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All Things Internet™ since 1999


How RIM can save RIM from RIM

I’ve been noodling a ton of thoughts about RIM these past few weeks. I originally wrote this in a text document almost two months ago. Reading this week that RIM might be abandoning their tablet plans, I’ve gained faint hope that they might save themselves. In light of this, I thought these scribbles might live better here on my blog, even in an unfinished state. I may have more to add to this, but don’t stay awake waiting for updates :)

Here are my rough thoughts on what RIM could do to save their business…

Fork RIM

RIM needs to fork – employ a two prong approach. Pursue Government and Enterprise (G&E) separate from consumer. Their G&E approach should be exactly what they are doing now. Work it hard, milk it. Don’t expect it show material growth, but don’t underestimate its ability to churn cash.

Separately, go hard at consumer. Focus on three things and three things only – worldclass handset, worldclass OS and 6-10 worldclass apps.

6-10 Apps

Cede the “Blackberry” moniker to your core market and build a complimentary new brand to go after the consumer handset space. Don’t listen to a thing the carriers tell you about this brand. You want to do one thing and one thing only with this brand – use your BBM base to build a brand based on Social Mobile. What is social mobile? Think of what apps like foursquare, Color, Twitter and Instagram promise – now think of the core features of these services as hooks in an operating system backed by powerful cloud services operated by RIM. Social Mobile Messaging (BBM), Social Mobile telephony, calendaring, pictures, etc. Build out your own apps, publish the APIs to those apps and use those APIs to foster a new developer community. Don’t force these new apps to run on your aging network – this is the time to adopt the standard networks that everyone else is using for their message transport – consumers don’t care about the level of reliability and security that using RIM’s network offers G&E customers.

Worldclass Handset

Build an incredible handset that you can offer direct and unlocked to customers for $300. Not $300 subsidized on a three year contract only via a carrier, but $300 period. Don’t compromise on its design, function or performance. Do what you have to do with the time you’ve got to make a meaningful impression on this market. Make it easy for them to buy your phones, promise next day delivery at no extra charge when they buy two or more. Make a deal with Amazon to bundle in eMusic and eBooks (two services that you promise me you won’t care about because you need to worry about your core business and not being a media mogul) in exchange for them carrying your handsets globally – on their home page. They’ll do it – they need friends just as much as you do when it comes to competing with Google and Apple.

Worldclass OS

QNX will get you there but for the love of everything holy, PLEASE STOP SELLING TABLETS! Its a distraction. You are not Apple. You’ve got too many fronts open right now and you’re not winning with anything. Lock down your focus on protecting G&E and building out your consumer business. Focus consumer on smartphone apps, handsets and OS and getting them out the door as quickly as possible. Consumers care way less about Flash, batter performance and network security than they do that they’ve got awesome connectedness with their friends, family and colleagues.

And guess what, momentum in the consumer space translates into win’s in G&E. Corporate IT doesn’t call all the shots anymore. The days of completely centralized IT decision making are waning and as we move further into the post-PC world, it continues to become more and more of an exception (the last corporate issued phone I used was a Nokia 5190. Since then I’ve owned three berry’s, two Palm’s, a WindowsMobile device and four iPhones).

Get Jim and Mike out of the way

Jim – Mike, this section is special for you – get out of the way! You guys are ridiculously smart and successful but you are coming off like buffoons trying to play the hero. Take a more senior role – mentor people, guide them, lead them – but please, stop trying to force everything down a specific path. You need fresh blood at the top that can breathe life into your strategies. It isn’t 1999 and squeezing every ounce out of a battery or radio is no longer enough to win the day in the market. I know you know this, so stop acting like you don’t.

Don’t make the same mistakes you made with your sales and marketing in the G&E segments. Don’t organize around carriers or products – organize around customers – the real people that buy and use your handsets. Keep it small and nimble and let your people make huge mistakes quickly while they learn what they need to do to be successful in this space. Jim and Mike get huge props for getting the company this far, but just like everyone else, they aren’t the smartest guys in the room. Make room for the other smart people at RIM to get in on the fun.


Mobile Apps need more than Google, they need their own DNS

If you believe in markets, I think you’ll agree that Apps are giving people the best Internet experience on mobile devices. The rise of the app store is something that even Apple didn’t foresee – originally they launched the iPhone app-free and asked dev’s to embrace HTML5 development. That last about six months with Apple doing an about-face and native apps have been a juggernaut ever since.

The beauty of great apps is that they embrace the Internet and web and make it even more useful and accessible on mobile devices. Using the Internet as a back plane makes it trivial for these apps to move data around, share it with others and provide a really compelling experience. These apps are crippled without the Internet. Interaction with the web similarly improves the user experience that these apps provide. I really like the Facebook and Craigslist apps for exactly these reasons – they give me the web in a uniquely mobile way.

The downside of apps is that they aren’t all that discoverable. Every app store out there is basically just a directory that users browse through to find the functionality they need. Some folks liken this to how we used to find stuff on the web. We’d go to Yahoo!, browse their directory and click-through to a website that gave us what we were looking for.

I think this analogy misses the mark. Thinking back a bit further to the early days of the Internet, every Internet host had an entry in a central HOSTS.TXT file that was updated and re-published manually to every host operator on the Internet. If you wanted to connect a new machine to the Internet, you’d need to submit the details and the file would be updated and re-published before your new host would be visible to other operators. This replaced by a system we called the “DNS” which made it easy to publish new host entries which were automatically picked up by other hosts on the network.

Today, developers create apps, submit them to a centralized repository which is essentially manually maintained. User manually browse the app store by traversing its directory, hopefully finding what they need.

Creating a Google-equivalent for searching app space will only solve part of the problem. App developers also need the benefit of a strong, more decentralized app discovery mechanism. I’m not saying that this will replace some of the controls that App Stores exert on what gets published via their App Store (i.e. Apple), but rather, that once an app is registered with the App store, that App discovery becomes much more automatic. Essentially, we need a DNS for Apps that publishes machine readable app capabilities making it easy for machine to connect users to applications on an on-demand basis. In other words, apps need to become addressable, just like web sites and other Internet resources are.

How would this work in the real world? I think it ends up feeling a lot like App streaming. Using some great search tools, I tell the network that I want to play Angry Birds, and the app becomes available on my home screen. The App Store itself fades away, the installation of the app fades away – all of those extra interactions just get picked up and absorbed by the framework, much in the same way that DNS and Google absorb the hassle of searching for and connecting to third-party websites.

Some startup is going to get very rich with this idea. Properly executed, it will appeal to both Apple and Google and put someone in a really sweet spot in a bidding war.

Consumers will benefit as well. Apps will continue to evolve, and as the infrastructure evolves, the bright line that differentiates an App from a Web Site will fade away into the background.



I’ve been on a bit of a digital purge lately. I’m not sure what triggered this, but I’ve been diligently paring back what I do online to a much narrower range of activities. In the past few weeks, I’ve

  • deleted most of the apps on my iPad and iPhone, including G+ and Facebook. Twitter survived the cut.
  • removed all the shortcuts from my browser bar to sites like Hacker News, Techmeme, Facebook, etc.
  • ditched a ton of blogs from Google Reader, mostly the Mac rumour sites. Yeah, I get it. Apple is going to release a new iPhone. What passes for news with some of these blogs is pretty astounding.
  • dumped satellite TV and my 100 channel universe for an over-the-air antenna which gets maybe 15-20 channels on a good day. For free.
  • dropped Boxcar for iOS and Lion. As cool as it was to have all my my notifications show up on all my devices at the same time, boy was it distracting.

The effects are predictable. I’m finding it easier to focus and get tasks done more quickly. I’m also enjoying my leisure a bit more. Less time spent reading RSS feeds translates into more time reading books and writing – both of which I find immensely enjoyable. And of course, time with Rowan and Amanda isn’t interrupted nearly as much by silly things like G+ notifications and the like.


Ciào Facebook

You aren’t reading this on Facebook because I don’t want to play the Facebook game anymore.

I used to think that Facebook was great for sharing stuff with friends. It is, sort of.

Mostly though, Facebook just shares stuff with a small set of people that it wants to show your stuff to. Similarly, Facebook only shows you stuff from a small set of people it wants you to see. In its quest to make certain that its feeds and timelines are relevant, Facebook scores relationships based on how often we like stuff, comment on it, poke it, view it, share it and so on. Then it sort of guesses who your friends are and shows you and them stuff based on how you interact with it.

On paper, this is a really good idea. In practice, it just means that if we don’t want to play the Facebook game of friend, like, poke, view, share and comment, then we don’t really see anything interesting. Our brains recognize these game mechanics at some level, making it incredibly easy to waste way too much time poking and sharing and commenting – the more we do it, the better the Facebook experience is. It takes hours to achieve and maintain a reasonable level of quality in what you read on your wall.

I’m opting out.

I love my friends and family but life is too short wasting it poking and commenting and liking – Facebooking – just so I can see your updates on my wall. I’ll still check in from time to time, but instead of spending all sorts of hours trying to get Facebook to show me your stuff on my wall, I’m just gonna read your wall directly. I’ve created a nice list of bookmarks of the walls for people that I want to keep up with and I’ll just browse through that when I want to get a friend fix.

And in the meantime, I’ll be hanging around here…


(no title)

Thanks Steve.


Building a legacy: Gates vs. Jobs


(Update: I thought I should note that this was posted at 7:40am and was intended to be tongue-in-cheek – Steve Jobs was still alive.)


From the Vaults: Wherein I predict the demise of Palm


I’ve long thought that RIM, Palm, HTC and countless others are making a serious mistake in making the carriers their primary customers. The handset manufacturers live on the carrier subsidies – make no mistake, RIM sells to carriers, not you and me. Palm blew a unique opportunity to dodge left and sell a carrier-free handset when it introduced it’s Pre. They didn’t, and the rest is history.

From the vaults, June 11, 2009. Summary: Palm had an opportunity to sell a carrier free unlocked handset and didn’t.


Handicapping the CIRA Election: Part II, the results

Last week, I laid out my bets for the CIRA Board of Directors election. To recap, I predicted that the following candidates would be elected;

  • Kerry Brown
  • Eric Boehm
  • Bill St. Arnaud
  • Kevin McArthur

So how did I do? Well, the results are in and my predictions were half right. Kerry and Bill were both elected, but Eric and Kevin lost to Susan Mehinagic and Andrew Escobar.

Susan’s win was a surprise to me – not because she isn’t a worthy director, but because she came out of nowhere. This happens fairly regularly with the Nominating Committee candidates because of their recruiting and selection practices. All in, I’m pretty happy that I managed to pick two of the three successful candidates.

Not so on the members side. It was a really tough pick this year. I really thought that Frank Michlick and Kevin McArthur would do a lot better as a result of the support of their respective constituencies. I really thought the battle would go either way and that Rob Villeneuve or Marita Moll might come up the middle. I was right about Rob given his strong showing but I underestimated the degree to which Marita and Kevin would split the progressive vote while at the same time slightly over-estimating how many ballots Kevin would gain from the support he had from OpenMedia, etc. I also completely blew it when it came to Andrew Escobar, forgetting the fact that he only lost the 2010 election for the member seat by 4 ballots. Not sure if I would have called the results differently, but I would have at least mentioned him in my first post.

In any event, I think all the candidates did a great job, and I really appreciate everyone investing so strongly in this important process. And of course, my best wishes to all of the successful candidates.

The results broke down like this;

Nomination Committee Slate

  • Brown, Kerry 433 Elected *
  • St.Arnaud, Bill 352 Elected *
  • Mehinagic, Susan 312 Elected *
  • Gibson, Bill 294
  • Boehm, Eric 254
  • Evans, Gary 228
  • Vidal, François 210

Members’ Slate

  • Escobar, Andrew 215 Elected *
  • McArthur, Kevin 154
  • Villeneuve, Rob 112
  • Moll, Marita 111
  • Walton, Catherine 97
  • Williams, Tom 95
  • Michlick, Frank 62
  • Makuch, Greg 51
  • Aguiar, Reinaldo 43



The CIRA Board: Election results & Board diversity

The results from the CIRA Board of Directors election are in and I am officially no longer a member of its Board of Directors, having chosen not to stand for a 4th term. Congratulations to all of the successful candidates, and my thanks* to everyone that invested their time and effort running for this important position.

Here’s a look at the new board.

  • Paul Andersen, (ON) (exp. 2013)
  • Rick Anderson, (AB**)  (exp. 2013)
  • Kerry Brown, (BC) (exp. 2014)
  • John Demco (ex-officio)
  • Heather Dryden (ex-officio)
  • Andrew Escobar, (ON) (exp. 2014)
  • Jim Grey, (BC) (exp. 2012)
  • Byron Holland (ex-officio)
  • John King, Nfld (exp. 2012)
  • Rowena Liang (BC) (exp. 2013)
  • Louise Macdonald (PQ) (exp. 2013)
  • Susan Mehinagic (BC) (exp. 2014)
  • Barry Shell (BC) (exp. 2012)
  • Bill St. Arnaud (ON) (exp. 2014)
  • Victoria Withers (BC) (exp. 2012)

John Demco, Heather Dryden and Byron Holland are un-elected, ex-officio directors and live slightly outside the process that seats the rest of the directors. John holds his seat by virtue of his role as founder of the .CA registry, Heather is a representative of Industry Canada and Byron Holland is CIRA’s CEO.

From that list, here are some basic stats concerning board diversity. I excluded the ex-officio directors from the counts, because they are essentially appointed and generally remain unchanged and I show the province of residence of the director at the time they were elected.

  • 4 women, 8 men
  • 3 from Ontario, 6 from British Columbia, 1 from Newfoundland, 1 from Alberta**, 1 from Quebec.
  • Leaving the board are 1 director from Ontario, 1 from Manitoba and 1 from B.C – 2 were men, 1 woman.
  • 3 4 directors terms expire in 2012, 4 expire in 2013 and 4 in 2014.
  • 2 directors have served for more than two terms, 2 directors are entering or in their 2nd term, 8 directors are in or entering their first term (3 having been just elected)

I’d be really interested to hear whether or not the composition of the Board meets your expectations for the organization. Does the balance look right? What about the mix of skills? As the steward of an important public asset, I think we *should* have an opinion on such things – please weigh in with your thoughts!


*Some people might find it weird that I’d personally thank candidates in this way – it is important to me that Canada’s Internet community maintain a strong influence over this organization. The two most obvious ways for them to achieve that are to a) run for the board and b) vote in the elections. As a result, I always like to thank everyone who puts themselves out in front of the election and endures the ups and downs of the election process. I only really thank the voters when they are voting for me :-)

**Rick Anderson has relocated from Alberta to Ontario since his election, lessening regional involvement outside of Ontario and British Columbia.

Updated 10/4/2011 to correct John King’s term. He was elected in 2010 for a two year term to replace Margaret Gilmour who was elected, but not seated in 2009.


Amazon to hammer Home Depot in Canada?

B7155D34-A340-4756-B9E1-7744963F2728.jpgI was pleased to learn this morning that Amazon.ca is now carrying building tools and supplies. Not so much because I’m a huge buyer of tools or an Amazon fan, but rather, because Canada needs this sort of competition. With Amazon continuing to expand its Canadian offerings, retailers that were only half serious about their online offerings will have to step up their game or get out of the way. Home Depot online has always been a bit of a hassle and their prices really aren’t that great. A quick comparison of their prices and service with what Amazon is offering bears that out.

For example, take the Milwaukee 18 volt Hammer Drill. Home Depot lists it at $419. Add HST and shipping, and this drill will set you back $483.97.

4C7420A2-B989-4BE1-8867-CE72BDBBB891.jpgBy contrast, Amazon is selling it at just $398 and includes free shipping. The final price tag at Amazon is just $456.75 – a tidy savings of $27.22 over Home Depot.

E725D817-40B4-4609-9955-5E63DA9B5E38.jpgHome Depot has the advantage of its retail locations that give customers the opportunity to do some hands-on shopping and comparison. However I’m certain that for many items, the savings will be enough to compel many customers to do their browsing in Home Depot’s big box stores and place their order online after they’ve made up their mind to make sure they capture the savings that Amazon is passing along.