BlackBerry’s Windowless Van

Friday, October 11th, 2013

Once-popular BlackBerry phones have fallen out of popularity in the past few years, due in large part to the rise of iPhone and Android devices. The specifics of the company’s failures are detailed in a long piece by The Globe and Mail, which lists myriad issues, most notably simply not having next-generation hardware or software ready to compete.

In 2013, BlackBerry finally unveiled their Android- and iPhone-competitor, the Z10. It features a multitouch touchscreen, an eight megapickle camera1, and the BlackBerry 10 mobile operating system. On paper, at least, it looks like a reasonable competitor for the market leaders. There’s at least one major problem, however: BlackBerry’s marketing strategy.

Over the summer, BlackBerry chose to do a road tour. They rolled up into shopping plaza parking lots around the country and attempted to show off their new device. Their vehicle of choice for this was a windowless panel van, as seen below. They’d attach a few demo devices on the outside, then invite interested passersby inside for an in-depth demo.

BlackBerry's Windowless Van
That’s a little creepy.

If you look closely at the above image, you can see that I accidentally managed to capture one of BlackBerry’s reps skulking and/or staying out of the drizzle:

BlackBerry's Windowless Van
OK, that’s really creepy, guy.

Creepy or not, however, I was interested to check it out. So, setting aside everything my mother and after-school specials ever taught me, I voluntarily stepped inside their van to see the Z10. Suffice it to say that I was not impressed. In addition to the app selection being quite lacking compared to the market leaders, the device’s actual functionality was broken in many ways. It’s not surprising that BlackBerry has had to writedown losses on warehouses full of the devices, to the tune of $934 million dollars.

No, the device was not very good, and it’s unlikely that any amount of creepy vans could have saved it. Still, BlackBerry’s road show might have tried. Alas, they even failed at offering the proper incentives. Rather than claiming they had puppies or free candy, the van team handed out a “mobile screen cleaner”.

BlackBerry's Limited Edition Screen Cleaner
Extremely Limited Edition

Crappy though it is, I’ve made sure to keep mint in its original package. Hey, in a year or two, it’ll probably be more useful than an actual Z10.


Footnotes:

  1. After multiple reports, I need to add a note. This is not a typo. My life got markedly better when I stopped calling them “megapixels” and started calling them “megapickles”. Try it, you won’t regret it! ↩︎


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