Archive for April, 2011

The Playbook is being Marketed to Fail

Monday, April 25th, 2011

I don’t think this iteration of the BlackBerry Playbook will do very well, and I blame RIM’s marketing team.

If you’re not sure what the Playbook is, let me explain — and thank you for proving my point. The BlackBerry Playbook is a tablet computer released last week by Research In Motion, the company behind BlackBerry phones. It’s chief competitor in the tablet space is the iPad, followed by the handful of Android tablets that are currently available.

It’s a great device. The hardware is plenty powerful, and the software is certainly good enough for a 1.0 release. It supports native apps written in several languages, and web apps that can take advantage of HTML5 and Adobe Flash.

The Playbook has a lot going for it, but the one thing it’s sorely lacking is a marketing strategy. Without this, it will fail.

People need to know you have a product before they can buy it.

I spend a lot of time on this Internet thing. I read too many blogs, I stalk people on Twitter, I waste time on Facebook. As a tech-savvy 20-something year old, you’d think I would be the target market for a sexy new tablet. But alas! Everything I know about the Playbook, I learned from friends that work at RIM. Is that how the marketing team was expecting to reach me?

What’s their plan for everyone else? Let potential customers hear about it through word of mouth — weeks or months after launch — if at all?

That doesn’t work anymore. If you’re going to compete with someone like Apple, you have to be loud about what you’re doing.

And that brings us to an even bigger problem with RIM’s silent strategy:

When you don’t make your product sound great, your customers don’t either.

iPad users don’t need to think to explain why they love their iPads. They need only recite whatever Steve Jobs and the rest of the Apple Marketing Messiahs have told them about it.

What are potential Playbook users going to say when they talk to their iOS brethren?

“It has Flash”?

Fail.

Specs don’t sell products. Potential users want to know which tablet will improve their day-to-day life, not which one has more RAM. And that’s marketing’s job.

We’ve seen this before.

If RIM isn’t convinced that a lack of marketing will kill their product, maybe Google can sway them.

Remember when Google Wave launched? It was going to replace email, and add awesome features, and be everything to everyone!

Not a single person I knew could explain what it was in one sentence. What followed was confusion, lacklustre adoption, and ultimately, termination.

I loved Google Wave. It was a fantastic product that was constantly misunderstood because there was no marketing message to support it.

And as I read article after article, I can’t shake the feeling that I know where the Playbook is headed…

This post also appears on the Macadamian blog.

aaand crash.

Monday, April 18th, 2011

MIX was exhausting, but a whole lot of fun.

The flight back was interesting because I was super-smart and booked a red-eye with two stopovers and about 7 hours of in-flight time. This meant staying up for nearly 30 consecutive hours and spending almost half that time in airports/on planes.

Yeah. Exhausting.

I met a lot of great people, and wrote some hopefully-useful posts for my workplace’s blog about what I learned. If you missed them, they can be found here.

I had a couple of other thoughts that didn’t quite make it into any posts, so in no particular order, here are my many meandering musings re: MIX 2011.

Microsoft Really Cares about Windows Phone 7

The amount of excitement and volume behind WP7 and the new Mango update was almost overwhelming.

Windows Phone 7 was the main focus of the day-two keynote, which was the main event for the entire show. Joe Belfiore spent a solid twenty minutes apologizing for the hassles from the recent update before diving into the new stuff. I could really see some passion here; he clearly wanted to fix the process and see the platform succeed.

Azure is Probably Doing Pretty Well

There wasn’t much talk about Azure. A couple of panels, but very little else. My sneaking suspicion is that this means Azure is hitting its targets and Microsoft is happy with how it’s going.

My boss, Mr. Tony Hooper, was kind enough to point out to me that the crowd at MIX isn’t really the target market for Azure, and that we would probably hear a lot more about it at TechEd.

He’s probably right.

But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong :)

Silverlight 5 is All About Developers

Somewhere in the past 5 years or so, the world went from “Microsoft thinking they had the best dev tools around” to “Microsoft actually having some really sweet kit for building web experiences.”

Silverlight 5 is pushing this advantage. The new features available in the upcoming release are nice, but the improvements to their dev tools are even better. There were sessions focused on boosting performance and how to use the new features, and everyone was talking about how much they crave debugging for bindings.

There was a lot of positive energy around the tools and those using them. As a developer, this was nice to see.

IE10 was Launched!

Ok, so it’s just the platform preview for now, but that’s still something. IE9 only went official a month ago, so it’s great-great-great to see Microsoft finally putting a serious push behind the Internet Explorer team.

Yes, I realize most people probably aren’t as excited about this as I am. That’s just me, I’m a self-confessed browser geek. Still, I really felt special being at a keynote where a new version of a major browser was announced; I don’t think we’ll see many more browser updates unveiled with such gusto.

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MIX was a really fun experience. It was my first major conference, and I’m glad I was able to attend. Here’s to hoping there are many more exciting events in my future!

Find me at MIX 2011!

Monday, April 11th, 2011

By the time this post goes live, I’ll be in Las Vegas for MIX 2011.

Follow along!

As I’m there on behalf of my workplace, I’ll be blogging up a storm on the Macadamian blog. I’ll also be tweeting primarily under the company moniker, @macadamianlabs.

It’s going to be awesome!

I’ll be demonstrating the famous Windows Phone 7 Isolated Storage Explorer (made by Romeo Dumitrescu, one of Macadamian Romania’s newest tech leads) at Open Source Fest on Monday.

I’ll also be attending boot camps, speaking sessions (both big and small), and various attendee and Microsoft-sponsored parties, all of which I’m very excited for.

If you’re at MIX, please say hi!

Tweet me at my personal account (@dan_menard) or Macadamian’s official account (@macadamianlabs), or send me an email. I’d be happy to meet up with you to chat, catch a session, or grab a drink.

Finally, any advice for a first-time MIX attendee? Thankfully it’s not my first time in Vegas, we all know how that ended up.

Creating Software isn’t a Job…

Monday, April 4th, 2011

…It’s a lifestyle. I’ll explain why in a second, but first let’s get some context.

Here are a couple of people that are in the wrong profession:

We’ll start with the engineer. If he were a character in The Wizard of Oz, I can tell you what the Wizard’s diagnosis would be: He has no passion. He thinks he can just phone in his programming career in a 9–5 setting and be done with it.

The cargo-cultist is a more interesting case. Here’s a young man that is trying to decide if programming is the right career for him. He wants to become a better programmer, but he’s unsure about his skillset. He (wrongly) blames his learning abilities for his shortcomings, when really he has all the tools he needs to succeed — He’s simply not motivated enough.

There’s a simple fact that neither of these gentleman have yet realized:

Software is art.

Being a software developer is like being an artist. You aren’t just creative for 8 hours a day. You can’t turn it on and off. Your motivation to create ebbs and flows around the clock.

Not into the art thing? Fine. Here’s my* other analogy.

Programming is a sport.

A competitive one, like soccer football.

Do you think footballers only play football during games? Or even just games and practices? Of course not. They love football. They play as much as they can.

Would anyone ever think it’s stupid that footballers make jokes about football? Or play football on weekends? Or try to change the world by kicking a ball? Never.

Near the end of a losing streak, do the players blame their skills? Is everyone else just more talented? Don’t make me laugh. They get out there and train as hard as they can, because they love what they do.

And so do we.

If you’ve any doubt left, it’s time to start thinking about your next gig…


* Ok, so this wasn’t entirely my metaphor; hat tip to davefp for the assist :)

The End of The Month

Friday, April 1st, 2011

So, end of March. This was supposed to be Unbroken Promise Month, a thirty-one day period over which I resolve my outstanding debts for favours I’ve promised and never fulfilled. As I hinted earlier, this didn’t exactly go according to (my admittedly wildly ambitious) plan.

I have novelty issues.

The idea sounded so incredible in my mind. For at least a week and a half, I was sure I would make it. I was working so hard! Things were getting done! Then it all kind of stopped.

At first I wasn’t really sure what went wrong. I didn’t burn out. I didn’t want to “get things done” any less. It felt like the motivation just sort of evaporated. Slowly, and reluctantly, I realized that the novelty of tackling a daunting list of todos (on a deadline! with a plan!) wasn’t enough to carry me through the entire month.

Ultimately, you can’t will a UI update into existence, and a series of blog posts doesn’t just appear out of thin air.

Next steps.

It wasn’t all failure. I did learn a few new tricks to keep myself on-task, and I feel much more capable of tackling side-projects than I did at the end of February. I simply tried to do too much at once.

Most importantly, this month has forced me to take a hard look at my colourful HiTask dashboard, and decide which projects I’m really committed to finishing going forward.

And now, a little wiser, I’ve a better chance of seeing them through.