I have got to admit that John Chen is a consummate professional, as he’s had essentially the thankless job of turning around Blackberry Ltd. after years of mismanagement and his predecessor Thorsten Heins’ ill-fated tenure in the CEO chair. I packed a Blackberry for the better part of 5 years while I worked in the southern apple fields and then for the New Jersey-ites, but me, I’m of the opinion that Blackberry is doomed and that it’s only a matter of time before the company is broken up and sold off in pieces as Apple and Google/Android continue to carve out the mobile industry between them. This is only partly about me, and the first part is about Chen.
He certainly hasn’t had a great time of it since assuming the CEO role in late 2013 but he’s stemmed the bleeding at the company, launched a handset that has at least some people talking about it, and has positioned the company to at least survive in the short term as a niche player. All smiling while at it too. About the only missteps so far have been the Samsung takeover news (he should have done better to keep that under wraps) and the suggestion that the US federal government force Apple to write an iMessage client for Blackberry devices to ensure net neutrality. So two little things but they generate corporate buzz for a company that definitely needs buzz.
And speaking of buzz, way back in autumn of last year, Blackberry received an unsolicited celebrity endorsement from Kim Kardashian.
There’s an adage that all publicity is good publicity, but in this case, I believe this is one of those “oh no” / “uh-oh” moments. Chen was very diplomatic in terms of this (Trojan [sic]) gift horse and rather than say, do a Thorsten and sign her up to replace Alicia “I tweet with an iPhone” Keys as Blackberry’s next creative director, he publicly stated that he would rather funds go to improve products and services. Interesting given that’s actually sensible, it defuses a potentially embarrassing situation, and it reiterates that at least Blackberry’s CEO acknowledges their offerings need improving.
The Kardashian Blackberry story is of course old very news now, except that the story now has a tenuous tie to me (!) after I was assigned one of these:
That’s right: it’s a bona fide Blackberry Classic. That’s the classic unboxing photo above and proof that it’s in my possession as that’s my hand below and the reflexion of my LX5 shooting the image in the Classic’s unpowered screen.
I never thought I would actually see one in real life much less use one. But it’s that whole hubris thing and how karma always seems to come back to bite you in the a$$. It looks very much like my last assigned Blackberry – the Bold 9900 – though that’s intentional because the Classic targets the ever-shrinking mass of Blackberry faithful. Feels like the Bold, but the screen’s a little bigger and the the software clunkiness is now in different places. Key point of importance: it is a corporate McPhone and I am not paying for the the data usage. Free LTE data usage.
It feels pretty strange to be going back to a Blackberry and there is a certain retro kitsch to it, in the sense it’s like the time that I opened a box to find my old 8-track player and tapes of Elvis and the Little River Band back when that Australian group was hip. The retro only goes so far, as I would want to limit say the return of bellbottoms, tie-dye leisure suits and women wearing ginormous shoulder pads and equally-large running shoes as part of their business attire.
And I too want to limit the Classic to its specific function, given that I don’t see eye to eye with the Kardashian in that I can’t see this being my primary communications device. Like I said, I still think Blackberry is doomed. While I do miss the SonyEricsson P990i that served me for so long, I fortunately now have a better personal phone so no I don’t need to rely on the Classic. And no, we’re not talking about you, LG Neon.
In the same vein as retro, what’s weirder is my relationship with Blackberry devices in general, because I’m also getting the whole déjà-vu thing (and not in a good way) just holding it and tapping at the keyboard.
When I was first assigned the Blackberry 8700 back in 2008, the US had a reviled lame-duck president serving out his second term, the world was entering the financial crisis of 2008-2009 resulting from the subprime mortgage bubble and the Greek sovereign debt, plunging oil prices, and the American president’s decision to prop up failing industrials and financials that should have been left to die, the Canadian dollar was trading around USD$0.81, AAPL was trading around $110/share, and I was kicking myself for not having enough funds to buy all the quality equities I wanted. I blamed the Harper Conservatives.
Flash-forward to 2015.
The US has a lame-duck president serving out his second term (though I think this one isn’t internationally reviled as the previous – the hate-on is only by Republicans), the world is entering a financial crisis due to plunging oil prices (which coincidentally fell 50%, or approximately the same amount they did back in 2008) and the Greek sovereign debt, the Canadian dollar is trading around USD$0.80, AAPL is trading around $125/share (okay, that’s post-7:1 split price), and I am kicking myself for not having enough funds to buy all the quality equities I want. I blame the Harper Conservatives.
The similarities aren’t just with the financial sector. When I had the Bold in 2012, I received not one but three calls on Election Day from Republican Party volunteers urging me to cast my vote for Mitt Romney as President, which according to them was perfectly legal for me to do in spite of my then and current status as a Canadian citizen.
With the Classic, I have already received a call from a Republican Party volunteer soliciting party funding and encouraging me to “help get the (Republican) Party message out”, again not listening one whit to my suggestion that securing the support of foreign nationals wasn’t necessarily the best use of her time.
So apart from that timewarp, the positive takeaway if there is one is that thanks to the Classic and its retro-Bold styling, it’s as if I’m almost (almost!) part of the Kardashian clan, except of course without having to actually be a member of the family.