RIM CEO Thorsten Heins must have had smoke coming out of his ears when he read a New York Times article on Monday entitled The BlackBerry as Black Sheep.
His company is struggling, for sure, but he’s hoping it can turn things around with the launch of its next-generation operating system, BlackBerry 10, early next year. Until then, he needs to hold on to his customers, and prevent the company’s image from being bashed about any more than it is right now. His heart will have sunk when he read the NY Times piece.
It pretty much ripped into the phone maker, interviewing users who had apparently become embarrassed about pulling their BlackBerry phone out of their bag. “I’m ashamed of it,” said one, who claimed to hide her device under her iPad for fear of being judged by clients.
Another said she wanted to “take a bat to it,” which, let’s be honest, seems like something of an overreaction when it comes to feelings about a mobile device. There were a few favorable words towards the end of the piece from a BlackBerry owner called Mr. Fenton who said he couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about when it came to the iPhone, but in case the reader might start to think that perhaps RIM’s phones weren’t so bad after all, the article finished off with someone called Mr. Mindel laying the boot in, saying, “I’m considering removing my BlackBerry battery, pouring in cement, and using the BlackBerry as an actual paperweight.” You get the picture.
So imagine Heins in his office earlier this week, NY Times in hand, reading this article. Of course he wasn’t going to let this go without saying something. He hammered out a response and on Wednesday the newspaper published it.
In his letter, Heins accused the publication of lacking “the balance your readers expect,” before going on to explain that carriers and partners around the world have recently told him “there are millions of BlackBerry fans out there who not only find great value in their device, but also pride in being a BlackBerry owner.”
He says that he takes reports of dissatisfaction among BlackBerry users very seriously, adding that he was encouraged by the supportive comments received in response to the NY Times article.
After trotting out a couple of stats, Heins ends his letter confirming that RIM is on track to deliver BlackBerry 10 in the first quarter of 2013, and offers thanks to “the customers who have remained loyal to the BlackBerry platform.” He also says RIM is looking forward to “winning back many who have left.”
Heins is all too aware that having nothing to show for at least another 10 weeks gives BlackBerry bashers ample time to keep on bashing, and that what RIM must do is keep current users on board while trying to put a positive spin on a very difficult situation. Of course, there will be those who say RIM has done a decent job of beating itself up in recent years with various PR blunders and missteps, but Heins is steering the ship now and is doing everything in his power to save the company from collapse.