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Insiders: RIM hugely split on BlackBerry PlayBook marketing

updated 12:30 pm EDT, Fri September 30, 2011

RIM divided on PlayBook focus on home, pro users

RIM had an large internal rift over how it would pitch the BlackBerry PlayBook, executives slipped out on Friday. Traditionalists at the company, such as co-CEO Mike Lazaridis, wanted to sell the tablet as a business companion, the WSJ heard. Rivals, however, wanted it to more directly chase after the iPad and focus on games, movies, music, breaking out of RIM's usual mold.

The company had been committed enough to the professional route that it had drafted a "Go Pro" campaign with its ad agency and planned to use New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as one of the spokespeople. Enough disagreement existed, however, that the company dropped the project and the agency. The March exit of Keith Pardy, its chief marketing officer, may have been connected to the division.

Among the problems Pardy was trying to combat was RIM's alleged obsession with marketing hardware specifications and solely around the products, a problem not unique to RIM but potentially more acute. "Hundreds" of pitches were made that were rejected, one executive said.

Some traces of the split are visible in the company's marketing. Although it regularly emphasizes video and other features, the marketing campaign has often proclaimed that the PlayBook is "professional grade" and that "amateur hour is over." For many, the statements are considered ironic given that the device was rushed to market without native e-mail or calendars and isn't considered fit for business by some of those tracking its sales.

The company has regularly been accused in the past of being reluctant to acknowledge that the mobile market had shifted away from the corporate-heavy focus from before the iPhone in 2007. Along with being slower to adapt its sales, much of its public attitude has been detached. RIM's executives have sometimes been chastised for regularly referring to carriers and corporations as its customers, not actual end users, reflecting a difference in philosophy with Apple and Google.

Supporting earlier tips, informants said Lazaridis was reluctant to acknowledge any need for now commonplace non-work features such as cameras and music playback. Sprint, still one of its more loyal partners, has been worried that RIM wasn't keeping pace with what the public wanted.

Some signs are emerging that the company is learning to change its strategy. Phones unveiled this year, like the BlackBerry Bold 9900, are finally competitive in performance and have media features that other platforms have had for years, such as 3D gaming and HD video. RIM also plans a PlayBook 2.0 makeover that will finish the OS and add a movie service. Next year, it plans to unveil its first phone based on the same basic QNX roots as the PlayBook and should get a device with much more capable multitasking and media features as a result.

In the meantime, RIM is currently facing one of the bleakest sales periods in recent history. The sales results for BlackBerry 7 devices like the Bold 9900 and Torch 9860 are still pending. With just 200,000 PlayBooks sold and a steep drop in BlackBerry phone sales, once-new Apple now ships roughly twice as many smartphones and 23 times as many tablets. Android isn't faring well in tablets but has an even larger collective share than Apple in phones.

By Electronista Staff


  1. hayesk

    Professional Poster

    Joined: Sep 1999


    And they think they're not in trouble?

    It's sad how delusional that company is. They really need to get their stuff together.

    For the record, it should have been pitched as a business companion, but it needed software and infrastructure to back it up. RIM should have provided cloud services, data analytics, etc.

    It doesn't help seeing the tag line that says "the professional tablet" and then on launch day, all they said was "Lookie here. it comes with Need for Speed!"

  1. climacs

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Sep 2001


    don't bury RIM yet

    things look bleak now but if the stock plunged to $10, I'd buy. I think they'll come back eventually but things are going to be painful for a while.

    If I wanted to compete with iPad... the first thing I would do is NOT position as an iPad competitor. It's been tried many times and each time the wanna-be has gone down in flames. Now, anyone who comes along and positions their tablet as an iPad competitor just looks like an idiot before anyone even bothers to take a look at their tablet.

    Instead, do one or two things really well (like Amazon's Kindle or B+N's Nook), establish a market, then build on that.

    For sure, the market for expensive ($500 and up) tablets is a lock for Apple. Nobody can compete with them, whether it's price or performance or mindshare. But there's certainly a space in the market for a less-expensive tablet which does a lot of things well, just not everything the iPad does. Just like how an iPad does many of the functions of a notebook computer, just not everything one can do.

  1. johncarync

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2002


    Stupid Ads

    "Hundreds of [ad] pitches were made and rejected."

    Really? They rejected hundreds of pitches before they came up with their ad for the PlayBook? That's sad because every time I see their PlayBook ad, I think about how dumb the ad is. They tout how powerful the multitasking is but who in the world wants to watch a movie WHILE playing a driving game WHILE watching a music video?

    On the other hand, having TWO CEOs seems to be working great for them ;-)

  1. Foe Hammer

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Feb 2005


    Never Confuse Research In Motion ...

    ... with research in action. Unless you meant research inaction.

    "RIM had an large internal rift over how it would pitch the BlackBerry PlayBook."
    - An easy underhand lob to the dumpster ought to suffice.

    "Rivals, however, wanted it to more directly chase after the iPad and focus on games, movies, music, breaking out of RIM's usual mold."
    - A little Clorox Bowl Cleaner will take care of RIM mold.

  1. Foe Hammer

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Feb 2005


    Read That Again ...

    "RIM had an large internal rift over how it would pitch the BlackBerry PlayBook."

    - So they made a product before they decided what people would do with it. Two heads aren't better than one.

  1. makuribu

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2004


    Back to the drawing board

    RIM insists it isn't abandoning the Playbook. They should, though. If they come up with a standalone Blackberry tablet that satisfies somebody (anybody...), the Playbook can go down in history as RIM's Newton. If they insist on wasting resources on this dead end mongrel, they'll lose any chance of convincing any of their existing customers that they should be taken seriously. That would be a real shame, but if the Titanic's two captains insist on full speed ahead, well, they are bound to find that iceberg pretty damn quick. Man the lifeboats! Ready the golden parachutes (for the big guys), and apportion double rations of blame to the underlings...

  1. SockRolid

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Jan 2010


    Painful to watch

    Never owned a RIM product, so I don't have any attachment to the company. But it's still painful to watch RIM's slow descent into oblivion. The denial, the flailing, the double-talk, the bad ideas, the bad execution, the catastrophically poor sales, the lack of vision, rinse, repeat.

    Yet more proof that when things are going well, you don't notice terrible management. Profits cover all sins. It's only when thing are going badly that the weakest link(s) is/are revealed. Lookin' at you, Balsillie and Lazaridis.

  1. facebook_Jeff

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Oct 2011


    Blackberry = Business; not consumer

    RIM is suffering because they went after Apple and entered into the consumer ring, which they know nothing about and which they were never expected to know anything about. The Playbook should have also been focused solely on the business market. Their products and software are seen as being behind technologically because they've forced the market, both business and consumer, to measure them against Apple, which it simply cannot compete against. They need to pull all of their consumer-based marketing, products, and software, and get back to trying to regain and re-own the business market. And maybe change their name to Blackberry, too. Unbelievable.

  1. facebook_Gary

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Oct 2011


    thats 200k for last quarter

    RIM has sold 700K PlayBooks total, the 200K numbers are for the last quarter only.

  1. facebook_George

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Oct 2011


    First things first

    RIM should first produce a competitive, re-engineered modern operating system and cell phone BEFORE it moves on to a tablet. The iPhone and iOS have been available since 2007 and RIM still doesn't even have an answer to these advancements, much less a tablet. Steve Job's teachable moment: create one great product and then build on it.

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