Stormy Experience

I had an opportunity to work with a BlackBerry Storm phone for a client the other day. Granted, I believe it was an “original” Storm (which was widely criticized when released but later updates helped fix some issues), but let me just say it really made me appreciate the iPhone so much more. I’ve played around with Storms before, but this particular time I had to enter in a lot of text. And it was basically the difference in the ease of typing that was most glaring. It is really difficult to explain with words how difficult it was for me to type with the Storm, but suffice to say it is evident just how much effort Apple has put into making the Touch OS as user-friendly as possible. For users who have only owned an iPhone or iPod Touch, they may not appreciate or even realize the attention to detail that goes into making their devices as simple and easy to use as they are. Luckily for me I have used many smartphones over the years. I have experience with a lot of different designs so I have a feel for good and bad designs. Still every once in a while I have an experience like this that surprises me.

This experience made me realize something else. In the 3 years since the iPhone was released, the interface has remained almost identical. Yes, there have been improvements, but for the most part it is the same interface as it was in 2007. Contrast this to the phones from BlackBerry, Palm, and most recently Google. Each of those vendors have released several different phones, with different names, each with different hardware interfaces (for example hard keys vs soft keys) and with many differences in software interface. Apple has had 3 total phones. At quick glance, it is hard to distinguish them, especially the 3G and 3GS phones. And that’s the beauty of it. Apple gets it. People don’t care for or necessarily need an excessive amount of choices. Build it and they will come (but build it right the first time – unlike the Storm). And from a marketing standpoint, it is so much easier to promote a singular concept (the “iPhone”) then a mess of devices that all have different features.

Mac-berry at Last!

Hot off the virtual presses, RIM has announced that they will be releasing a Mac version of their Blackberry Desktop Manager software for the Mac in September. You can read the full announcement on the Official BlackBerry Blog.

For as long as the BlackBerry has been in the market*, the lack of Mac support has been a glaring omission. Mac users have had to resort to various 3rd party utilities to sync their BlackBerries with no support from RIM.

Two things to consider: Is RIM introducing Mac support in an effort to head off the growth of the iPhone in the ever increasing base of Mac users? And will this introduction make more businesses consider the Mac?

As more users are switching to the Mac, the lack of support for the BlackBerry could be leading to those users switching to the iPhone as well. It would be interesting to find out if RIM has any data bearing this out. By introducing Mac support, they may figure that users can keep their BlackBerries when they switch to the Mac.

In contrast, those businesses who are heavily vested in the BlackBerry platform may have been holding off on considering the Macintosh due to the lack of Mac support from RIM. Now that RIM will officially support the Mac, those businesses may now take another look at the Mac. Interestingly, I’ve read studies that show Mac users are more likely to buy an iPhone. So wouldn’t it be ironic if by supporting the Mac, RIM is opening the door for more iPhone sales?

On a related note, I wonder to what extent the complete lack of BlackBerry support (along with lukewarm support from Palm) over the years played into Apple’s decision to create the iPhone. Perhaps the moral of the story is that those tech vendors who don’t support the Mac run the risk of Apple deciding to make their own competing product.

*I have a long history with the BlackBerry. I visited the (then small) RIM production facility in Canada back in 2001 as part of an evaluation for Anheuser-Busch (where I worked at the time). This was during the time of the original BlackBerry device, which was shaped like a large pager and was an e-mail only device. However, it was very advanced for the time and in part due to the evaluation our team performed, A-B started deploying the BlackBerry across the company. When I left the company a year later, one of the hardest things I had to do was give up my BlackBerry.

Newspapers and the News

I was listening to the radio this morning and heard a segment discussing newspapers and people’s awareness of the news. The host had read an article in a newspaper stating that 18 to 25 year olds were not aware of what was going on in the world around them, perhaps due to the idea that this demographic does not read newspapers and if anything, selectively gets their news from the Internet. The radio show took 2 random callers and asked them questions about current events in the news. Both callers were very well informed about current events. When asked, neither caller said they read newspapers. Also interesting is that one caller said she never watched televised news, the other rarely. Both callers said they read most of their news on the Internet, with one caller stating she also reads it on her Blackberry.

Of course, this experiment was far from scientific, but it does point out the trend that newspapers are becoming less relevant today, at least in the actual paper form. It also shows that rather than dumbing down society, the ease of information flow that the Internet has enabled may actually make people more aware of current events. Perhaps what we will learn as society transitions to getting their information from the Internet instead of mass media is that the medium makes a difference in whether people are willing to invest their time to receive the information. Just like students who are bored with traditional classroom environments don’t learn very well, when they are presented the same information in an way they find interesting, they are much more receptive and retain the knowledge.

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