Monday, March 09, 2009

Woz dances, Barbie turns 50 and U2 dumps Steve Jobs

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.
Even though the U2 tour sponsorship is only one element of a broader, long-term marketing campaign, it confirms that RIM is playing for keeps, and is more than willing to spend top dollar to connect itself with other brands that members of its core consumer target market also find aspirational. It's also consumer marketing on a scale that RIM previously hasn't done - which in and of itself is confirmation that the company understands and internalizes how important this space is to its future growth.

Your turn: Predictions on how Woz will do on DWTS?

* Plural BlackBerry is spelled with an s. I checked.


Lynda said...

Loved Ken's report on Tattoo Barbie - hilarious!

Mojo said...

No testosterone-based life form should ever put on a pink satin shirt... ever! Clearly this was a scheme by PC and his cronies to portray Mac as a nantsy pants pretender in the computing market. I mean look at Mac, he's got that shabby chic Bohemian vibe going with the just faded enough jeans, the sleeves rolled to the elbow, and a perpetual 2-day beard... face it, women are swooning and it's been well documented that they are the ones driving the purchasing habits of the average American household. And if you think that's limited to the supermarket and clothiers, it's time to wake up and smell the silicon. (No "e"... because, damn.)

And if Steve-O is making his debut tonight, he'd be outta luck even if I were mildly interested (which I'm not) since he'd be competing with the Hurricanes-Rangers matchup that could be a crucial game in determining the final 8 in the Eastern Conference.

I'm gonna miss that to watch a flailing middle aged engineer in a pink shirt?


NJ said...

Carmi, My daughter who went to school for and works in the Media Industry totally agrees with you on the reality tv stance. In fact, when she was home I was never allowed to watch Reality Tv because it was killing her industry. Actually, this was when she was a student and an intern not a real employee. The funny thing is that the first opportunity she had to work on a real live tv show was on a "reality" tv show. So she knows just how much "reality" goes into a "reality" show.

Are you sure Barbie really dumped Ken? Is this maybe just a rumour? I don't believe it.

Anonymous said...

So if U-2 are working for their new sponsors, does that mean they now have a Rim-Job ?

Sonny Bono

kenju said...

I have to disagree with you on the dancing show. It may not need writing skill, but it does take skill - and I am sure Woz was hired for comic relief. Surely he doesn't have any talent in dance? A couple who have skill and grace and perfect coordination on the dance floor is a thing of beauty and I, for one, appreciate every nuance of it.

Wendy said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't like reality T.V. Never liked Barbie either. Too fake. Too plastic. Now give me a cabbage patch doll any day!

kcinnova said...

I'm continuing my avoidance of "reality shows."
There was a girl named Barbie in my high school who looked like a Barbie Doll.

Robin ~ PENSIEVE said...

Ummm, Carmi...can we still be friends? I l.i.k.e. DWTS... I l.i.k.e. The Amazing Race... I l.i.k.e. American Idol.

Differences aside, fantastic assessment on the U2/RIM partnership. Though I'm a spectator watching from the distance, I can't imagine there's any stone left uncovered. Score one for the techie ;).

Pamela said...

I enjoyed watching him on the ballroom floor.

That is one of the two reality shows I watch.
Reason: They really do have to commit and work hard. It isn't an easy "reality" to those who join "Dancing With The Stars."

me said...

"Old U2 fans now wear suits"...amen brother!