Can a Celebrity Be BlackBerry's Super Advocate?
I doubt we'll ever see another CEO with this skill like Jobs-at least not at a company the size of Apple or Blackberry. In addition, Cook's tenure at Apple shows the value in separating the role of CEO and super advocate when someone who fills both roles leaves the company.
It's easy to get jaded by the number of celebrities that suddenly seem to by tying themselves to companies. Most seem to be paid shills who aren't really doing the type of product advocate job that Jobs did. Keys, named BlackBerry's Global Creative Director, attests that she's in this for the long haul; furthermore, she plans to meet with BlackBerry engineers to make sure her views are heard-and if they aren't, then she will leave. We haven't heard that level of commitment from other celebrity endorsers, suggesting this may be something more.
Still, without any real authority and a career to manage, we need to revisit this at that end of the year to see if Keys has really stepped up to being a Super Advocate or is just another star looking for some extra pocket money. I think she's sincere, but I've been fooled before.
Z10 Looks Forward, Q10 Looks Back
BlackBerry clearly has a tight focus on the business customer and loyal user. The BlackBerry Z10 smartphone, which looks and feels like an improved iPhone 5, targets the business user, and its initial "showcase" partnerships and apps are with enterprise vendors BMC, Citrix and SAP.
This doesn't mean BlackBerry doesn't have fun stuff, but outdoing either Android or iOS with consumers and entertainment is likely impossible. However, outdoing these platforms in ways that business people will appreciate is a place where BlackBerry is arguably the best in the market.
Finally, like Apple, BlackBerry had to preserve what is left of its very loyal fan base. The Q10 takes the smartphone back to its two-way pager roots with a physical keyboard and an updated industrial design that's still clearly Blackberry.
If Apple Can Do It, Blackberry Can, Too
Not all is a bed of roses, though. Unlike an Apple product launch, the new Blackberry phones aren't available closely after launch. Alicia Keys remains untested, too, and BlackBerry has yet to roll out its ad campaign.
Still, as far as launches go, this is one of the better ones I've attended, and BlackBerry will have better carrier coverage than either Palm or Apple had when they started. In short, this no longer looks like RIM's year; it's looking like Blackberry's year.
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