Monday, January 26, 2009

RIM's new reality is a nightmare to come

Today I was stunned by a report by Engadget, citing a WSJ article on the BlackBerry Storm.

As you might remember, I was not that positive about the device. I hold it in my hands for two minutes, I tried the new "soft" keyboard and gave up on it completely. Too hard too press, no visual feedback. Just a good idea turned into a bad product. Or a bad idea turned into the right thing?

Apparently, WSJ reports that the Storm did not fare that well. Good sales at the beginning, then flat. I am actually more interested in knowing the numbers of devices returned and exchanged for a Bold. I am ready to bet they are super-high.

In a word: the Storm has been shipped too early and with no real user testing (that's my opinion, of course).

What shocked me is the comment in the article:
Now, instead of pleading for mercy at the feet of disgruntled consumers, RIM co-CEO, Jim Balsillie, calls the post-launch scramble part of the "new reality" of making complex cellphones in large volumes.
If this is the "new reality" for RIM, then they are headed for disaster. A company that has always been known for reliable products. Not shiny, not cool, but reliable. Something you can count on, even if you are the President. Now it is turning to just building software (and hardware) quickly, with minimal user review. "We'll fix it later" attitude...

I think this is suicide for RIM. If the CEO says to his people "do not worry, ship it with a million bugs, we'll fix it later", you are guaranteed it is going to happen. It is not reality. It is going to be a nightmare.

You can compare this attitude with Steve Jobs maniacal precision. The iPhone came out of the gate as a great product. Few quirks in the distribution of the device in the shops (to increase the buzz) but a great product from the get-go. Improved quickly via firmware updates. Somehow, people value this...

What if you do not have a CEO that is a maniac? Well, there is open source. Peer pressure, bug reviews, a transparent way to ship software is the key to good software. And good software makes happy customers.

There is a reason why Google and Nokia chose open source vs. proprietary for Android and Symbian. It is not just cost. It is quality. Something that you get, even if you do not spend your precious time on it. The community will do it for you. They will keep you honest. They will give you tremendous feedback and set the bar right. You might slip a deadline (maybe) but the result will be an excellent product.

Good products, happy customers, great sales, big returns. It is that simple.