RIM: Steve Jobs is telling half the truth

Jim Balsillie defends the BlackBerry, responds to many of Jobs' Tuesday claims, and says customers are "tired of being told what to think by Apple."

Erica Ogg Former Staff writer, CNET News
Erica Ogg is a CNET News reporter who covers Apple, HP, Dell, and other PC makers, as well as the consumer electronics industry. She's also one of the hosts of CNET News' Daily Podcast. In her non-work life, she's a history geek, a loyal Dodgers fan, and a mac-and-cheese connoisseur.
Erica Ogg
3 min read

Steve Jobs certainly knows how to rile up his competitors.

His rant yesterday about the fragmentation of Android, Google's obfuscation of "open" versus "closed" platforms, and the shortcomings of 7-inch touch-screen tablets has earned him responses from his targets. The head of Androidposted a passive-aggressive tweet on the subject, and Android developer TweetDeck made a more direct correction of Jobs' claims about its development process.

RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie

Research In Motion's co-CEO also has a few things to say. He's clearly decided not to let the numbers Jobs used to show how the iPhone is leaving the BlackBerry in its dust go unchallenged.

In a blog post today on RIM's site titled "RIM Responds to Apple's 'Distortion Field,'" Jim Balsillie had a message for Jobs and, more importantly, the smartphone- and tablet-buying public.

For those of us who live outside of Apple's distortion field, we know that 7-inch tablets will actually be a big portion of the market and we know that Adobe Flash support actually matters to customers who want a real Web experience. We also know that while Apple's attempt to control the ecosystem and maintain a closed platform may be good for Apple, developers want more options and customers want to fully access the overwhelming majority of Web sites that use Flash. We think many customers are getting tired of being told what to think by Apple.

RIM, of course, has a dog in this fight besides its BlackBerry smartphone. It has announced a 7-inch tablet called the BlackBerry PlayBook. Now, there is no confirmed shipping date and, notably, even at the introduction last month RIM did not have a working prototype--leading some to question how likely the company is to bring the PlayBook to market in the near term. Curiously, Balsillie didn't reference the PlayBook at all in his post.

Instead, he moved on to take issue with Apple's counting. Jobs had said Apple's 14.1 million iPhones sold during the previous quarter "handily beat RIM's 12.1 million BlackBerrys sold for their most recent quarter" and "we've now passed RIM, and I don't see them catching up with us in the foreseeable future."

Balsillie didn't contend that Apple's numbers are wrong, but he that Jobs is making poor comparisons.

And by the way, RIM has achieved record shipments for five consecutive quarters and recently shared guidance of 13.8-14.4 million BlackBerry smartphones for the current quarter. Apple's preference to compare its September-ending quarter with RIM's August-ending quarter doesn't tell the whole story because it doesn't take into account that industry demand in September is typically stronger than summer months, nor does it explain why Apple only shipped 8.4 million devices in its prior quarter and whether Apple's Q4 results were padded by unfulfilled Q3 customer demand and channel orders.

In other words, Balsillie is calling out Jobs for comparing RIM and Apple's sales periods when they don't perfectly overlap, and for using the number of iPhones shipped to retailers and carriers instead of actual devices sold to consumers.

Not content to merely defend his company, for good measure RIM's co-CEO ended with a zinger about "antennagate."

As usual, whether the subject is antennas, Flash, or shipments, there is more to the story and sooner or later, even people inside the distortion field will begin to resent being told half a story.

Anyone else named in Jobs' rant care to respond? Motorola? HTC? Nokia? You're up.