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.
If this phone had been built by anyone other than RIM we might be reading about it in glowing terms with words like “sleek”, “elegant” and “sophisticated” being used to describe it.
But poor RIM can do nothing right these days it seems, even when it partners with iconic design house, Porsche Design.
What you’re looking at is the latest addition to an already crowded BlackBerry model line-up, the P’9981. But don’t worry, you aren’t likely going to see too many of them in stores or even on the street, unless that street is Yorkville Avenue in Toronto or Rodeo Drive in L.A. That’s because the Porsche Design P’9981 is not for you and I. It’s for people who are willing to spend a lot of money for something exclusive, even if there isn’t a shred of new technology under the hood. Because despite the re-worked exterior, the P’9981 is basically just a Bold 9900 in every other respect. RIM doesn’t plan to sell the P’9981 through any of the usual channels, opting instead for the exclusivity of Porsche Design stores. How exclusive is that you ask? Well, let’s just say that if you’re Canadian, it requires some cross-border shopping.
And again, if this had been built by VERTU, a luxury phone maker owned by Nokia, or perhaps a Korean company looking to do something special for the Asian market, no one would bat an eye. But we’re talking about RIM. A company that has had serious network outages, slipping market share, a poorly received tablet, a new operating system that has no launch date and a music service that has yet to see the light of day. So naturally, people hate this new handset.
I disagree. I’m not enthralled by the price – in fact I think it’s completely unjustified. But this BlackBerry is a thing of beauty. I’ve long been a fan of the Porsche Design team and their various products (everything from pens to coffee makers) and the P’9981 is unmistakably Porsche. From its super-clean lines to its flush, full-width glass screen and the all-stainless look – it’s sexy.
So what baffles me about the product is not so much the price (ludicrous) or people’s reaction to it (predictable) – it’s the way RIM chose to tell the world about it. Sorry let me re-phrase: the way they chose NOT to tell the world. At least not the North American press.
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Try to find an article on this phone in the major media from Canada or the U.S. and you’ll come up with little or nothing. Why would a Canadian company like RIM go out of its way to exclude Canadian media from this product launch?
Was it an oversight? I doubt it. Were they experimenting with the power of a virally-driven launch to see if it would get better coverage than a conventional press release? Nah.
I think RIM is embarrassed by the P’9981 and were kind of hoping that no one over here would notice. Which is why the launch of the phone took place in Dubai. A place that is nearly half a world away from Canada geographically, and in an entirely different universe economically.
Is the midst of one of the worst recessions in memory the right time to launch a phone for the uber-elite? Is now the right time in RIM’s history to be focused on style over substance? No. It isn’t.
Is the P’9981’s conspicuous excess a sign that RIM has lost what focus it once had, or is it merely another bump in an already pot-hole ridden highway?
Perhaps RIM should have asked Porsche for a Cayenne instead of a P’9981. They could do with a little extra clearance.