Not sure what I was expecting when I was able to secure press credentials to OCRI’s Technology Brunch. I can tell you it wasn’t the scent of stale ketchup and bad sandwiches at the buffet (that Balsillie visibly snubbed, by the way), but I definitely got some solid BlackBerry coverage. The conference room at ScotiaBank Place was packed with about 300 corporate-types all assembled for the brunch and a speech by RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie – all part of the Ottawa Tech Showcase.
After a brief introduction, Jim took the stage sporting some Steve Jobs-like garb (black turtleneck), but coupled it with a suave black suit (“I only have one suit”, he claimed). One thing was apparent from the first time Balsillie popped his mouth open – this man personifies confidence. He controlled that room with nothing more than a cocksure attitude partnered with some motivational speaking. I’ve said it before, but man, is this guy a quote machine.
Seeing Jim Balsillie, for me, was like an Elvis aficionado seeing the King in concert. When he walked past me, I had a near pre-teen moment (OMG! IT’S JIM BALSILLIE!), but then I noted that he’s kind of… tiny, and I could probably take him in a fight. What he lacks in size he makes up for in attitude (oh, if I had a nickel). His spiel started lighthearted enough with some hockey talk and about RIM’s great relationship not only with OCRI, but a good majority of the Ottawa technology sector. Balsille noted that Ottawa is a big part of RIM’s future with two new offices being opened in the area.
The speech continued with Balsillie giving a little background on RIM and the BlackBerry. He said that the BlackBerry gives people with Type-A personalities an outlet – and that it teaches them patience in the process. Balsillie noted that he actually looks forward to that stoplight so he can get a chance to check his emails (he was typing away on his BlackBerry during his own introduction, actually).
Another solid quote from the day came when Jim said, “BlackBerry has liberated people from boring meetings” – a decent laugh from the crowd. Good one, Jim. None of us have heard that before.
Balsillie then went on to talk about the technology of the device, which fit the theme of the showcase perfectly. He gave information on both the BES and BIS side of things, how BlackBerry is becoming more and more about multimedia (he couldn’t remember what formats it supported exactly), and dropped a pretty huge bomb when he said that television shows were on their way to BlackBerrys soon. “TIVO in your pocket”, he calls it.
Overall, the speech lasted about 15 minutes before the floor opened up for questions, which Balsillie prefaced with a request for no queries on RIM’s latest stock issues. The first and best question of the day came from a gentleman asking what it’s going to take to get the BlackBerry as the “everyman’s” device. Balsillie started with the obvious, noting it’s harder to serve consumers than enterprise, but said that RIM took a backwards approach (compared to other communication companies) when they launched their device by going after the business side first. “The gateway to the consumer is through enterprise”, he said, “We’re in a hurry (for success), but our strategies are patient”.
Another question came up regarding integrating training modules on the BlackBerry. RIM’s CEO brought up SD cards and the fact they can fit so much information and in a wide array of formats. He seemed very optimistic about having the actual BlackBerry be your trainer, “being able to train on the train”, he chimed.
And after a few more questions and a presentation from OCRI’s president, Balsillie bolted. I’ve never seen a man move faster. A few members of the press persued (including an obnoxiously obtrusive CTV reporter), but got nothing. “He’s gone”, said OCRI officials. Drats. With him Balsillie took any hope of an interview with one of his biggest supporters. Thanks, pal.
With the end of the speech, we were all hurdled into the Ottawa Tech Showcase taking place on the ice surface (it was covered, you dolt) at ScotiaBank Place. Various booths that were really of no interest to you or me, except for a couple, covered the floor. RIM’s booth was filled with pleasant people who wouldn’t tell me anything I wanted to know (thanks for that, guys), but one employee noted that they get their BlackBerry news from BlackBerry Cool – that was pretty awesome. I also made a quick stop at Rogers’ booth and was able to find out that the device will finally be coming out next week after the delay this week. Oh, and no pricing was available for it, either.
So it was a fun little field trip. You can check out BBCool’s pictures on Flickr of the festivities. I’ll get Balsillie one day, folks. I promise. I’ll take this chance to say “hey” to all of the kind, kind folks I met and who showed interest in the site. It was great meeting you guys, too. You’re all more than welcome to our offices for tea whenever you want. And a big thank-you to OCRI for holding this event, bringing ol’ Jim into town, and letting this BlackBerry lover in to report back to the troops.