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Rory Cellan-Jones

Can Stephen Fry kill a gadget?

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 27 Nov 08, 17:51 GMT

Who or what decides whether a new gadget flies - or fails? Is it the quality and quantity of the advertising? The reviews in newspapers and magazines? Word of mouth among consumers? Or, in the UK at least, could it be the views of Stephen Fry?

Stephen FryIn the old days, any new product launched by a major consumer brand was accompanied by a marketing blitz that would almost guarantee decent early sales. Then eventually the reviews in newspapers and specialist magazines and word-of-mouth from happy or disgruntled consumers would determine whether a new car, camera - or mobile phone - would be a long-term hit or miss.

Now the whole process has been accelerated by the web and is far more difficult for companies to control, with early pictures and opinions emerging online before the real "specialists" have had a chance to deliver their judgment. But with so many different views of products - from technology blogs, from specialist online forums, from any old Facebook friend - it becomes difficult for consumers to filter the noise and get a clear view. That is where a "trusted guide" like Stephen Fry comes in.

As well as being a much-loved entertainer, Mr Fry has built a reputation as one of Britain's most knowledgeable gadget lovers - though as the second person in the UK to buy a Mac (after Douglas Adams), his passion for anything made by Apple is pretty clear. He is particularly keen on smartphones and has written at length about the various delights and disappointments of using them.

So along comes the Blackberry Storm, with an avalanche of advertising from Vodafone - which has the exclusive contract in Britain - and plenty of excitable speculation amongst the kind of people who really, really care about whether a new mobile phone has wi-fi, and whether it can turn the bath on before they get home.

Then on Twitter, where he has quickly built an audience of more than 20,000 followers, came this series of messages from Stephen Fry:

"Been playing with the BB Storm. Shockingly bad. I mean embarrassingly awful. Such a disappointment. Rushed out unfinished. What a pity."

"Yes, I blame n'works more than RIM. Problems are terrible lag: inaccurate t'screen, awful, slow and fiddly text input. I SO wanted to like it."

"Plus the GPS maps won't work - issue with BIS connections. I see from forums postings this is widespread in the UK. iPhone killer? Ha!"

Those short bursts of instant reaction were then recycled and passed on by other Twitter users. As the "Twitterati" tend to be early adopters who are likely customers for new smartphones, this is a more important audience than its numbers might suggest.

Mr Fry was by no means the only expert to be deeply unimpressed by BlackBerry's new baby. David Pogue of the New York Times, another very influential technology pundit, has also given it a stinker, and his views are now racing around networks like Twitter.

I'm sure there will still be some decent sales figures for the Storm in the early weeks - unless that advertising blitz has been completely misdirected - but what a high-end product like this need is a buzz of anticipation and that's been silenced by Messrs Fry and Pogue.

So a couple of "trusted guides" - or "super-advocates" as someone else described them - could have sealed the fate of a product of huge importance to both RIM and Vodafone. What's the lesson for the gadget-makers? Maybe they need to spend more time hanging out on social networks and listening to what is being said. Or perhaps they should get their products thoroughly tested by Stephen Fry and David Pogue before they are launched - rather than sit and watch their damning views go viral.

And having had my say, what does Stephen Fry himself think? I asked him - this was his response:

Crumbs Rory! Do I have the power to kill a gadget? Of course, like all pusillanimous people I enjoy the idea that I could make a gadget - but break one?
If I really thought my influence was that great it might make me a little wary of being quite so definite and it would probably force me to be more specific about all the features/pricing/services, as a responsible tech journalist should be. As it is, I hope people know I am no more than an enthusiastic, passionate amateur (I'm including the French sense of the word amateur - lover). It gives me no pleasure to be negative about the BB Storm and I know that many people have been looking forward to receipt of theirs and were very disheartened to hear my loud disappointment. But, honestly: play with the Storm for two days as I have and you will admire my patience at not throwing it out of the window... I do like the Bold though. Could live with that. But to return to your point. The net should make us all equal in our influence. Okay - more equal.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Whoa! big text I'm not a fan of.

  • Comment number 2.

    Thanks for the quick fix!

    I remember thinking about influence when I saw Stephen's original tweet on the Storm, as a friend had recently told me she wanted one - first I'd heard of the phone, I admit.

  • Comment number 3.

    Makes a change from folks talking about walking their dog on Twitter.

  • Comment number 4.

    @3:
    Twitter is a pull service. If you don't want to know about BBC tech correspondents walking their dogs, don't follow them.

    (To clarify, no, that's not why I followed Rory either, but it's mildly interesting) :)

  • Comment number 5.

    It's good to see that Stephen's views are heard, most importantly because he actually knows what he's talking about. I think he is one of a rare breed of commentators that actually knows more about the subject than most of the people trying to sell their devices to him. As someone working in the tech industry I certainly take note of his thoughts although of course bearing in mind that there's no rule of objectivity here.

    Whilst it's a good sobering measure on the natural hype that does accompany a new launch I think today's consumers are using many sources, made possible by such a proliferation of communications tools - from advertising to print media to the wave of citizen reviews that follows close behind.

    I think perhaps we're moving in small steps towards the maturation of social media where though the consensus of the many (including a high proportion of journalists) start to single out these trusted guides, the non-professional commentators giving us more balance in what we read.

  • Comment number 6.

    `opinions emerging online before the real andquot;specialistsandquot; have had a chance to
    deliver their judgment.`
    Would you care to name some of those specialists who are supposed to be the
    real opinion formers?

    Fry is more than just an enthusiast, he has a regular online newspaper tech
    column; on YouTube there`re videos of him reviewing or just talking about
    aspects of technology. He has credibility, that means his opinion does count;
    Twitter just distributes it more quickly (as your blog also does).

    A certain geek factor also creeps in. To draw a comparison: when American
    indie director Kevin Smith blogged that Dark Knight was `the Godfather II of
    comic book films` the film geeks went into paroxysms of excitement. Forget that
    Smith is a so so director himself, a personal friend of DK`s director and that
    all other reviews were embargoed. Smith has very high street cred with the
    filmorati that love the comic book andamp; si fi films he blogs about; his comment
    made it a must see for an audience of trend setters.

    I`d say that Fry`s opinion does count, probably much, much more than those
    `specialists`. (Who are they again?) If second and third opinions emerge that
    back it up then your being told something. He`s being overly modest when he says
    `The net should make us all equal in our influence. Okay - more equal.` Some
    will always be first amongst equals. Not having the time or money to be a gadget
    freak I`d rather get advice from someone that is rather than someone who isn`t.
    Myself, I stick to the old adage `never be the first to buy the first of
    anything; wait until at least version two so the more obvious bugs have been
    ironed out`.

  • Comment number 7.

    I dare say that Dear Stephen would struggle with the idea of killing an ant, let alone a gadget!

    I think you're asking the wrong question. The true question is why does new technology fail to work as anticiapted?

    The answer is that suppliers are under so much pressure - mainly stirred by the media - to deliver the next new thing. They don't have time to test and refine. If they did details would be leaked and commentators would ask "why won't they release it/what are they hiding?/doesn't it work?"

    The answer to the question of can one person make a difference, the answer is "yes" if you believe Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point theory.

  • Comment number 8.

    can Stephen Fry have a look at the number 10 website and try and kill that off? It looks awful and it seems like some 40 year old trying to be down with the kids - nearly every social networking site going is on the front page.

    http://www.number10.gov.uk/

  • Comment number 9.

    `If they did details would be leaked and commentators would ask `why won`t they release it/what are they hiding?/doesn`t it work?`

    Never seemed to bother Microsoft! : )

  • Comment number 10.

    I think Stephen Fry's commments reveal the impact of access and authority and the ability to share viewpoints.

    Access + Authority * Network effect = impact.

    Fry gets the access to products early, his expertise gives him the authority to cmment and the network effect (he has 20,000 followers who are all in turn empowered by the hyperlink) = problems for the Blackberry Storm.

  • Comment number 11.

    Pussil ..... what?

  • Comment number 12.

    Like many others, I follow Stephen Fry on Twitter.

    He recommended a new Twitter client for the iPhone, and within a minute, I had bought it.

    It emerged moments later, so had many others.

    I am sure marketing firms would like to take advantage of such trends. But this is the exact opposite of marketing.

  • Comment number 13.

    Opinion has five times the influence that advertising has, as is noted here. The fact is that all the advertising in the world won't make a product successful any more. People seek out the views of others - and the views of a respected and much-loved national institution are like gold dust - or indeed, its antithesis.

  • Comment number 14.

    I have to admit I tend to agree with Stephen. As a blackberry user I was looking forward to the storm and then I saw it and how it worked. Yes it looks lovely and the idea of turning it on its side to go widescreen is neat if you are looking at video but and this is going to eb a big but.

    To be honest it just doesn't do anything more than the current blackberry phones that most of its users will want. Its like Microsoft office 2007 compared to previous versions of office. It does new things but they aren't important things and I had got used to the old way of doing things and don't want to relearn. I love the pearl; some of my colleagues hate it and love the more bricky curve with its full qwerty keyboard but I doubt none of us will love the Storm.

    OK the storm has a better camera but its nowhere as good as the new sony ericcson and does anyone buy the blackberry as a camera? Why buy something that isn't a big step up. I have dropped my pearl a number of times and it has survived I can't see that happening with the storm.

    Its trying to be an iphone lite and it just doesn't work!

    Blackberry need to realise that them and the iphone is exactly like a pc and a mac in that the blackberry is for pc users and the iphone is for mac users.

    The old blackberries do pretty much everything you need, if you are a pc and windows user and it works in a similar way with the trackball and the set up that pc users like whilst the iphone and mac are just wired differently fior people with different needs and mindset.

    The blackberry storm is like Pierce Brosnam singing in Mamma Mia it tries but deep down you just know it just isn't right.

  • Comment number 15.

    I would counter that neither Stephen Fry nor any tech correspondent kill a gadget. The manufacturer chooses to release a product that either works superbly and is completely in step with consumer wants, or they don't. In the case of the Blackberry Storm, if RIM chose to release a product that was essentially unfinished or otherwise substandard, it was they who killed the Storm. If RIM had released a truly groundbreaking product that worked very well, then Stephen Fry & others would have probably written in more positive terms, thus leading to greater sales.

  • Comment number 16.

    I worked for Psion around the time of the launch of the Series 5.

    We used to LOVE those reviewers that would say it like it is.

    Too many reviewers are in the pockets f the manufacturers, trying to be as nice as possible - so they're favoured with the next device in the pipeline for an early review sample.

    At Psion we went to immense pains to weed out the smallest defects - in fact the company culture was centred around the highest attainable engineering excellence.

    And it needs reviewers that can recognise the difference between *everything works* and *glitzy, but of no real use to anyone*.

  • Comment number 17.

    It is not just technology Mr Fry can make or break.

    He left a testamonial on thewhiteshirtcompany.com website and sales of their shirts increased.

    People seem to recognise that he is a man of descerning taste.

  • Comment number 18.

    Stephen who? Rory who?

    The BBC's tech reporting is still in the 70s. Except Raymond Baxter would be making a better job of it.

  • Comment number 19.

    Anyone who can accidentally twitter using inappropriate parts of their anatomy (check out Mr Fry's tweets today) is someone I respect...

    I think it is natural to listen to the advice of someone we all feel we 'know' - honestly, even the most qualified and accurate reviewer will only be successful if their audience have confidence in their opinions.

    Oh and @no.8, Blythy_vxR - Argh, no thanks for linking that. Hurts my eyes. Why?!

  • Comment number 20.

    "I worked for Psion around the time of the launch of the Series 5."

    Now that is a piece of tech history worth examining.

    I loved my Psions - one of the few devices with great physical design, great operating system, and great applications - a highly unusual combination, and way ahead of their time, superbly engineered in both hardware and software.

    But commercially, a massive disappointment. I lost a lot of money investing in them.

  • Comment number 21.

    Like everything else, you find a reviewer whose views match your own, then trust that person's opinions. In the film world, I always found that Barry Norman & I had similar likes and dislikes, but I don't care tuppence for what Mark Kermode has to say about anything.

    To be honest, although I admire him immensely in other areas, Mr Fry is a bit too much of a Mac fanboy when it comes to technology. He can also sometimes miss the point, like his review of a Philips streaming media player that didn't actually mention its streaming capabilities.

  • Comment number 22.

    You only have to see the Blackberry Storm TV advert and compare it with the iPhone adverts.

    The only thing the Blackberry advert tells me is that it can allow you to turn off neon lights by touching some glass ... pointless pap!

    The iPhone ads just show it how it is .. yes they edit it to look faster (and have just been told off) but you get the idea of how simple it is to use and lets the product speak for itself.

    Don't have an iPhone or Blackberry myself .. but I do have an iPod touch and it is clearly my favourite gadget of the last few years .. the software is so great and it also plays music 8-)

    Have to agree with the comments about Psion .. great design; almost as iconic as Apple. I still love my Psion 7 and if it had upgraded insides it would be a killer netbook .. the keyboard and clamshell design were classics.

  • Comment number 23.

    @ skittledog - bad design should be shared, it's the only way to learn :p

  • Comment number 24.

    Having spent an hour with a Blackberry Storm I have to say I hate it with a passion. Very laggy and the touch interface is terrible.

  • Comment number 25.

    Well, this is one of the new things the internet does, it allows easy connections to people whose taste you trust.
    Example: I love the music of Marcella Detroit. It's my sort of thing.
    When she posts on her blog that she's working with Carlos Guitarlos, and that he's really good, I go and check him out, because I trust her taste. Maybe it won't be for me, but it's worth my time to investigate because I take her opinions seriously. Same with Mr Fry: I've read enough of his tech pieces to trust his opinion. If he says that the Storm sucks, I won't get too excited about it. I'll still go check one out, because maybe it *will* be for me, but I trust his opinion.
    This sort of thing predates the internet of course, but as with so much, the net make it easier. Also, I've seen a lot of bad reviews from people I trust and no good reviews, so it's not looking good.
    BTW, I got a bunch of tweets from him today, which you of course have not published because they have a slightly rude word in them, which back him up in his opinions with actual evidence!

  • Comment number 26.

    Having attended a lowly Secondary school I had to Google "pusillanimous" - great word!

  • Comment number 27.

    "What's the lesson for the gadget-makers?"

    Oh, that one is easy. Make better gadgets.

  • Comment number 28.

    I liked darrenwaters'

    "Access + Authority * Network effect = impact"

    Stephen Fry has more impact than most because he has that rare combination of appearing to be a trusted friend (event those most of us don't 'know' him) and the celebrity effect.

    As a PR bod I'm interested in RIM's next move and wonder whether Stephen Fry's off-the-cuff remark makes him more or less attractive to receive free booty...?

  • Comment number 29.

    @ginger_lizard

    and you would never have allowed a device out as unready as the BB Storm is reported to be. I lament the demise of Psion and their well built PDAs and whatnot. Modern phones with Windows Mobile and god-knows-what MHz processors and Megs of RAM still struggle to do what Psions could do so quickly and so well. The power of marketing, eh? :)

  • Comment number 30.

    I am an ex-RIM employee from the factory in Canada and had a good insight into product development.

    1. Stephen Fry cannot bring down the product. Because no matter how bad it is, the price point of the device will drive the sales. If Vodafone start off asking for a £100 contribution for the gadget together with a monthly fee, all they have to do is drop the £100 (if consumers doubt the product's effectiveness and sales slow). With the £100 'waved', out goes the perceived "expense" and in comes the Blackberry fan who wants the "name and prestige" of the brand who believes they are getting a deal.

    Bad press - fight it buy reducing the price. Offload the product. Capture more market share for Storm, rev 2.

    2. Fans are fans. Take the iPHONE. Released originally with a measely EDGE chipset set (highly inferior to 3G). People wanted it because of its coolness. Took it home only to find that its browsing 2G capabilities were terrible. Still didn't question their own loyalty to Apple. Kept thumbing away and waiting hopelessly for the web pages to turn over. Yawn.

    Blackberry users are predominately buying Blackberry for the B.E.S. - the push e-mail software. And if the Storm does new 'cosmetic' things, it's only a bonus to the core competency (the BES) that they bought the phone for in the first place.

    3. RIM manufactures and sells its own handsets in order to drive the sales of its push e-mail software (still the stand alone, largest profit margin generating messaging service Vodafone sells).

    Volume, like fleet car sales, the Storm will be sold in millions to corporate HQ IT managers. Consider another aspect of corporate perks: company cars. Vauxhall's Vectra is not BMW's 3 series. But the inferior Vectra will be sold in 50x volume across Europe because fleet managers don't care about looks; they care about functionality and hence value to the pound (the lowest unit cost and earning capability of the device). So too will RIM sell many Storms to many IT managers - those mgrs who won't care if the the texting is "fiddly". All the corporate buyer wants is for you, the employee, to get your boss's latest e-mail war cry (instructions) to your handset in real time - albeit at home at 8pm at night. As RIM said in the beginning "Always on - Always available" - keep working!

    4. No-one in corporate UK purchasing departments care about Twitter or Stephen Fry's opinion. Both internet site and celebrity commentaire are a middle-middle or "geek" class phenomenon. Very few upper-middle or upper-class mgmt types, nor their corporate Telco buyers, who are favoured/gifted with a Blackberry at work, have time to read tech blogs or surf for Mr. Fry's comments. They won't have the time to question or report their frustrations.

    Senior mgmt in the UK, like the BBC tech news pages, didn't pay any attention to RIM or Blackberry until 2002 - approximately 4years after Blackberry became a 500k user unit best selling business tool in the States with 4years already established market presence. You didn't understand Blackberry's selling point (push e-mail) - you still don't. Bells and whistles (cosmetics) still don't matter when it comes to large volume corporate Blackberry sales - only core competancy does: i.e the BES. Twitter users and BBC tech dept - you still haven't caught onto this yet. The info has been available since 1999. You're only 9years behind.

  • Comment number 31.

    ConstantineCapital (Number 30). Interesting to get insight from RIM. But surely the point you make - that Blackberry is all about one core competency, corporate email - means the Storm is unlikely to appeal to those corporate purchasing departments that don't care what Stephen Fry says? Because the Storm is all about "bells and whistles" - and falls down on the basic business of writing an email. I don't think my employers will be rushing to replace my old steam-driven Blackberry with a Storm.

    In any case, isn't this phone RIM's attempt to move beyond the corporate world and reach the kind of people who do read tech blogs?

  • Comment number 32.

    I'm still in a state of shock to have found out that Stephen Fry is a gadget lover.

    I would have had him down as a complete luddite.

  • Comment number 33.

    The descriptor emerging for influential early-adopters is "amplified individuals".

    http://tinyurl.com/6ccgk5

  • Comment number 34.

    The descriptor emerging for influential early-adopters is "amplified individuals".

  • Comment number 35.

    I find the honesty of Mr Fry's gadget comments refreshing. He's a welcome change to the vast quantities of ill-informed blogging and twittering that the last few years has produced.

  • Comment number 36.

    Yes a single person can kill a gadget, at least in one market. I would however disput the term 'geek' when reference to Apple fans. True geeks dont appriciate such closed, DRM infested and restricted platforms.

  • Comment number 37.

    No matter who it is, no matter how accurate they are, i always take tech reviews online (and most things online in general) with a pinch of salt. Most people online are out to make a name for themselves, Mr Fry already has a name ofcourse, but along with his less well known counterparts he has to make his article sound interesting.

    Would the article even get mentioned here if he wrote that he thought it was "alright", or "pretty good".

    Look at most reviews online and you will find that they are rating something as either top class, or really poor. No other opinion makes for interesting reading.

    Controversy is interesting.

    About the Storm, a brief word. I played with it 3 times in shops, found it to be perfectly acceptable, so i got one. I have read mixed interviews online since and played with the IPhone and i think it compares.

  • Comment number 38.

    Great post Rory,

    I picked up on Stephen's tweet a few days ago and collected together a selection of similar reviews here - http://bit.ly/qBea

    Generally, the reviews were negative and quite unforgiving as with Stephen, there were a few good points in the reviews but they were definitely in the minority.

    Stephen Fry has built up a 20,000+ in a short space of time, showing that there is something about a popular, well known voice being on a fairly nascent and niche method of communication.

    He has the reach to make or break a product due to the numbers that he can broadcast to. As you say, Twitter users are stereotypically the 'type' of people who will go out and buy the latest technology, they might even queue for it overnight!

    When someone of such a standing like Stephen Fry gives his verdict on a product one way or another, it's bound to make an impact on a consumers buying decision.

    I'd be interested to hear firstly what RIM think of such an endorsement and secondly how many people have changed their mind because of what Mr Fry said. Interesting points for further thought.

    All the best,

    Mike - http://www.litmanlive.co.uk

  • Comment number 39.

    Early reviews can sink pretty much any product.

    Technical journalists do a more analytical type of damage, as they attempt to understand the product technology and criticise it. Sadly, in some cases woefully misunderstanding the science and technology. Perhaps in other cases getting it right and damaging the product with justification. They are potentially more dangerous with radically new products, as they may miss the point completely.

    Others are influential because they are considered arbiters of style, taste, or fashion. Would you drive a car that Jeremy Clarkson dismisses? (I do. However, the factors that appeal to Jeremy are irrelevant to my car ownership and use.)

    The result is that companies are often loath to let a journalist see a product. As an industrial researcher, I recall the verb "to Barry Fox" being used with regard to a consumer product 20 years ago. I.e. 'We're not talking to anyone as we don't want this being "Barry Foxed".' Similarly, there was reluctance to send a computer product to Jerry Pournelle (then of Byte magazine's Chaos manor column). Not that this necessarily means that their opinions would be ill-informed, but it shows that there has long been an awareness that opinion-formers can damage a product as much as they can make it.

    Perhaps these days you need a technical product endorsement from a celebrity more than from Barry Fox. Typically, that might at least indicate that your product is very easy to use. (Stephen Fry clearly excepted from the derogation of celebrities' intellectual capacity.)

  • Comment number 40.

    The comment from ConstantineCapital as an "ex RIM employee" is interesting, but he seems out of touch with what RIM are trying to achieve with the Storm. It's not aimed so much at the corporate market - it doesn't provide have the full Blackberry Enterprise service, only the consumer one. It's aimed squarely at the iPhone's non-corporate middle market, and exactly the people that will be listening to reviews.

    More importantly, the poor reviews of the Storm come entirely from poor software quality control from RIM in this instance, and those complaints won't go unheard in the corporate space. Business needs devices that are easy to use, productive and reliable, and that's not the case with the Storm - perhaps a first for RIM, but an issue nonetheless.

    Get the product right in the first place, and none of this a concern.

  • Comment number 41.

    ARC1024, nice post. Especially relating to your car and top gear.

    This is exactly why i said i take internet reviews with a pinch of salt. Their opinions matter to some. But quite frankly, i am in a completely different userspace to the reviewer alot of the time, who generally is someone who would go as far as talking about chip models when talking about performance.

  • Comment number 42.

    @constantinecapital

    actually, fleet managers are people, and they might be looking out for themselves as well. your thing about the vectra is wrong - the 3 series is the biggest seller, and it's all about image. You can lure a person to a job easier by saying you get a 3 series instead of just a vectra.

    saying that, with the recession/downturn/whateverit'scalledtoday they'll probably go for the bog standard, or get rid of them.

    As for the iphone killer..... that'll be the iphone nano when it comes out. There's no way Apple will let that opportunity go by - ipods only seriously took off when they brought out the mini and nano. When apple bring out the iphone nano, it'll probably not have a touchscreen, cos... on something that size, you probably don't want one.

  • Comment number 43.

    @ConstantineCapital
    You're way out on your point #4, I'm afraid. British management are an army of PHBs. They care nothing about the opinion of the IT department and will buy whatever is perceived to be cool and expect the IT department to get it working. They think that a Blackberry is the only device that can do push email, no matter how many times you tell them that's not the case, and they swallow hook, line, and sinker the myth that the iPhone is somehow "paradigm shifting".

    I speak from experience as an IT dude who was expected to set up ActivSync on his boss's mickey mouse iPhone.

  • Comment number 44.

    And before we get too misty-eyed about Psion, don't forget the battery and screen cable issues on the Revo: I had two that were rubbish. I don't remember them being re-flashable, either, and my Psion 7 was pretty much useless fairly quickly due to its lack of SMTP-AUTH and third rate browser.

    One think Psion did get right was the software, especially the UI and PIM apps. The OS lives on in Symbian smartphones, but the brilliant Psion UI and built-in apps make modern smartphones seem not very smart at all.

  • Comment number 45.

    Well it may affect some, but even in today's heavy world of facebook, twitter and the blogosphere, some of us don't buy into the whole internet echo-chamber.

    Don't get me wrong; I'm no luddite, in fact I'm a software engineer. I just have a life outside of computers and the idea of listening to everyone 'tweet' all day is enough to drive one barking mad.

    The internet is a great morass of information, unfortunately it's also very good at producing groupthink and mass-exaggeration of received opinion. In short, perhaps a single opinion could make or break the sale of such a device into the market space of people who are part of this particular media phenomena, but there are many more who deliberately avoid such services.

    Having said which, I have a lot of time for Mr. Fry, and respect his opinions on most matters. that he is also a technology lover comes as a suprise.

  • Comment number 46.

    Perhaps Mr Fry would like to try my BT Broadband Anywhere phone, the HTC620. If anything deserves to be killed off it's that.
    It has a mind of its own, switches programmes on when you've disabled them, searches for e-mails every few minutes even when you set it to manual send and receive.
    What's more, the battery life is abysmal. It is only of any use when logged on to the Home Hub and plugged into the mains. So much for "Anywhere".

  • Comment number 47.

    The Blackberry is a corporate tool. Bought for one reason - to get e-mail into the hands of workers/mgmt when they are away from their desk....... to keep them working.

    RIM have introduced sloppy second rate features to compete with iPHONE so that they "run with the pack" and keep their cell phone products embedded in the mind share of their target market - and that includes consumers (for which the Blackberry was never designed for originally). RIM will pump out inferior products to keep its perception as "innovators" and "key participants" alive on the market. If you've studied brand mgmt techniques you'll notice all global prestige brands produce a second line of inferior quality products exactly for that reason.

    RIM will not care about a few flaws in the software which operates the on-the-surface extra functionality, e.g. "fidgity touch screen". BES (consumer or corporate version) is the core competency. RIM - as Mr. Fry already acknowdleged - "rushed" out an inferior touch screen product because of iPHONE's cosmetic impact on the market so that they (RIM) could say, along with Samsung, Ericsson and the other followers: "we do touch screen as well, look here!".

    RIM said they'd NEVER see the need to add a camera to their handsets but two years later - they did! They said they never saw a time whereby a Blackberry would have music playing functionality to try to play in the music download/MP3 space. But they have. RIM knows the game all too well. Extra "bells and whistles", whilst underdeveloped and hence, lower development costs for RIM, work very well to show that the company can "play in anyone's arena" and maintain the presence of the brand. But again, push e-mail, the company's "elixir", is what it is really selling (and profiting from) and has been around for quite a long time now - the BES. RIM is simply standing in the camera or music sectors of the cell phone market and saying "we're here, and take a look at our push e-mail wizardry/benefits whilst you're at it".

    RIM will be delighted with extra sales of handsets in the consumer space. But their manufacturing model isn't set up to be a large volume commodity player. It makes a lot more margin in the Enterprise sector. If RIm cracked the music download market and suddenly 10million users loved its new music application overnight, RIM would be in trouble: a) it couldn't service the volume - hasn't enough subcontractors or factories; b) it wouldn't necessarily want to. To build 10million more handsets and service 10million new Blackberry customers who WILL NOT sign a contract for the BES push e-mail with Vodafone (60/70pounds a month) would be completely cost ineffective from a hardware production perspective. Neither RIM nor Vodafone would recoup its investment/outlay in purchasing Blackberry handsets. Hence, RIM does not want to buold the best features in the music or camera space or any other space other than push e-mail.

    Neilhoskins: very few senior mgmt types are allowed to buy the phone of their choice (at least for corporate mail usage). Most large companies, who will buy a large volume of devices which can facilitate e-mail forwarding, will buy - bulk - a phone of central choice and then distribute to their employees who need them. And the managers take what they get and the company delights at the fact that their staff are thumbing e-mail responses with their tongues hanging out - continuing to work - at the family dinner table or on the beach on holiday. If I had 10p for every snr mgr I heard say "I have one of those new Blueberry thingies, damn nuissance" - I'd be rich. The point being: very few managers care about what they are given.

    To patch the BES onto your telco backbone is almost seamless - you drop the CD-ROM into your server platform, hit run and away you go: almost instantly you have secure triple DES incripted push mail. The very fact that you had to take an iPHONE and fiddle around with ActivSync is also the very reason large companies don't follow your boutique approach (letting a independant manager choose his own independant solution, which is tailored, following pruchase, with a bespoke adaption - take up your unnecessary time to figure it all out - to give him e-mail functionality).

    Lastly, the majority of other push e-mail solutions are inferior to RIM's solution, especially in the area of security and interoperability (service integration). Too many posts reply over and over and over that there are other push e-mails solutions. There are. But they just aren't 5star quality like the Blackberry BES.

    In summary, once more - to answer the question "can a celeb bomb a product?" - there is a lack of understanding with regards to what the RIM product is and it is not to service the consumer market - hence, a celeb blog on Twitter will NOT bomb the Storm. Again, Mr. Fry and the BBC, who haven't grasped what the Blackberry's offering is - a secure, easily integrated CORPORATE push e-mail solution - won't affect the sales of Blackberry or the life of the Storm at all. If anything, RIM's marketing team will suck up the cosmetic feedback from Mr. Fry and others and will improve the facial software glitches of the Storm in a newly revised Storm 2 in 2009 RIM will not lead in cosmetic features ever. They don't want to spend money developing non-critical selling points. BES push e-mail is the critical selling point.

  • Comment number 48.

    Stephen Fry didn't kill the Blackbeery Storm, the simple fact it is awful killed the hype.

    A push to click touch screen? What an absurd idea. After using one for a few days (my boss has bought one and asked me to configure it) I can honestly say it doesn't hold a candle to the iPhone.

  • Comment number 49.

    From a marketing perspective, it bears out:

    Word of mouth is still the most powerful form of marketing.

    You can't promote a poor product no matter how much you throw at it.

    Opinion formers are still hugely influential whatever the media format ( cf. Clarkson and cars).

    In a world where there are more commentators and communicators than ever -who can you trust? Someone you 'know'-personal recommendations still count for alot.

  • Comment number 50.

    What's the beef here?

    Look at what Fry's comments said. All fairly objective comments about what he was actually doing. and nicely measured.

    But at the same time, as a geek with my own skills, I wouldn't buy a device on simply his say-so, especially if he;s talking about Apple stuff :) Having said that, I remember him expressing at least some disappointment with the 1st gen iPhone at least.

  • Comment number 51.

    I've not read a great deal of Fry's articles but from what I have seen it seems he is 'one of us'.

    There is too much of a love in with tech companies from reviewers and media sites because they need the companies for promo's, advertisement revenue, etc. It's like the games industry where games review websites are actually paid good money by companies to 'big-up' their game a little more.

    With reviews by people like Stephen Fry his opinion is actually more trust worthy because the things he bemoans or points out are the things we would. A media site would no doubt talk about processor speed, etc but we just want to know how user friendly it is and where a website would talk about a phones features they are very really commented on in terms of performance or user friendliness.

    p.s. I also love Apple products, but they are by no means perfect.

  • Comment number 52.

    Sorry Rory but after a few years buying smartphones I can, honestly, say that I have never read a review or opinion from Fry.

    Maybe he might be important in twitter world but not in the real one.

    I do, however, use several review sites who's opinions I have learnt to respect & trust. And then I make my own mind up.

    He cannot kill the BB Storm - even with your help.

  • Comment number 53.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 54.

    Steven Fry didn't kill the Storm. Blackberry did when they didn't finish it.

  • Comment number 55.

    I've had to mess around with BES, too, in the past. I found it bloated, not trivial to set up for an "average" IT guy, and resource-hungry, requiring its own server. For an SME, why install an extra server when you can just use the ActiveSync functionality that's already present in your Exchange server? So the PHB may have to wait a couple of minutes for his email to get pushed? Oooo Noooo...

    My own choice for the workplace would be:
    1. E-series Nokias with Dataviz Roadsync.
    2. WM devices using integrated ActiveSync.
    I would avoid both Blackberry and iPhone, especially the latter.

    There are now many ways to do push email and to synchronise with the corporate server: Blackberry is just one of them. The PHBs who think that "push email" = "Blackberry" drive me crazy, almost as much as the Apple fanboys.

  • Comment number 56.

    Rory:
    maybe he could killed a gadget....

  • Comment number 57.

    I saw Stephen in the audience at the proms on Sunday. He was wearing a rather dashing turtle neck and i promptly went out and bought one - its true he is very trusted I can see why those price comparison site like http://www.voucher-code-discount.co.uk use him

 

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