Black­berry 10 launch a mat­ter of na­tional pride for Cana­di­ans

Com­pany to un­veil new op­er­at­ing sys­tem Wed­nes­day

Ottawa Citizen - - BUSINESS & TECHNOLOGY - MATT HART­LEY

WATER­LOO, Ont. • An­drew MacLeod ad­mits to hav­ing some open­ing night jit­ters.

It was one day last Oc­to­ber, and Re­search In Mo­tion Ltd.’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor for Canada was pre­par­ing to take the stage in front of 800 peo­ple at a packed con­fer­ence be­ing held the Sher­a­ton Cen­tre ho­tel in down­town Toronto.

For MacLeod, it was the first stop on a whirl­wind cross-coun­try tour that would take him to seven cities in an ef­fort to show off some of the features of RIM’s forth­com­ing Black­Berry 10 plat­form to Cana­di­ans.

It was the first time he would be demon­strat­ing some of those features. Af­ter the rough two years RIM has strug­gled through, he didn’t know how peo­ple were go­ing to re­act.

“We had peo­ple coming up to us when we got off stage and high fiv­ing us,” MacLeod re­called dur­ing an in­ter­view at RIM’s cam­pus in Water­loo.

“It was the first one, you don’t really know how peo­ple are go­ing to re­act ... we got off stage and peo­ple were shak­ing our hands and say­ing how glad they are that we’re do­ing this.

“It really speaks to how Black­Berry and RIM is per­ceived a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ently in Canada.”

Over the past two years, as RIM strug­gled un­der the weight of prod­uct de­lays, an­a­lyst down­grades and the re­lent­less rise of Ap­ple Inc.’s iPhone and Google Inc.’s An­droid soft­ware, many com­menters who wrote off RIM as des­tined for the dust­bin of his­tory drew con­nec­tions with Canada’s most re­cent failed tech­nol­ogy gi­ant, Nor­tel Net­works Corp.

On Wed­nes­day, RIM will fully un­veil Black­Berry 10 and the first two de­vices in its next gen­er­a­tion of smart­phones to the world, and across the coun­try, Cana­di­ans will be watch­ing to see how the home side fares as it stakes its claim at a come­back on a global scale.

“In the back of our minds there’s a lot of na­tional pride go­ing on here,” said Barry Cross, a lec­turer of op­er­a­tions man­age­ment and tech­nol­ogy at the Queen’s Univer­sity School of Busi­ness.

“For all the rea­sons that Nor­tel ran into their is­sues, I think there’s still a real Cana­di­ana per­spec­tive on this RIM story and Cana­di­ans are still hop­ing they’ll knock it out of the park and that this is just the first step that gets them back to be­ing, maybe not the big­gest player in the in­dus­try, but at least a com­pany of promi­nence that at­tracts some real at­ten­tion.”

Black­Berry is one of the most rec­og­niz­able Cana­dian brands on an in­ter­na­tional scale, and RIM’s his­tory is full of uniquely Cana­dian mo­ments, in­clud­ing former cochief ex­ec­u­tive Jim Bal­sil­lie’s seem­ingly re­lent­less pur­suit of a pro­fes­sional hockey team.

Although RIM of­fi­cials know that re­assert­ing the Black­Berry brand in the cov­eted United States smart­phone mar­ket will be key to the com­pany’s long term success, they also un­der­stand the im­por­tance of the Cana­dian mar­ket.

“Canada is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to RIM,” MacLeod said. “It is our home mar­ket, but it is also a very strate­gic mar­ket for us. We are very strong here, and I think we have a very unique re­la­tion­ship here with Cana­di­ans, that we treat with an end­less amount of re­spect, at­ten­tion and re­sources.”

As re­cently as 2010, RIM was the top smart­phone seller in Canada, out­selling Ap­ple’s iPhones and all other com­peti­tors, ac­cord­ing to data from In­ter­na­tional Data Corp. But in 2011, Ap­ple took over as the top smart­phone brand in Canada, and in 2012, Sam­sung grabbed the No. 2 po­si­tion, push­ing RIM into a dis­tant third. Still, Canada’s wire­less car­ri­ers are all gear­ing up for the launch of Black­Berry 10 as they seek to broaden their mo­bile of­fer­ings.

In RIM’s home­town of Water­loo, the com­pany’s in­flu­ence runs deep. Bal­sil­lie and his RIM co-founder Mike Lazaridis have both given gen­er­ously to lo­cal univer­si­ties and char­i­ties, while the com­pany pro­vides thou­sands of jobs.

“RIM put this com­mu­nity on the map world­wide as a tech cen­tre,” said Iain Klug­man, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Kitch­ener-Water­loo tech­nol­ogy in­cu­ba­tor Com­mu­nitech.

Around Kitch­ener-Water­loo, RIM and res­i­dents are al­ready gear­ing up for the com­pany’s moment in the spot­light on Wed­nes­day. Kitch­ener city coun­cil gave the green light to let RIM place Black­Berry ban­ners along city-owned light poles and a se­ries of events, in­clud­ing free skat­ing, has been planned for Wed­nes­day.

“There’s def­i­nitely a vested in­ter­est for the en­tire com­mu­nity to see the Black­Berry 10 be suc­cess­ful ... and we see col­lec­tively the feel­ing is that the com­pany is go­ing to turn the cor­ner be­cause the hype al­ready around BB10 is so en­cour­ag­ing,” said Cather­ine Fife, MPP for Kitch­ener-Water­loo.

GE­OFF ROBINS/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

An at­tendee of the Black­Berry 10 Jam World Tour holds one of the com­pany’s Dev Al­pha de­vices in Water­loo, Ont.

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