Category: RIM

RIM brings uber-BlackBerry P'9981 to Canada

Looks like Canada is finally getting the recognition it deserves as a market with more than enough well-heeled residents to justify its own Porsche Design store.

The first Canadian location for the high-end European design marque that takes its pedigree from the legendary sports car manufacturer, will open in Toronto on June 14th.

Beyond giving Bloor Street shoppers access to an exclusive collection of sunglasses, footwear and even tobacco pipes (people still smoke these things??) Porsche Design will be the only place in Canada where you can pick up the most expensive BlackBerry ever created: the somewhat blandly-named P’9981.

If this sounds familiar it’s because RIM actually debuted the angular smartphone months ago to a much more discerning crowd in Dubai.

At the time, I was irked by the Canadian company’s decision to ignore its home town (loosely speaking) instead choosing to go half way around the world to introduce their new gadget. But in hindsight, maybe it was the right decision. Given that the Porsche Design P’9981 retails for a cool $2,000 $1,800 you can’t blame RIM for wanting to test the product with a group of people who think nothing of spending that kind of cash (and more) on a single night in a hotel.

I’m no more convinced that RIM can justify the price on the P’9981 now than I was then, but it seems like now is an especially bad time for the company to be putting the focus on a high-end BlackBerry when clearly, a much different strategy is needed.

But hey, if you have an extra two grand lying around, and you’re in Toronto on June 14th, why not drop by 77 Bloor St. West – it will be the one place you can pick up the BlackBerry that is a guaranteed collector’s item: It will either be the last model before the company springs back from one of the worst chapters in tech history, or it will be a flashy reminder of the company that once had the tech world by the horns.

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RIM shoots… and scores on their own goal

NHLPA member and New York Rangers goalie Martin Biron demonstrates the fit of his goalie mask in a video created using a BlackBerry PlayBook

 

Update, Monday February 27: RIM and/or the NHLPA appear to have fixed the problem described in this post and all of their videos now look as good as the ones included at the bottom of the article. Thanks to reader Kyleigh for pointing this out!

Original post:

This is PlayBook 2.0 week, the week when everyone who owns a PlayBook gets the opportunity to upgrade their OS to a version that finally brings the 7″ tablet up to snuff with the other tablets on the market. High-fives all around right? Well, yes – and no.

Given the celebrations, it would definitely seem to be the right time to get the word out about the PlayBook with a marketing effort that speaks directly to consumers. And if it could highlight one of the great features of the PlayBook – like the fact it can shoot 1080p HD video from both the front and the rear cameras – something which it’s biggest competitor, the iPad 2, still can’t do -so much the better.

It was with this goal presumably in mind that RIM launched its partnership with the NHLPA – the folks who represent the professional hockey players of the NHL. The partnership has led to a new website where fans of the game can come to watch up close and personal videos of their favourite players, all shot using the PlayBook.

But this is where things take a nasty turn. The videos are horrible.

I’m not referring to the content. I daresay that NHL fans would happily watch any video that gave them a glimpse inside the private lives of their hockey heroes which the short video clips certainly deliver.

I’m talking about the actual video quality. They look like they were shot using a VGA-quality webcam and then streamed over Skype using a heavily throttled connection. The frame-rate appears incredibly low – I’d guess somewhere around 15FPS (video needs to be at least 24FPS in order to look smooth) and in many places the audio goes out of sync with the video.

In one of the videos, New York Rangers goalie Martin Biron shows off his new mask. He dons the mask and proceeds to shake his head vigorously side-to-side to demonstrate how well it fits. At least, we assume that’s what he’s doing. But if it wasn’t for the shaking sound produced by the neck-guard rattling, it would be impossible to tell: his masked face simply blurs a little -it’s like watching a high-speed train pass one foot in fr0nt of your face.

When you consider that the PlayBook is actually capable of some fairly decent video capture, it’s hard to imagine how these videos ended up looking so bad.

If I didn’t already know better through using a PlayBook to shoot video, watching these clips would not convince me to buy. In fact quite the opposite. Which is really a shame because OS 2.0 really is an amazing upgrade. From the new Mail, Contacts and Calendar apps which are all now native to the OS, to the clever social integration which lets you compile a contact’s professional, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn info all in one handy location – this update finally delivers on many of the promises the platform made when it debuted last year.

A part of me actually wonders if this ultra-low-fi video was intentionally created. Each clip starts with a very jerky animation of the NHLPA’s logo followed by a BlackBerry PlayBook. Unlike the videos that follow, you can tell this was a stylistic choice and not some limitation on the part of the designer. But why? Why create a series of videos that make your product’s capabilities look so inferior? For despite the PlayBook’s advantage in the resolution of its twin cameras, many viewers will wonder if the iPad 2 produces a better result.

I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps the intent was not to focus on the PlayBook’s video quality but just to generally get people talking about how cool the tablet is. But in the campaign’s inaugural week, the video is the only feature we’re given to discuss.

Or perhaps this is merely another indicator that RIM still needs to work as much on its marketing activities as it does on its products.

Check out some of these YouTube videos that have been shot with the PlayBook and decide for yourself if the NHLPA’s behind-the-scenes footage is a good testament to the device’s capabilities.

Can RIM come back from the brink?

To say that it’s been a tough year for RIM is an understatement.

Their BlackBerry PlayBook met with poor reviews on launch largely due to the absence of an email client and a near-non-existent app store.

Their aging fleet of BlackBerry handsets have seen their once dominant market position erode significantly due to pressure from Apple’s iPhone and the horde of Android smartphones that have entered the market this year.

Their shareholders are openingly questioning if the company should be split up and the co-CEOs replaced.

Last week, the company suffered one of its worst network outages ever, affecting millions of its customers worldwide.

And to top it all off, despite a late-year refresh to the company’s flagship models, the QNX-based handsets that are meant to be the company’s future, are still nowhere to be seen.

Yeah, it’s been a tough year.

But there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon, and today at 8:30 AM PST, co-CEO Mike Lazaridis will take the stage at BlackBerry DevCon in San Francisco to tell the world about what’s next for RIM.

According to an interview given to the National Post’s Matt Hartley by RIM’s other co-CEO Jim Balsillie, the company will have “leapfrogged everyone with what we’re announcing [on Tuesday] and you’re going to see it on display.”

Big words, especially given that general speculation is that no new hardware will be part of today’s announcement, leaving us to wonder if this brave new world is more about RIM’s network and software platforms than about creating more competitive devices.

You can watch the Lazaridis keynote as a live webcast.