BlackBerry has committed some serious marketing miscues in the past, but we’re intrigued by its latest PR stunt. The company tweeted a mysterious still from its first-ever (and very expensive) Super Bowl ad and asked followers “Whaaat is going on?!” We’re not sure—a Care Bear explosion? The air in Beijing? In any case, we’ll be watching on Sunday to find out. Let us know your take on the BlackBerry Super Bowl commercial in the comments.
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Research in Motion is on a roll this month, with a BlackBerry 10 launch date announcement and share price upgrades by several high-profile analysts. Still, it wouldn’t be RIM without some bad news mixed in, and the latest is bad enough to imperil the budding comeback: Nokia has won one of its patent disputes against RIM, which could bar the company from selling BlackBerrys. A Swedish arbitration panel has ruled that RIM can’t sell devices that use a crucial patent for accessing wireless local access networks until it pays damages and royalties, and Nokia is taking RIM to court in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada to enforce the decision. An outright sales ban is one possible outcome, though it’s more likely the two companies will work out a settlement and royalty agreement, which could cost RIM up to $350 million a year. Not exactly chump change for a company trying to turn its fortunes around. [Toronto Star]
The New York Times started an online furor earlier this week with an article on the social shame of carrying a BlackBerry in a market dominated by Android phones and iPhones (even corporate clients are making the switch). In a manner akin to confessing their transgressions at an A.A. meeting, BlackBerry users are quoted describing the scornful looks they receive, and the indignity of relying on others to pull up maps, make reservations or search for restaurants:
“I’m ashamed of it,” said Ms. Crosby, a Los Angeles sales representative who said she had stopped pulling out her BlackBerry at cocktail parties and conferences. In meetings, she says she hides her BlackBerry beneath her iPad for fear clients will see it and judge her.
The three biggest corporate cash hoarders in Toronto (and what we imagine they’re doing with the dough)
Last month, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney accused corporate Canada of hoarding hundreds of billions of dollars of “dead money,” kicking off a heated debate over whether companies are being tight-fisted at a time when the economy could use a little stimulation. (Carney says companies should invest in Canada by spending the money or pay dividends to shareholders, while others say having large cash holdings is just prudent, considering that the global economic outlook is still far from certain.) The Toronto Star’s list of Canada’s top corporate hoarders includes three local (or semi-local) companies: George Weston Limited, Research in Motion and Magna International. Below, the answers they gave the paper—along with our own, speculative answers—to the question: What does one do with more than a billion dollars? Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
Word nerds, take note: ”BBM,” the abbreviation, noun and verb encompassing every facet of BlackBerry Messenger, is officially part of the English lexicon. Anyone who forgets how to spell it can now find the word in the Collins English Dictionary, in between BBL and BBQ (quite a nice spot, we’d say). That’s a happy bit of news for Research in Motion, but we can’t help thinking that Collins’s timing is a little odd—considering RIM’s future is looking bleaker and bleaker, the word may go out of use before too long.
With Apple’s billion-dollar legal victory over Samsung dominating tech news this week, we wondered how the outcome of the patent lawsuit would affect Research in Motion. Turns out we weren’t alone on that front. Here’s the consensus: the ruling potentially benefits RIM, Nokia and other companies that don’t use Google’s Android operating system. Basically, Samsung’s U.S. market share could falter as it faces a court ban on selling eight of its models there; moreover, other Android manufacturers will need to take extra time before releasing new products to ensure they don’t infringe on Apple’s patents (although, to be fair, most of the infringements were Samsung-specific). Finally, the ruling reinforces the value of tech sector patents, of which RIM owns a large portfolio. The main point of uncertainty for the Canadian tech giant is the same one that’s been plaguing RIM for months—namely, whether the company can get BlackBerry 10 out quickly enough to capitalize on this opportunity.
Research in Motion’s survival depends almost entirely on whether consumers will buy the BlackBerry 10 smartphones now set to launch in early 2013. And consumers’ interest in doing so will rest not only on the phones themselves, but also on whether RIM can get software developers to create apps for them and wireless carriers to generate some pre-launch hype. The company has made some baby steps on both those fronts of late. Yesterday, RIM held a preview of the phones in Waterloo for developers, who mostly seemed impressed with the company’s new app-building process. And RIM has also started talks with North American carriers—during which it reportedly handed around some prototype BlackBerry 10 devices and received a “visibly enthusiastic” response. That has to be the most positive reinforcement the company has had in months.
A rumour runs through the tech world every few months that handset maker Samsung is thinking of licensing Research in Motion software or even buying the company outright. And every few months, that rumour is quickly quashed. Kicking off the latest round was Jefferies and Company analyst Peter Misek; he said that RIM is trying to revive discussions with Samsung about a licensing deal for the upcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system, and that Samsung may even buy RIM after BB10 launches. RIM shares rose more than five per cent early yesterday on the news, but—in keeping with the usual pattern—Samsung quickly announced it has not considered a partnership with RIM. (Someone send those excitable investors a memo.) [Globe and Mail]
Research in Motion launched the Canadian version of its PlayBook video store app yesterday, which means the growing contingent of Canadians who own the tablet can, at long last, rent and buy movies and television shows. The app functions similarly to Apple’s iTunes store, allowing users to stream trailers for free and charging roughly $5 to rent a current release blockbuster (users don’t even have to wait for the download to finish before starting to watch). The video library comes a few months after RIM launched a long-awaited upgrade with email and calendar apps. We’d say the PlayBook is finally getting close to what techies had hoped for when it came out last year. [Globe and Mail]