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Is it too late for Blackberry to learn from Apple?

With a massive plunge in the value of the company, is it a foregone conclusion that Blackberry is on its way to being dead/buried/bought out, or is there still time for it to learn from Apple?   If it was to open its ears and learn something new, what would the most valuable lesson be?  KitGuru can think of one thing.

When the iPhone 4 launched, the biggest queues were outside Apple stores. The queues seen, first hand by KitGuru, were quite stunning. In a technology market that’s supposedly on its knees, hundreds and hundreds of people were ready to wait for hours – only to be told “Just 2 phones each” when they got to the front.

That’s an Apple official, telling a ‘ready to pay anything’ customer, “Sorry, we will only take £1,000 of your money – if you want to spend more then you will have to come back”.

Rory O'Neill, Blackberry VP for Marketing in Europe, Middle East and Africa - stands ready to take full responsibility for the lack of demand in his region. But would it not make more sense to turn the situation around? Come on Rory, try!

Within spitting distance of any Apple store, there will be a Carphone Warehouse. The ones KitGuru visited around the iPhone 4 launch were desolate places. Bored sales staff looking around, wondering what they would be doing for commission that month. The deals in Carphone Warehouse were cheap and phones were in plentiful supply – but no one was interested.

If you were Rory O’Neill, Blackberry VP for Marketing across EMEA, then you might want to stop taking the blame for one of the most spectacular collapses in brand value the world has ever seen… and consider, for one second, why the customers were queuing outside the Apple store, while the providers footage was without footfall.

Apple sells phones.

It seems to be that simple.

While every high street reseller is prepared to bleed you dry with overly complex contracts – designed to make your wallet weep from the pain of constant paying – Apple sells phones to intelligent adults and lets them design how they want to connect them.

Buy an Apple iPhone 4S for less than £400 from a reputable reseller and, if you so decided, that would be the last bill you ever face.

Try and pick up a Blackberry 9900 without being engaged with a 2 year contract at £40 a month that will cost you, as a bare minimum, £960, and you can see where we’re coming from. iPhones bought cleanly from Apple, are not under contract, so you can stop using it at any time – sell it to someone else – or simply pick up a different SIM if it suits you.

Sure, the App Store is impressive, the voice interface neat, the camera class-leading and the software doesn’t keep bashing you with Blackberry’s “Sorry, we’re out of memory and will have to shut this browser window” message – but it’s the fact that the product can be bought and sold, that caused the queue outside Apple’s own stores when the rest of the high street was loaded with locked-down product.

Even cheap providers like T-Mobile, still want almost £1,000 and a 2 year sentence. You get less time for GBH. Will Rory O'Neill and his cohorts wake up and smell what they're shovelling - before they get buried under it?

Ironically, when interviewed about the future at a recent comms show in Dubai, Rory spent his 15 minutes of fame explaining how the most important thing was innovation. You know. The stuff that RIM was famous for 10 years back and which Apple is famous for now. He loves the idea of companies getting closer to their customers. While he has been running marketing, his efforts certainly seem to have helped Apple get closer to Blackberry customers.

KitGuru says: While it is admirable for Rory O’Neill to take responsibility for a total lack of demand being generated in the market for his products, it might not be terminal. If Blackberry stops right now, takes a step back, and honestly asks itself what customers really want. Otherwise, Rory & Co will find themselves as a brand within a real company, instead of a company in their own right.

Comment below or in the KitGuru forums.

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