by Nestor E. Arellano
In cartoons, sitcoms and some real life situations, when a man makes a mistake in a relationship, he usually tries to patch things up with a bunch of flowers.
A bouquet of free apps was Research In Motion’s peace offering to over 70 million BlackBerry users who were inconvenienced by an outage that prevented them from using the popular BlackBerry Messenger service. From Oct. 19 to Dec. 31, BlackBerry users can download $100 worth of pre-selected premium apps from RIM’s App World store, free of charge. The selection, which ranges in price from $5 to $15 each, includes apps such as Sims 3, Bejeweled, Texas Hold’em Poker 2, and Shazam Encore. Enterprise customers also get a month of free tech support.
“This is something we would like to offer as a form of thanks,” said Jim Balsillie, the company’s co-CEO.
The BlackBerry outage in October seemed like another black eye for the Canadian company that has already been on the ropes of late. The service disruption could not have come at a worse time for RIM which is struggling to compete with Apple’s iPhone and the slew of Android-powered smartphones.
But against all odds, RIM managed to pull out of its sleeve this brilliant move. One tech magazine that took an online poll of its readers right after the outage, found that 43 per cent of BlackBerry using readers intended to switch phones. After the apology and peace offering, that number dropped to 37 per cent. Eighteen per cent said they appreciated the gesture and would stay with RIM. Another 25 per cent said they were not thinking of dumping RIM anyway.
RIM was able to handle extremely well what many other businesses struggle with when their company is put on the defensive. It managed to convey to its customers a sense of regret for its shortcomings and also let affected people know that RIM was prepared to make amends.
In a way the free app offer also focuses attention of RIM’s App World encouraging BlackBerry users to browse through the store’s inventory.
And this is why I find it hard to understand how RIM could have still messed up such a splendid play.
Just like many of the company’s moves these days, RIM appears to be behind the curve once more on this one.
For one, Balsillie and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis could come out in public to address the outage earlier rather than four days after it began.
Then there is also the matter of the release of the apps themselves. RIM’s announcement said the apps would be released on different dates between Oct. 19 and Nov. 30.
Why make people wait that long to get their hands on the full compliment of giveaway apps. I would shudder to think of what would happen to the poor guy trying to appease an upset significant other by saying: “I’m really sorry about what I said. I got this long stem rose for you, I actually got a dozen but I’ll give them to you one at a time for next few weeks.”
Kye Husbands, one of our regular bloggers and co-founder of MyCellMyTerms, believes the move will “resonate” with BlackBerry fans, but he too is puzzled about the drawn out process. “I’m a BlackBerry user but they’ve lost me on this one. Next week is too late. By then, I’m no longer interested about the offer.”
RIM could perhaps have considered giving BlackBerry users more choices.
One TV morning show host questioned the choice of offering free apps. “I’ve already got the apps I want on my phone. Why not offer me something else like a premium smartphone case?” she said. Okay that’s probably not good advice. We all know the flack Apple got when it offered free phone cases to alleviate the iPhone 4’s signal problems.
If Apple was able to pick itself up from that fiasco and even peddle the iPhone 4s to its fans, I think RIM has got what it takes to weather this one out. But it has got to speed up its reaction time and repair its brand fast.