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RIM radio interview goes bad, as boss refuses to answer the question, “What did you learn from the iPhone?”

When you’re Research in Motion, and have effectively been squeezed out of the smartphone market by Apple and Google, the question of what the company has learned from its primary competitors is going to come up in interviews. It would be wise, then, to have an answer prepared; after all, a lot of potential customers are going to be comparing your new products against the iPhone and many Android phones after today, so a few hints at where BlackBerry 10 differs wouldn’t go amiss.

Sadly, in an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, RIM Europe’s Managing Director, Stephen Bates either didn’t have an answer in his pocket or more worryingly, has accidentally admitted RIM has learned absolutely nothing from its competitors. Bates was being interviewed about BlackBerry 10, which launches later today, by well-known British radio host Nicky Campbell who posed the question, “What have you learned from Apple?”

Pretty straight forward question, right? Not for Bates, who stumbled for a second before replying, “So, BlackBerry 10 is a unique proposition…” After not receiving any form of answer, Campbell pushed again, asking, “Have you learned anything from the iPhone?” The response? “This market is a great market…” Blah, blah, press release copy, blah. The interview continues for another two-and-a-half minutes, where Bates continues to not answer the question, or indeed say anything about BlackBerry 10’s benefits, unique selling points or how it differentiates itself from the competition.

Embarrassing, and a missed opportunity

You can listen to the whole, embarrassing three minutes here, and it’s both highly amusing and terribly worrying at the same time. We’d be surprised if anyone listening and hearing about BlackBerry 10 for the first time will be inspired to seek out details later on, or try to find a new BlackBerry phone in the shops. The impression the interview gives is that BlackBerry is the same business focused, dreary option it has been for the last few years. Worse still, BlackBerry 10 sounded boring, and RIM clueless about what real people want from a smartphone.

No companies, especially ones in the midst of a make-or-break relaunch, can afford to ignore the competition – or at least, give the impression of doing so. Apple slings lawsuits at its enemies to undermine their products, Samsung makes TV adverts which poke fun at the iPhone and Apple’s clientele, and Google fills its competitors phones with its own, super-popular apps. We’d be surprised if RIM hadn’t been studying the iPhone, iOS, Android and the Galaxy S3 to see what makes them so popular; so why not admit it? It’s sales 101 – an opportunity to tell the world how much better and/or different BlackBerry 10 is from the rest.

Our experience with BlackBerry 10 has been good, and RIM is obviously working hard to make it a success, making careless interviews like this one doubly as frustrating to hear. Let’s hope Thorsten Heins does a better job of selling BlackBerry 10 during the global launch event later on today.

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