Ed. note: It's been a somewhat hectic day in Pitkinville, so apologies in advance for the hodgepodge nature of this entry. I'm chewing through some deliverables and not having much luck. So I figured a quick bit of blog-writing might jumpstart my brain. Let's roll...1. Steve Wozniak is going to be on Dancing With The Stars. Please make no mistake about my position on so-called reality television. It makes me ill. I'm saddened that the entire television landscape seems to have been wiped clean of actual writing, acting and producing and replaced with endless streams of derivative, staged and contrived tripe. Yet when the guy who built the first Apple personal computer and essentially turned what had previously been the domain of the hobbyist into the domain of all of us puts on a pink satin shirt and flails his not-quite-Jack-Lalanne-esque body around a dance floor, I feel compelled to watch.
2. Barbie turns 50 today. The queen of plastic, the meanie who dumped poor Ken, the character who, depending on your perspective, either freed little girls from a life of domestic hell or set back women's rights for decades, was "born" a half century ago. The CTV's Tom Walters - one of TV-dom's most erudite observers of the human condition - aired this unbelievably hilarious report on the national newscast last night.
3. RIM sponsors upcoming U2 tour. This matters because up until now, U2 had been shilling specially-branded iPods for Apple and will now be accepting sponsorship dollars from the BlackBerry maker. It's like a Hatfield marrying a McCoy. Or at least sharing his music collection with her.
Since I play a tech analyst on television, I've fielded a few inquiries from journalists covering the story. After looking at at all the e-mails I've been shooting out, I thought they'd make a nice consolidated blog entry. Here goes my Carmi's Analyst Perspective on the U2/RIM Hookup:
I was pretty impressed by the sponsorship announcement, as it further validates RIM's move into the consumer market. In the entertainment world, it doesn't get any bigger than U2. That RIM was able to seemingly wrest U2 away from Apple makes it an even bigger coup. This is a symbiotic relationship, and U2 would only sign on with a partner that can help it advance its own branding as well - something that bodes well for the future of the BlackBerry platform in the eyes of consumers.
It's significant on a number of levels. A few key points come to mind:
- BlackBerry for all. RIM's been growing its consumer credibility since first crossing over with the introduction of the Pearl in September 2006. This continues this process, which in many respects represents the future of the BlackBerry franchise.
- Better BlackBerrys to come*. All BlackBerry devices introduced since then have been multimedia-capable insofar as being able to surf the web, play music and videos and support multimedia applications, but it's fair to say that the user experience was and is far less rich and integrated than on pretty much any iPhone or iPod. The RIM/U2 partnership announcement speaks specifically to upcoming innovations on that front.
- iTunes for BlackBerry? I would expect RIM to be actively working on the kind of tight hardware/software/online store integration for the BlackBerry that iPhones currently enjoy with the iTunes and online App Store. This will ultimately mean a form of software that seamlessly supports purchase, acquisition, synchronization and management of content.
- Old U2 fans now wear suits. In going with RIM, U2 connects itself to another potential audience. After years of shilling for Apple, they've pretty much exhausted their message to the Apple-buying audience. The RIM deal shifts the rock band's marketing efforts over to an audience that grew up on U2 - average BlackBerry demographics skew older than average iPhone demos, after all - and is now primed for a more focused marketing push. Had U2 stayed with Apple, they would have simply been preaching to the already-converted.
- All consumers. All the time. The U2 sponsorship reinforces and extends RIM's already-heavy investment in the Life on BlackBerry image marketing campaign. Major television ad buys - including for the Super Bowl and subsequently during prime time - have deepened the brand's visibility in the all-important consumer market. This latest announcement only solidifies this process.
- Winning in two sandboxes. Among smartphone vendors, RIM continues to lead in its ability to remain credible to core enterprise customers while rapidly growing its consumer channels as well. This is a tough balancing act to maintain, and only RIM seems to be pulling it off these days. This is especially crucial as the economy continues to drag, as the resulting diversity gives the company yet another hedge against slowing subscriber growth.
- Online store = the future. The upcoming BlackBerry Application Storefront will be crucial in turning this marketing halo into sustainable end-user interaction and revenue. Just like iTunes for iPhone and iPod-based music and videos and the App Store for the iPhone/iPod touch applications, the BlackBerry storefront will open up rich capabilities to a broader base of everyday or casual consumers who don't want to wrestle with multiple download services and applications to acquire, load and manage digital content on their devices. Apple's figured out how to deliver a seamless experience for consumers and developers, and how to generate solid cash flow in the process. RIM's ability to do the same is essential to turning the marketing promise of deals like the one with U2 into a sustained boost for its bottom line.
Your turn: Predictions on how Woz will do on DWTS?
* Plural BlackBerry is spelled with an s. I checked.