With the iPhone 3G launching worldwide, consumers standing in line, and journalists salivating at the thought of talking about it, we've suddenly forgotten about RIM, Motorola, Nokia, LG, and the rest of the major players in the cell phone space.
Right now, Leo Laporte is getting ready to finish his 24 hours of iPhone coverage and my colleague Tom Merritt over at CNET TV came in to the office at 5 a.m. PDT to discuss the launch live. Techmeme is overloaded with iPhone coverage, and even major media outlets are jumping on the bandwagon, calling this "the biggest tech day of the year."
Wow. Have we really ever seen anything like this before? Some might say that last year's iPhone release was huge--and it was--but it's as if the hype machine came out in full force this year and did everything it could to eclipse last year's performance.
And so far, it has.
But what about RIM? The BlackBerry is, for all intents and purposes, the only real competitor to the iPhone now and with its stranglehold on the enterprise space, the only device that can keep Steve Jobs' juggernaut at bay.
That said, I can't help but wonder if RIM has learned something today. Has it learned that the Apple onslaught is real and very (very) powerful? Has it learned that hype is an incredibly powerful tool and should be used as much as possible? Has it learned anything?
I certainly hope so.
In the cell phone industry, no company has been able to build the kind of hype and pure hysteria that Apple has over the past year. Prior to its arrival in the space, no one really cared about the release of a particular device and more often than not, the only time you'd know about a phone was when you walked into the store when your contract was up.
But now, things are totally different. Instead of playing the same old game, Apple has turned the tables and created a firestorm from everything it does. All the while, companies like RIM have been forced to play by a different set of rules.
Things need to be different now. Instead of hoping that customers will come its way, RIM needs to play the PR game and create considerable hype for its products. It may be difficult--the BlackBerry doesn't own the stage the way the iPhone does--but rest assured that it is absolutely necessary.
Look what a little hype can do for a company. With the release of the iPhone, major media outlets are building it up, journalists can't get enough, and the consumers who are taking it all in have no other recourse but to listen and decide if they want one. On the other hand, the same can't be said for the BlackBerry.
There is no RIM hype machine and when a new BlackBerry is released, hardly anyone in the major media outlets cares. And if they don't care, neither will the average consumer who doesn't know too much about the tech industry and won't read columns like this; they rely on the NBCs of the world to get by.
So if RIM wants to more effectively compete against Apple, it needs to do everything it can to follow the Steve Jobs formula: secrecy, compelling products, and a great PR team. If it does, look for RIM to not lose as much ground as you may think. But if it doesn't, Apple will run amok.
Try as we might, we can't simply forget about Apple's immense power in the mindshare space. Unlike every other cell phone company, Apple is fully capable of commanding the spotlight each and every year. And if it can keep doing that and continue pushing the envelope with its enterprise support, there's no reason to suggest that it can't supplant RIM as the leader in that space. And if that happens, we'll know that RIM's hype machine was never built.