Thorsten Heins: Please get your house in order before criticising others

By Peter Gothard
02 May 2013 View Comments
RIM CEO Thorsten Heins Keynote

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins has been headline-hunting in all the wrong ways recently as the company becomes increasingly defensive of its blundering BB10 relaunch.

I'm not going to bemoan BlackBerry again. I fear I'm already gaining something of a reputation for running the company constantly through the mill for sidestepping interview questions, woolly disclosure of sales figures and for mounting evidence that the BlackBerry 10 ecosystem isn't exactly proving a hit with UK enterprise.

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But honestly, I have nothing against BlackBerry itself. While the office's Z10 languishes in a cupboard, I have high hopes for the Q10. From what I've seen of it, it's the smartphone/Qwerty hybrid the enterprise world has probably been waiting for. If it ain't broke, etc.

The iPhone-baiting Z10 was an audacious thing to start off the BB10 campaign, and I'd imagine the more sedate, more traditional Q10 might stand a chance to sort things out.

Oh, but Thorsten! Stay those flapping lips, dear. It was only back in March - at the US launch of BB10 - the CEO called Apple's iPhone "outdated", citing a lack of innovation that's left Apple's UI "still the same", and "a sequential way to work... that's not what people want today anymore. They want multitasking."

Accusing the iPhone of now "just kind of sitting there" after being revolutionary five years ago, Heins was, disappointingly, just using drubbing the Apple smartphone as a jumping off point to big up the BlackBerry 10, rather than just offering the world a little objective critique.

In fairness, Apple has made its first quarterly profit dip in 10 years, so Heins isn't barking completely up the wrong tree, but the positioning of his comments - at the launch of a largely inferior product that came along five years later - is unwise, bordering on churlish.

It's just not the greatest strategy when the product you're championing turns out to be (oh, here I go again) as irksome, slurpy and weirdly configured as BlackBerry 10's interface, which contains the impenetrably silly crapshoot of information that is the BlackBerry Hub, and the Z10 device itself has the battery life of a Large Hadron Collider running on a single triple-A.

But Heins didn't even stop there. Yesterday, the news broke that the CEO has now declared that the tablet will be dead within five years. Perhaps he should remember there are tablets other than the BlackBerry Playbook - a woebegone machine if ever there was one.

"Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model," the CEO told Bloomburg, apparently with absolute sincerity.

From "committed" to tablets in 2012, to remaining strangely silent about them post-BB10 launch in 2013 - apart from when the UK MD was a bit cagey about them back in March - it's again a fairly silly idea to completely condemn a product you don't have a competitor with in the space. Whether it looks like sour grapes or simple misunderstanding, you'll look silly either way.

Apple may be seeing a dip in profits, but the company is selling more iPads than ever before. In fact, the only reason Apple is losing market share is because the market has exploded with other manufacturers jumping on, as every other Tom, Dick and Harry pushes them out, contributing to a boom which, while it will probably soon level out, is sure to normalise with solid, ongoing tablet sales rather than people deciding that they suddenly don't want to have a large, clear screen in the field, on a train or in bed.

It's hard to believe people will revert back to wishing to dock with a wall-mounted screen or monitor in every single space they happen to enter.

Again, Heins' words feel ill-thought, and just full of bluster.

Oh, and to cap it all, it looks like BlackBerry has canned its primary UK PR representatives, who masterminded most of the launch arrangements for BB10 on these shores, after a "worldwide review of its communications line-up". That seems to just about sum it up, really.

Please stop lashing out at everyone else, BlackBerry. Times have changed, you're not the top dog anymore, but going around rubbishing your rivals and making wild and outlandish claims about an industry you're proven to no longer understand isn't going to help matters. It's getting you column inches, sure, but not really the right kind.

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