RIM

There's little doubt that the once bulletproof Research in Motion (RIM) is now in dire-straits with their current lineup of BlackBerry devices--such a down fall has given Microsoft leg room to vie for third in the smartphone category worldwide. To combat their current downward trajectory, RIM is betting a lot on 'BlackBerry 10', but now the company has revealed that their next-generation OS and hardware won't be ready till late 2012. That delay has caused their stock to plummet, dropping 77% in the last year (12% just on Friday) and in addition, has caused many investors (and consumers) to lose faith that the company can recover.  Palm was in this same position with their transition from PalmOS to webOS and they didn't live to tell the tale. Microsoft too was in a similar position back with Windows Mobile--but Microsoft has other businesses and mobile, while important, is not make-or-break for the company.

Some investors have called for RIM to sell itself off or at least its patents. Others have called for their buyout, with some suggesting even Microsoft would be a good suitor (we're not convinced). Now, Evercore Partners, an investment banking advisory firm, is calling on RIM to adopt Windows Phone for their OS:

"We now believe that RIMM needs to adopt an existing ecosystem (Windows Phone) in order to remain a relevant player in the smartphone market"

Or as CNN put it, RIM needs to become the Canadian version of Nokia. Granted, Evercore is but one firm suggesting this but that is usually all that is needed to get people (and people with money) talking. We're not sure of the feasibility of such an adoption in the long run, but you have to admit, if RIM to did announce next week that they were switching to Windows Phone OS, they would certainly get a huge boost in their stock as a vote of confidence (or perhaps just relief). Microsoft too would gain much more gusto as they would have secured yet another prominent and reliable hardware partner--one with an outstanding reputation.

So while we don't see this actually happening, we sure do like the sound of it. In fact, it sounds a lot better than Microsoft buying RIM. We say let RIM live on,  but with another ghost in the machine.

Source: CNN Money; Image credit: Crackberry.comThanks, Paul C., for the tip!

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To fight off the inevitable, RIM is looking to expand into security services to other mobile platforms which they hope will add some much needed cash to their dwindling reserves. The service, called Mobile Fusion, is expected to launch in Q1 on iOS and Android. Citing security concerns and their robust history of delivering device management via their NOC servers, RIM is looking for a new angle in the mobile industry. The new service will allow "...corporate IT staff to set and monitor rules for passwords, apps and software on a range of devices" and will also add remote find, lock and erase features.

"We will take full advantage of whatever security capabilities are provided by the core operating system. We're not going to hold that back in any way, shape or form."

Windows Phone is currently not on their plans for support, but they do note that if there is enough demand, they will certainly consider adding Windows Phone. That's fine for RIM and we're glad they're moving beyond smartphones, which is clearly not their forte anymore. But do we really need their services? We suppose from an IT perspective, if they can control iPhones, Androids and Windows Phone with all the same "switch" that my be a good sell, but obviously Windows Phone has a lot of this already built in via the Find My Phone feature. private Marketplace for app distribution and Exchange support.

So RIM, thanks but no thanks for reinventing the wheel. Still, Windows Phones does need beefier security (device encryption, etc.) which RIM can't fix as it's too deep in the OS. So Microsoft, we're looking at you.

Source: Reuters

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Funny how different things can be in two yearsr on the mobile front.

Early last year, Palm was still Palm, teetering under competition, but then got a life-saver by being purchased by HP. Of course that turned out to be a disaster and now Palm, webOS and that company's legacy seems to be sentenced to irrelevance. Symbian was still controlling large swaths of the market as was RIM, makers of the enterprise-friendly BlackBerry.  In fact, just two years ago, RIM was sitting in first place with a whopping 42% of the device market. Now in late 2011 in the US? Just 9% according to the latest numbers from Canalys.

Things are so bad for RIM right now that its stocks, valued at US $18.91 a share, just dropped below their book value of $18.92. Book value roughly translates to "cash, inventories, real estate and intellectual property minus its liabilities" (according to the Sydney Morning Herald). Yup, the stock is worth less than what the actual company is valued at. And even that valuation, especially in patents, may be over-stated according to some, due to their age.  RIM does supposedly have a trick up its sleeve: BBX, its new mobile platform. But all signs point to it not only being delayed but underwhelming as well, much like the PlayBook.

Microsoft was and some would say still is, in a precarious situation analogous to RIM. But Microsoft launched Windows Phone 7 just over a year ago and by all accounts, it's a critical success (that has yet to materialize into solid market share). But it also has a successful ecosystem with Windows, Office, Exchange, Xbox, Kinect  and its myriad of cloud-services. In other words, Microsoft can literally afford to lose money until the world wakes up and their mobile OS takes off. RIM? Not so much as they have no other source of income.

So in that sense, it's no surprise to hear calls for RIM to be chopped up and sold off, like a foreclosed home to the highest bidder (see CNet) There is no faith that RIM can pull itself out of this hole, catch up and over pass Microsoft, who now have spiritually become the third major mobile OS. The tone has shifted in the last few months, can you hear it? It's due mostly due to the successful launch of Windows Phone 7.5 aka "Mango"--people now mention Windows Phone in the same breath as Android and the iPhone. BlackBerry or webOS? Not at all. A year ago, we had to wave our hands to get attention from the big developers, but no longer. Remember the blitz this summer? And with Nokia and Skype on board, things are only looking better.

Sure, two years from now we could see another massive restructuring of the players involved. But we're betting Apple, Google and Microsoft will be the only three names mentioned in mobile, with RIM retired along with webOS and Symbian. From RIM's failure to successfully compete comes Microsoft's entry as the third-way. What's more, Microsoft is poised to go even further in the next few years as its "three screens and a cloud" vision becomes a reality. Here's looking at you, 2015. We can't wait.

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Last night we reported on how Microsoft was giving away 25 Windows Phones to frustrated Blackberry users (and later expanded to iPhones), who were in the midst of a near worldwide disruption of RIM services. Today, after more than 1,500 well thought out responses to the question "Why do you want a Windows Phone?", twenty-five winners were announced, including their reasons.

Here are the top five:

  1. Jon404: @BenThePCGuy I'm sick of drinking the Apple Kool-aid! I need some Mango to take the taste away ;)
  2. mattymorgs: @BenThePCGuy with #iOS still stuck on its bubbly look from 5 years ago, #windowsphone is the true 'Think Different' of UI style today.
  3. jdnorthwest: @BenThePCGuy As a frustrated #DearBlackberry user I was shopping the Bellevue @MicrosoftStore yesterday for a #windowsphone
  4. sweeneyben: @BenThePCGuy #DearBlackberry my Storm2 was great if I went back in time, but is so outdated, with poor service. I want to go back to Windows
  5. joegaus: @BenThePCGuy i want a #windowsphone because only Beyoncé Knowles' beauty can compare to those DAMN SEXY LIVETILES

What's even better is Microsoft via Ben Rudolph, will be giving away a Windows Phone once per month using the same criteria: send a story about why you want (or need) a Windows Phone. Then, they'll turn that story into a blog post on the Windows Phone Blog. Seems like a decent enough idea!

Congrats to all the winners! We hope you enjoy your new OS, in fact we know you will!

Read more at the Windows Phone Blog.

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In another great publicity stunt, Microsoft, via Windows Phone evangelist Ben Rudolph, is giving away 25 Windows Phones to those with the best BlackBerry stories of why they are frustrated with the company and their phones.

In case you didn't know, RIM is undergoing some serious issues right now with their BES Email and BIS service, where customers are experiencing major issues world-wide. It's been so bad that the company had to hold a press conference to address that matter (and which did little to alleviate any concern). Needless to say, this is doing nothing for RIM's image nor their plummeting market share and stock.

So it's nice to see Microsoft taking a dig by trying to get a few users to switch over. While 25 is nice, we say Microsoft should aim a little higher though, to really drive the nail in. But that's us.

Read all the coverage on the RIM outage here at our sister site, Crackberry.com

Source: @BenThePCGuy; via @BillCox/@manan

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The J.D. Power and Associates' latest US customer satisfaction survey has displayed some interesting findings. Apple is first in the results, which is perfectly understandable as every iOS user has either a household full of Apple products already or are simply satisfied with Apple hardware. No matter what you think of Apple as a company or iOS (and OS X) as operating systems - Apple makes killer hardware.

HTC is second, thanks to the successful injection of handsets running Android. What will be interesting for HTC is the customer satisfaction potentially rising with the Titan and Radar, which are both beast devices. Unfortunately for RIM, they're well below average and are in between LG and Motorola (now Google) and will not help the cause with investors calling RIM to sell itself or patents. Nokia are last, could this be due to Symbian (among other factors) and not the actual hardware? Only time will tell with their launch of Windows Phone handsets.   

Source: Engadget

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We all know what happened with webOS and HP and before that Nokia's Symbian, but what about RIM's BlackBerry? Like Palm, they too were on top of their game just a few years ago but with Android and the iPhone everywhere these days, RIM is taking a beating. Their stock has lost almost half their value this year and things are not looking that much better with their "next gen" QNX operating system.

Now Jaguar Financial Corp. is publicly calling on RIM to either sell itself off or its patents "to boost investor returns". While Jaguar's exact amount in investment in RIM is not known, they are considered to be a major player and can evidently gain headlines when they throw their weight around. Either way, it's never a good thing when your investors are calling on you to get out of the game.

Companies have been in the same position as RIM before--Microsoft just two years ago and Palm before that. While Microsoft's story is yet to be finished, they have certainly fared better than Palm, who was bought out by HP and then subsequently had their hardware killed off, leaving webOS without much of a future. Which route will RIM go? We can't help but notice that they don't have a large developer ecosystem, a desktop OS, a gaming platform or any other source of revenue--the exact opposite of Apple, Google and Microsoft. To that end, we don't see RIM holding on much longer as they won't be able to make a dent in the all important consumer market.

So would Microsoft buy RIM if given the opportunity? Ballmer seemed lukewarm to the idea back in January, but perhaps if the price is right and those patents are for sale they'd change their tune.

Stay tuned...

Source: Bloomberg/SF Gate

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Seesmic says bye-bye Blackberry

The title says it all.  The developers of Seesmic, quite possible the most versatile social media client, have decided that they will no longer support Blackberry.  As of June 30, they will focus on what they call their "most popular platforms: Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7."

This isn't terribly surprising, as RIM has fallen way behind in the race for smartphone greatness.  The market that was once overwhelmingly business-driven has gone the way of mass consumption, and Blackberry is not in a position to keep up.  Despite their push to develop apps to attract more multi-media heavy users and their recent Bing integration, it looks to be too little too late.

If you are a social media user (aka, a living, breathing human being) and you have not tried Seesmic, you should definitely check it out.

Source: Seesmic

 

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2011 has an interesting twist separating it from years past: RIM, despite still holding on, clearly is wandering aimlessly in the consumer smartphone market. Their OS is old, not very appealing and despite numerous attempts, they've failed to really 'wow' anyone recently. They sort of reflect Microsoft with Windows Mobile 6.x.

Still, they have killer reach in enterprise and a solid, nearly world standard for email distribution. Considering Microsoft is sitting on $40B in reserves, why not make a bid for RIM to either take them out or integrate their tech? Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer was recently asked this by Maria Bartiromo:

Q: What has stopped you from making really bold bets on technology? You've got more than $40 billion on the balance sheet. If you want to have substantial market share in smartphones, why not just acquire Research In Motion, maker of the BlackBerry?

A: We've made bold technology bets. We've bet on the Cloud and our Enterprise business; it's going fantastic. We made the bet on Xbox; we made the bet on Kinect. We bet on Bing and are growing like a weed in that business. So I feel pretty good about the bets. When do acquisitions make sense? That's a complicated subject.

Not exactly a specific but when tied into the rest of the interview it begins to make sense: Ballmer really believes in Windows Phone 7 noting

There's a lot of competition, but we've got the best-looking phones on the market. We've got the greatest range of alternatives, the phones, the software, the craftsmanship. It is as good or better than anything out there. We have a lot of work to do. But, we're in the game. We sold 1.5 million into the carriers.

Why acquire RIM when you have a solid product you believe in? That Dell believes in? RIM appears to be slowly relegating themselves to the sidelines for consumers, so no need to aid that, evidently. Going further, the money required to take over RIM, integrate their tech and IP, etc. could take years. Going further still, Microsoft sometimes has a spotty record with acquisitions (see Danger and 'Project Pink'), ahem. Still, we would have loved to take over our sister site, Crackberry.

Source: USA Today; via TechRadar

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This is nearly an unprecedented move and quite the boast for Microsoft but Dell just announced that it will be switching 25,000 of their employees from their RIM BlackBerrys to their own Venue Pro running Windows Phone 7. Eventually they'll also offer Android devices as well. No punches were pulled either as Dell CFO Brian Gladden told the Wall Street Journal:

Clearly in this decision we are competing with RIM, because we're kicking them out...

The change will begin next Wednesday and the move  is expected to save the company 25% in communication costs over the long term. Not only are they doing this internally, but Dell is setting up a service in 2 weeks to help other companies transition from RIM to alternative OS providers as well. Presumably that would Windows Phone 7, since Microsoft's Exchange system is quite widely adopted, robust and cheaper than RIM.

This news is huge and could be the beginning of the decline of RIM in the business market.

Source: WSJ

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We don't call Dieter Bohn the Hardest-Working Man in Smartphone Showbusiness for nuthin'. Our favorite editor-in-chief has made his way over to BlackBerry end of Mobile World Congress just in time to check out an ... HTC Touch Fuze?

If you're confused, it's only because you missed our recent post on the BlackBerry Application Suite, which brings the BlackBerry operating system to non-BB phones. In this case, the Touch Pro (or Fuze, on AT&T) which, as we all know, normally runs Windows Mobile.

Head on over to our friends at CrackBerry.com and check it out.

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It has been easy to miss because the pieces of this puzzle are spread out across several years of news, but the headline you're reading on this piece has it exactly right: Microsoft is poised to take a serious chunk out of RIM's virtual stranglehold on Enterprise and Corporate mobile email.

The latest news is that Google has gone ahead an licensed Exchange Activesync (EAS) for their Contacts and Calendar services.. While they are not offering it for email (yet?), it does represent a pretty significant moment in the battle for standards in how data gets pushed and synced out to devices. For Google, it means that although they appear to be continuing to support open standards like SyncML and they have their own custom solution for Android, they have given up trying to get those open standards adopted across the industry. Apple made the same decision when they offered Exchange support for the iPhone.

When it comes to mobile devices, EAS is becoming the de facto standard for all smartphones not labeled "BlackBerry." To find out why this matters, read on!

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WMExperts Podcast 8 - Windows Mobile 6.1 and CTIA

This week we discuss what's new in Windows Mobile 6.1 and what was great at the CTIA conference (Namely the Xperia X1). Special guest this week too! Kevin Michaluk of CrackBerry.com joins us to talk about his impressions of Windows Mobile from the BlackBerry perspective. You want to listen to this, you know you do.

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WMExperts Podcast 9 - RIM Server Smackdown!

A bonus podcast! Guest Kevin Michaluk of our sister site, CrackBerry.com joins us to talk about Microsoft System Center, Mobile Device Manager 2008 (aka MSCMDM, aka Miskumdum). Microsoft has started offering it to corporate customers so they can get ready to support and manage Windows Mobile 6.1 devices. Will Microsoft be able to make in dent in RIM's enterprise sales? Will BlackBerry outages hurt RIM more?

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Microsoft to Buy RIM? File Under *SNORT*

CrackBerry.com sends word that some analyst is thinking that if RIM's stock drops low enough, Microsoft will snap them up in a (presumably hostile) acquisition.

Didn't we hear this story a year ago? Don't RIM and Microsoft have fundamentally different philosophies about how push email should work? Don't you think that “Microsoft had no comment” can be read as “Psh! Right” instead of “OOOOH, they won't say no!”? Hasn't Microsoft repeatedly said they're not interested in making smartphone hardware?

Aren't you getting tired of idle speculation like this?

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You may have heard that there was a serious BlackBerry outage this week, millions of people were unable to get email or browse the web [corrected] on their CrackBerrys for several hours, causing some consternation amongst the addicts:

For Blackberry users, Monday left us feeling like a toddler with no Spongebob. Thought of “Why! Why?” and “What in the world is going on!” flowed through our heads. We cried to each other, and to those who could have cared less, and waited it out (as we had no other choice) and hoped for the best.

The worst part was twofold - as the above article claims, RIM wasn't immediately forthcoming about the problem. When they did let us in on what happened, it was the same thing that happened last April, a software upgrade gone wrong, a problem they promise would never happen again.

Of course, I did a little personal crowing about the entire situation. Turns out that I'm not the only one who had that thought, as Palm has launched what can only be called a multimedia, Simpsons-character-Nelson-style “HA HA!” directed at RIM. Though it rings a little tinny to CrackBerry fans, I find it hilarious.

First up - a new front page graphic at Palm.com and a New York Times full page ad to go with it. “Palm Smartphones include voice, email, text, Web, calendar and contacts ...And most importantly, uptime.” Take a close look at this picture of their NYT ad: “Has anyone heard from out West Coast team? Anyone? Anyone?” ...It must have taken a firm resolve not to add “Bueller?” at the end of that.

Now the hilarious graphic at top, from Palm's new “No Middleware” information page on the benefits on an Exchange Server.

Now, there are a few benefits to having a Network Operations Center handle everything - namely it takes some work off of the shoulders of IT folks and end users. It's a philosophy I don't ascribe to, however. Were my Exchange server to go down (it happens), I could call up the person in charge of it and ream him out directly, not wait for a faceless giant to clue me in. It ties in very directly with my thoughts on the BlackBerry during the Smartphone Round Robin (First Look and Final Thoughts), where I hijacked Umberto Eco's comparison of Macs and PCs for the purpose of comparing Windows Mobile to BlackBerrys:

In this case, the Catholic smartphone is the BlackBerry, the Protestant Smartphone is Windows Mobile. Basically, the BlackBerry takes all the work of setting email up and moves onto the priests of BlackBerry - the BIS servers.

The benefit of having a 3rd party company handle your email pushing is, as I said, getting work off your shoulders. Here's the thing, though, that work is getting much much easier for both IT pros and for end users. Microsoft is very close to perfecting their auto setup for Pocket Outlook and on the IT side, when then release Microsoft System Center, Mobile Device Manager 2008, they will have all the important management features of the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) and match its ease of use for people standardized on Microsoft tech. RIM will keep innovating, though, so there may always be an “this is easier on us” advantage to their NOC, but the ease-of-use margin is getting thinner, thin enough that a little something like a nationwide service outage might be enough to push some folks over.

At that point, there are only reasons I could see using BES:

  1. Lock in - you're already on BES and changing over to a full Exchange solution is a hassle
  2. You're not on Microsoft tech for your server and email solutions.

Microsoft really needs to address the 2nd reason someday -- offer a push email and management solution that's not dependent on Exchange servers. They never will, though, so we'll be depending on companies like Seven, Good, and, yes, RIM to fill that hole. As for the first reason, well, jump on in, kids, the water's fine. ;)

...Back to Palm - check out the chutzpah, right? Company's had all sorts of bad press lately, but despite all that they're unapologetic about the Treo and its capabilities. Sure, they've been all about the Centro as a low-end consumer device lately, but their Enterprise/power user Windows Mobile Treos are still pretty darn good, too, and they don't want us to forget it. Sure, they're not top-of-the-line (yet: the Treo 800w and the Drucker can't come fast enough), but they're solid devices. I still think that the Treo 750 has the best one-handed usability of any device out there by dint of its great keyboard and the ability to use a touchscreen when needed.

I'm not going to convince BlackBerry users of that, of course (check out the comments on our sister site, CrackBerry.com - where they posted about Palm's teasing), but that's alright. Next time (and there will be a next time) your Crackberrys are all cashed out I'll be standing over on the street corner with a WinMo device in my pocket. When you come over, shaking and needing a fix, I'll tell you the truth: Windows Mobile is a much more powerful hit.

So Bravo, Palm, for having the brains to add Windows Mobile to your Treo offerings way back when and for not being shy about its qualities now. Some haters are going to tell you that you should be one to talk after all the problems you've had in the past year or so. Don't listen to them, just put your energy into righting that ship and delivering unto us the Treo 800w and the Drucker postehaste.

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Moto and RIM File Dueling Lawsuits

Oh JOY! More lawsuit-fun-time in the fountain of patent wars that is the smartphone industry. This time around it's RIM vs. Motorola, both saying that the other is infringing on their smartphone patents. RIM started the excitement on the 16th, claiming that Motorola violated 9 patents and that Motorola has been charging “exorbitant royalties” for licenses on patents that Moto has.

One of the patents RIM holds and is suing over: “a mobile device 'with a keyboard optimized for use with the thumbs.'” You read that right, they hold a patent on putting a QWERTY keyboard on a phone. The same patent they successfully forced Handspring (who made the original Treo) to settle on.

The basic skinny here is that both companies hold patents on very basic smartphone functions and they've been working together as best they can to license these patents to each other. Looks like the relationship is getting a might bit frosty, though. Maybe Motorola is, as RIM contends, getting a little greedy. Or maybe RIM just smells Motorola's blood in the water.

Not to be outdone, Moto has countersued, claiming that, Nuh-uh, it's RIM who's the dirty patent stealer, infringing on 7 Motorola patents. The intellectual property Moto is defending is as ridiculously simple and obvious as RIM's:

a method of storing contact information in wireless e-mails, a way of recognizing incoming phone numbers, a way of controlling access to new applications on a wireless-messaging device and ways to improve functions on the menu-driven interface of a phone handset

The fun doesn't stop there, though. This is all going down in Texas (RIM's suit is in Dallas, Moto's is in East Texas). East Texas is home to the “rocket docket,” where IP suits get moved through the system lickety-split and often favor the plantiff. Suddenly RIM's decision to place their US headquarters in Dallas instead of someplace closer to Canada is starting to make a little more sense. Lawsuits over basic cellphone functionality are getting so commonplace these days, RIM needs to be close to the action, whichever side of it they may be on.

(Note how we kindly didn't bring up the recent BlackBerry outage. Oops! Just did.)

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RIM CEO Talks Smack about Windows Mobile

Since I'm currently using a Blackberry 8310 as part of the Round Robin this week, a cross-platform dig from RIM's CEO Mike Lazaridis is something I absolutely have to comment on:

“The Apple iPhone has severe limitations when it comes to effortless typing. Of course you have more screen space, with more artistic interactions, but that’s not enough. We’ve seen this before when Palm tried virtual keyboards. When they launched the Treo they licensed our keyboard,” Lazaridis said.

Read: intomobile

Ok - fair point about the iPhone's soft keyboard. About Palm, though, well.. let's just say that Handspring (yes, this happened before Palm bought 'em) licensed your keyboard because your company is a Sue - Happy - Madhouse and not because there's something magical about BB keyboards. Although I'm only 3 days into my CrackBerry experience (see the relevant thread over at CrackBerry.com's forums - post there to win too, btw), I'm fairly sure I still prefer the Treo's keyboard. Just saying.

More Smacktalk after the break - Read on.

Moving on, Lazaridis had a few choice words for this site's platform:

“Windows Mobile isn’t that big a competitor…They are a modest force to RIM. Microsoft should be working at services, not at distributed PCs, which is what Windows Mobile actually still is.”

Microsoft should be working on services, eh? Maybe you weren't paying attention, but the day before your keynote at CTIA, Microsoft had a keynote of their own, announcing Microsoft System Center, Mobile Device Manager 2008. MSCMDM basically allows admins to manage Windows Mobile devices from the exact same interface they already use to manage Windows PCs. Frankly, having a mobile platform that's actually a “distributed PC” doesn't sound all that bad to me - Mo Power Mo Better.

...And really, Lazzy (can I call you “Lazzy?”), if you weren't afraid of Windows Mobile, would you really be developing a full Virtual Blackberry System to sit on top of our devices? Maybe you're just bitter because it looks like you're going to miss your “fall release” of the software. Oh... wait... you already did. :p

I think “Your overconfidence is your weakness,” there, Lazzy. I'm sure you'd reply “Your faith in your friends manufacturing partners is yours!”, but then we'd be calling RIM the evil Empire and Microsoft the Rebellion and that might get a little confusing for everybody. Moving on.

Yes, yes, I'm just stirring the pot here, but it's fun and everybody loves a little smacktalk. I'll have my initial thoughts on the BlackBerry 8310 up tomorrow, so be sure to check back. Here's a hint, though: I'll be nicer to CrackBerry fans in that article, but not entirely nice. Meanwhile, we'll call this a Round Robin Official contest post here too - let's have some more lighthearted trash talk, eh?

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