BlackBerry wants an Apple turnover

The current CEO of BlackBerry, Thorsten Heins, seems to have swallowed, hook, line and sinker, the ancient adage attributed to Phineas T. Barnum which has it that "all publicity is good publicity". How else are we to explain the executive's latest public appearance wherein he told that august organ, the Australian Financial Review, that Apple is in decline because it has lost the ability to innovate?

OK, so BlackBerry is in a mess and fighting for its very existence but is surely behooves the CEO of the company to demonstrate a grasp of actual commercial reality. It's well, fine and par for the course to knock a rival's products, especially when the knocker-in-chief is in the run-up to the launch of new 'make or break' products into the all-important US market.

However, if the intent is to show even vestigial credibility as an industry guru whilst having a pop at a bigger and more powerful competitor from the heeling deck of a once-was tending to has-been company, saying that Apple's ideas are old and past their best is the wrong way to go about it.

Sure Apple's share price has declined in recent months. It never was going to sit there forever at the stock market equivalent of the peak of Mount Everest, but to write-off a company like Apple as a potential failure is absurd.

Apple is also under pressure from a surging Samsung and its superb new smartphones, but that's good. Competition is good for innovation, good for the consumer and good for the corporation and its shareholders - provided it get things right and supplies what the user wants and not what it thinks the user wants. Nokia tried that ploy and has since rued the day.

The reality of the situation is that between them Apple's iOS and Google's Android account for 90 per cent of the global mobile OS market. BlackBerry is in there with the pack of struggling also-rans that make up the remaining 10 per cent.

Thorsten Heins did admit to his interviewer that “Apple did a fantastic job in bringing touch devices to market. They did a fantastic job with the user interface, they are a design icon. There is a reason why they were so successful, and we actually have to admit this and respect that.”

Praise indeed, but then comes the inevitable censure. According to Mr. Heins, new handsets and other products from the likes of the aforementioned Samsung as well as HTC, Nokia and, (of course, lest, perish the thought, we should forget), BlackBerry, are more innovative than Apple's because Apple "has become complacent" with an operating system that "is now old in the fast-changing mobile market.'

He adds, "BlackBerry’s new mobile OS, BB10, offers features that are better than what iOS delivers, including an easier way to multitask, or use multiple apps at the same time." Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?

The CEO's next remarks show that, as for so many who live and work in North America, the experience can easily result in an irony bypass. Get this: “History repeats itself again I guess. The rate of innovation is so high in our industry that if you don’t innovate at that speed you can be replaced pretty quickly. The user interface on the iPhone, with all due respect for what this invention was all about is now five years old. The point is that you can never stand still. It is true for us as well.” Really? Who'd have thought it? Lo bleeding L.

One might ask Mr. Heins about BlackBerry's ill-fated PlayBook tablet and put that debacle into historical context alongside the iPad, but then as the English comedian Frankie Howerd pointed out, it's cruel to mock the afflicted.

Meanwhile and elsewhere, a man with a somewhat stronger hold on reality, John Scully, a sometime CEO of Apple in the 1980s and 1990s, says that if Apple is to maintain its momentum it needs to look to providing stripped-down, cheaper versions of its products to sell into the burgeoning emerging markets of the developing world.

In an interview with the Huffington Post Mr. Scully says, "They [Apple] are going to miss out if they don’t produce lower-priced products. Apple is now being challenged by the combination of Samsung and Google. Apple makes really good products, and Samsung makes really good products. It’s really a two-horse race."

Note that he makes no mention of BlackBerry in his rather more rational rationale.

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