BlackBerry is back in the news, is that a good thing?

Aug 4, 2010
Tech

International bans have overshadowed RIM’s new smartphone this week, a potential positive for a company that has had a negative year. Also in today’s App Industry Report: If you’re a crook, leave your iPhone at home. All RIM, all the time Research in Motion (RIMM) has had an eventful week, and it’s only Wednesday. RIM, […]

International bans have overshadowed RIM’s new smartphone this week, a potential positive for a company that has had a negative year. Also in today’s App Industry Report: If you’re a crook, leave your iPhone at home.

All RIM, all the time

Research in Motion (RIMM) has had an eventful week, and it’s only Wednesday. RIM, which introduced its new BlackBerry Torch smartphone Tuesday, is in need of the press it has received this week as the company has fallen off the map in 2010.

And while it is too soon to say whether RIM will hit a home run with the BlackBerry Torch or strike out, like it did with its first touch-screen phone, the Storm, the attention placed on the phonemaker has got to help in its battle to shore its falling market share. Right? As you know, the iPhone and Android phones are the products of the moment, while BlackBerry has been slow to make changes to its hardware and operating system.

But a new phone is hardly the only reason why we are talking about RIM this week.

BlackBerries are being banned in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. There is talk that other countries, notably India, may also ban the devices. The ban is because these governments want more control monitoring mobile email, and RIM’s proprietary software does not allow for such snooping. As we pointed out Monday, this could turn into an unexpected marketing boon for RIM if handled correctly. It is wonderful endorsement of the device’s security; indeed, the U.S. government feels comfortable enough with BlackBerry security that it allows military personnel to use the devices.

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RIM’s stock largely traded higher early this week, too, as the markets saw the ban as a potential silver lining in a bad year.

But those share prices started falling late Tuesday after RIM introduced the BlackBerry Torch. The device did not ignite a fire in investors or potential buyers, with early comments focusing on physical features that don’t meet current standards — no front-facing camera, cannot shoot high-def video and, as the Boy Genius pointed out, a screen that “is laughable.” The phone does include BlackBerry 6, an upgraded operating system

Again, it’s early in the product evaluation process and the Torch has a good chance to appeal to the dedicated BlackBerry user who doesn’t want to switch to the trendy iPhone or phones running the hot Android system. But it will be a tough sell for many to remain with RIM, as my wife — the non-techie — pointed out pretty clearly. She’s one of those dedicated BlackBerry users ready to switch to Android or the iPhone for a simple reason: there are so few apps available for BlackBerries.

RIM said Tuesday it will make it easier for developers to work with the device and earn money within ads placed within apps on the BlackBerry.

Now, all of this week’s news for the Canadian phonemaker should be seen as a positive, even if much of the coverage has negative tones. After all, it’s been awhile since we’ve had a serious chat about RIM’s prospects in the cut-throat smartphone business. For better or worse, RIM has re-entered the conversation.

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Cop’s best friend: the iPhone

Back to security, iPhone owners that tend to behave badly should take note of a Chicago Sun-Times story published this past weekend. The piece looked at how one police detective “loves it when an iPhone turns up as evidence in a criminal case.”

An iPhone helps the police create a trail of where you’ve been and what you have been doing. Here’s a sample of how, from the story:

• Every time an iPhone user closes out of the built-in mapping application, the phone snaps a screenshot and stores it. Savvy law-enforcement agents armed with search warrants can use those snapshots to see if a suspect is lying about whereabouts during a crime.

• iPhone photos are embedded with GEO tags and identifying information, meaning that photos posted online might not only include GPS coordinates of where the picture was taken, but also the serial number of the phone that took it.

• Even more information is stored by the applications themselves, including the user’s browser history. That data is meant in part to direct custom-tailored advertisements to the user, but experts said some of it could be useful to police.

“When someone tells me they have an iPhone in a case, I say, ‘Yeah!’ I can do tons with an iPhone,” Detective Josh Fazio told the paper.

Be careful out there, people.

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Eric Benderoff

Eric Benderoff is the principal of BendableMedia.com, an editorial services firm, and a founding member of the Appolicious content strategy team. His personal technology column for the Chicago Tribune has appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide. He is a regular guest on Chicago's WGN Radio and is a frequent commentator about consumer technology on national TV news programs.

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