updated 05:05 pm EDT, Tue October 19, 2010
RIM's Balsillie hits back at Apple on 7-inch slate
Outspoken RIM co-chief Jim Balsillie accused Apple of deception today in a response to Steve Jobs' attack on seven-inch tablets and touting the iPhone's win over BlackBerry in the summer. He claimed Jobs was spinning his stereotypical "distortion field" and insisted that seven-inch slates like his own BlackBerry PlayBook would be a major force in the market in spite of Apple's success with a near 10-inch design. The Canadian executive also echoed Adobe's line and claimed that users wanted Flash to see the "overwhelming majority" of websites, arguing that Apple was simply trying to control the language of the market to its own ends.
"We think many customers are getting tired of being told what to think by Apple," Balsillie said.
RIM's joint leader went so far as to charge Jobs with lying about the reasons for the iPhone sales spike in summer. He suggested that the jump from 8.4 million iPhones sold in spring to 14.1 million wasn't sheer demand but solely "padded" by a backlog of orders. Rather than accept that Apple was using RIM's last confirmed figures, he suggested that Apple should look to the less certain outlook for RIM's September through November quarter, where it it hoped to move 13.8 million to 14.4 million BlackBerry phones. The summer quarters favor Apple since September usually sees a spike in phone sales but wouldn't have been factored into RIM's latest fiscal quarter, which ended in August.
He also had no issues taking another shot at Apple's claims of widespread antenna issues among smartphones and argued that Jobs had a history of conveniently omitting unpleasant truths.
"As usual, whether the subject is antennas, Flash or shipments, there is more to the story and sooner or later, even people inside the distortion field will begin to resent being told half a story," the co-CEO said.
The claims carry some weight but also come based on assumptions for the company's future. The PlayBook isn't due to ship until the early part of 2011, unofficially in March, and will likely only ship by the time an iPad with camera features and similar performance is either shipping or has been announced. Apple's iPad sales were lower than expected in the summer at 4.19 million, but these were mostly constrained by supply and are expected to go up now that Apple can better keep up with demand.
Apple has also noted that iPhone demand and sellouts haven't slowed down despite increased production. Historical trends may work in its favor, as it saw an increase in iPhone sales last holiday season and is likely to beat RIM's estimates in the fall as well as the summer. BlackBerry designs for the fall are known to be very conservative designs, as even the Torch and Style are using two-year-old processors and screens that have already existed on similarly aging models.