Aug 10

BlackBerry’s little dream world

In this world, dreams and aspirations come in every size and shape.

Look hard enough and you’ll find a brain surgeon who wants to be a toreador. Or a truck driver who wants to be a nun. Maybe even a BlackBerry that dreams of being the life of the party.

Well, that’s weird. Here’s that BlackBerry now. AT&T just started running this ad for the new Torch. They sum it up like this: “Business, meet fun. Fun, business.”

It’s a curious approach, because business and fun have not only been meeting for three years — they’ve been shamelessly involved in a wild, passionate affair for all to see. It’s only RIM, maker of BlackBerry, who’s been watching from afar.

But let’s mind our manners, and first lavish this commercial with the creative praise it deserves. It’s tremendously cool. The concept is fantastic. The production is first-rate, the soundtrack is quirkily fitting, and I smile every time I watch it.

Unfortunately, this Torch ad is in serious danger of proving an old marketing adage. That is, nothing kills a bad product faster than a great commercial. Drawing a large crowd can be fatal if the crowd is largely disappointed.

No matter how you twist your reasoning, it’s hard to escape the basic fact: Torch ain’t fun. In fact, it’s shockingly un-fun when compared to iPhone and Android. On the day it was released, it was panned for its underpowered processor and undersized, low-res display (Gizmodo: “like going back to standard definition after a year on HD”). If apps are any indicator of fun, iPhone offers 225,000, Android 100,000 and BlackBerry only 8,000 — most of which aren’t even compatible with the BlackBerry 6 OS at the core of Torch.

Seemingly determined to prove the fun, those mirth-makers at RIM have done just the opposite. They’ve shipped Torch with a version of the 20-year-old arcade game, Sonic the Hedgehog. (Engadget: “the experience is abysmal. Slowdowns, garbled audio, horrible controls. It’s actually kind of sad.”)

Given the grim reality, Torch’s sluggish initial sales are understandable. During opening weekend, there were no lines and no sellouts. Total sales were only a small fraction of what iPhone and Android have seen.

Comparisons to Torch’s competitors are so one-sided, AT&T can’t possibly be talking to the general public with this ad. They have to be talking to long-term BlackBerry customers who have the itch to upgrade, but are being distracted by those flirtatious newcomers. If this is the case, they really mean to describe Torch as “relatively fun.” Compared to the humorless old BlackBerrys many of these people are carrying, the Torch is a laugh riot.

In the end, Torch is a stopgap measure at best. It can only hope to stem the tide of BlackBerry defectors, but clearly it has no hope of stealing customers from iPhone and Android. That’s bad news, considering iPhone and Android are rolling in cash by stealing customers from RIM.

Clearly RIM needs to be less concerned about the party clothes, and more concerned about what’s beneath.

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  • Synthmeister

    And they cut the price in half after four days. If that ain’t funny, I don’t know what is.