Rick Constanzo: dual-mode wi-fi “half-baked”

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RIM’s vice-president of commercial relations for Europe, Rick Constanzo, while speaking at the London launch of the BlackBerry 7130g for 02, had some very interesting thing to say about dual mode (i.e. GSM and Wi-Fi enabled) phones. Confirming that RIM had investigated the technology, Constanzo said: “We won’t launch something that’s half-baked… It has got to be darn easy to use or it will fail.”

Citing the ability to “hide complexity away from the end user” as a major factor in the BlackBerry’s success, Constanzo suggested that dual-mode phones, which are intended to be able to switch seamlessly between Wi-Fi and GSM-based networks during calls, are not yet a suitably developed proposition. He also cited battery life as a concern.

However, representatives from BT, which has its Fusion dual-mode Wi-Fi phone coming out in the summer, don’t buy that for a second.

“[Fusion] will become a far more mass-market product when it becomes Wi-Fi enabled,” a BT spokesman said. “It’s extremely easy to use — the technology does the work for you,” he said, adding he did not think the battery life was any worse than on many other mobile devices.

Seeing as most devices released in Europe with dual-mode functionality have that functionality removed upon release in North America, we’re thinking the real hold-up on the technology is that carriers haven’t found a way to make money off of it yet. Constanzo’s comments probably reflect RIM’s strong relationship with North American carriers (which, by the way, is necessary to their survival).

  • Mike

    I think it’s important to note that Rick isn’t saying dual-mode is “half-baked” but that RIM won’t be releasing a product to market that isn’t ready for prime-time. It’s (realtively) easy to throw an 802.11 radio into a mobile device – but when you consider all the implications of a handheld with WiFi, Cellular and Bluetooth radios, then things get more tricky. making any one of those work by itself is a complex but manageble task – getting two or more to work in harmony with one another, while providing the stability and security that BlackBerry is renown for, is something else (remember who their target audience is – business and gov’t have different standards that you and I).

    BT can talk all they want about their infrastructure and how easy to use it is, but at the end of the day they don’t have the same issues to deal with as the handset manufacturers in terms of battery conservation (it’s another radio – of course it will affect battery life) and usability.

    RIM is certainly able to produce a handset with WiFi (7270?) so I don’t think it’s a question of technical merit or towing another company’s line – there are carriers in North America who are looking favourably at UMA/GAN as well. I expect when RIM comes out with a dual-mode device it will be vastly superior to their competition, and ridiculously easy to use. And probably BT will be all over it :D

  • Mike

    I think it’s important to note that Rick isn’t saying dual-mode is “half-baked” but that RIM won’t be releasing a product to market that isn’t ready for prime-time. It’s (realtively) easy to throw an 802.11 radio into a mobile device – but when you consider all the implications of a handheld with WiFi, Cellular and Bluetooth radios, then things get more tricky. making any one of those work by itself is a complex but manageble task – getting two or more to work in harmony with one another, while providing the stability and security that BlackBerry is renown for, is something else (remember who their target audience is – business and gov’t have different standards that you and I).

    BT can talk all they want about their infrastructure and how easy to use it is, but at the end of the day they don’t have the same issues to deal with as the handset manufacturers in terms of battery conservation (it’s another radio – of course it will affect battery life) and usability.

    RIM is certainly able to produce a handset with WiFi (7270?) so I don’t think it’s a question of technical merit or towing another company’s line – there are carriers in North America who are looking favourably at UMA/GAN as well. I expect when RIM comes out with a dual-mode device it will be vastly superior to their competition, and ridiculously easy to use. And probably BT will be all over it :D