Friday, September 22, 2006

RiM's home run

Regular readers know that I think Research in Motion is one of Canada’s great entrepreneurial success stories. The funny thing is, although high-end consumers have always loved its Blackberry, email devices, RiM’s technology has never really been respected by the geek gods of high tech.

Until now. RiM’s recent release of its consumer-oriented Pearl phone/email device/MP3 player is hailed as a home run by no less than the New York Times’ storied tech analyst, David Pogue. (You can read his full review here.).

Although he has some concerns with RiM’s intuitive-but-not-always-right keyboards, Pogue calls the Pearl a pearl. “It's a beautiful, black-and-chrome, incredibly tiny slab. At 4.2 inches by 2 inches by 0.6 inches, it's much smaller than a Treo, Sidekick or Motorola Q; you've eaten candy bars bigger than this phone.”

But Pogue notes there's nothing small about the Pearl’s feature list: “colour screen, speakerphone, two side buttons that you can program, Bluetooth 2.0 (for wireless connections with laptops, headphones and cars), and so on. Some features appear on a BlackBerry for the first time: a camera (1.3 megapixels, with flash), memory-card slot, voice dialing, movie playback and a music player that can keep the tunes going while you work in other programs. Four instant-message programs are built in (AOL, Yahoo, MSN, ICQ). And this phone runs on the GSM cell network, which means that (for an added fee) you can use it overseas.”

His closing lines are everything RiM could have hoped for: “In the end, the Pearl is all about the sweet spot; for such a wisp of a thing, it's an awful lot of machine. Considering how many things it does, and how well, you may be amazed to learn that no laws of physics were broken in the making of this phone.

Congrats to RIM for getting it right – again. And for putting Canada on the personal technology map.

PS: I heard in Waterloo recently that the stock-option plans of many RiM employees are becoming fully vested (or are soon to be). That means that a lot of very talented people could soon be no longer tied to the company by golden handcuffs.
While I don't wish an exodus on RiM, I do hope some of its best and brightest will consider starting their own businesses. Just as IBM, Microsoft, Bell Northern and Nortel have all been fertile incubators of future entrepreneurs, RiM could generate a wave of entrepreneurial innovation. That would be good news for Waterloo, Southern Ontario, and, quite likely, the whole telecom world.

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