February, when a Canadian developer posted a long explanation about why RIM's Developer Relations group was clueless. The shorthand version is that their developer sign-up process is a giant pain. RIM wants developers to buy stuff, where other tablet manufacturers? tools are free. Besides, the RIM Developer tools were not ready for prime time according to the Canadian.
On Friday, RIM's share price was down about 2.9 percent to $66.50 and off from a recent high of $69.86 reached on Feb. 18.
Last week, Apple's iPad 2 introduction clearly boosted the sex appeal quotient in the tablet arena. Possibly because of that fact, Keith Pardy lost RIM's latest version of corporate musical chairs. Maybe his leaving will be a learning experience for everyone in the tablet arena.
RIM, PlayBook, BlackBerry, Apple, iPad 2, Nokia, Google, Android, Samsung, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, QNX, Neutrino RTOS, Tablet OS, 7-inch touchscreen, TI OMAP 4430, ARM A9 Cortex, WebWorks , Palm, webOS, WSVGA, 1024 x 600 resolution, HDTV, micro-HDMI, HD camera, Wi-FI, 3-megapixel, 5-megapixel, dual-core, tablet, video conferencing, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, Canadian, Keith Pardy, Lee Don-Joo, Jack Gold, J. Gold Associates
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