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CrackBerry Kevin Goes to Waterloo - Sees BlackBerry Bold 9900s on the assembly line, plays with Android app player and way more!

By Kevin Michaluk on 12 Jul 2011 12:08 am EDT
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#GreatestDayEver!!! All I can say is WOW, why did it take me so long to visit the hometown of BlackBerry?!

I wasn't sure what would happen today in Waterloo -- I was kind of expecting to get tasered by a RIM security guard or something -- but instead I was treated like royalty by Research In Motion. Literally! My day started out with a manufacturing tour in RIM building #8, the same tour the Queen went on last year, where I got to see BlackBerry Bold 9900s go on the assembly line from start to finish! Check out the video above to see me post-tour in my official white RIM lab coat. It was a crazy experience seeing the smartphone I want soooo badly go from raw components to a final and ready to ship device (I was surrounded by thousands of 9900s... so crazy!). Two things that really blew me away with the whole process were the number of quality control checks along the assembly line and the things RIM does in the manufacturing process to make sure their hardware is durable and can stand up to abuse. Consumer Affairs posted recently that BlackBerry has the lowest smartphone failure rate (Android was the highest fyi), and after seeing new Bolds getting built I can say I'm not surprised by that. Unfortunately I couldn't get near the last assembly line, the area 51 of building 8 where they run prototypes, but man oh man what an experience. This was heaven for a BlackBerry addict.

With the BlackBerry manufacturing tour complete, next up on the agenda I talked to Derek Kuhn, VP of Marketing for QNX, for an hour as he walked us through the QNX mission and vision. I'll be doing an indepth followup post on this later, but let's just say in addition to their already amazing accomplishments (QNX is literally in use everywhere), beyond their involvement in BlackBerry products I'm really excited about what they're doing in automotive. Remember that post I wrote back in March about my dream of having a PlayBook dock/integration in cars? Let's just say I'm pretty sure QNX has conceived of every possible usage case of mobile in automotive and has built the platform to turn those ideas into reality. 

Next up I met with one of the product managers on the PlayBook team, and we spent a lot of time walking through the current and future state of the BlackBerry Tablet OS. I got to put the yet-to-be released Android App player to the test on a bunch of Android apps and games and also got a sneak peek at a bunch of upcoming features that unfortunately, I can't talk about right now (sowwy!). All I can really say is that with the PlayBook's Tablet OS an update is never going to be too far away (hint, hint) and along with the updates you might be expecting, there's also going to be some surprises in the future that will make you say SWEEEEET!

After that we drove around for a bit, getting a good perspective on just how big RIM is in Waterloo (they seriously have like 25 buildings here), and from there headed down to Kitchener to check out the Communitech technology hub/incubator. It was at this point that I started to realize that this area is more than about just RIM, as Communitech's CEO Iain Klugman and a friendly crew walked us through their amazing facility that houses dozens of tech startups in the region as well as established companies (Google has offices in this building). Andrew Jackson of the Accelerator Center, which also helps startups go from concept to reality as fast and smart as possible, was also on hand and really emphasized just how well people in this region work together to get things done. I'll be doing a followup post in the near future on all of this. The bottom line here really is that beyond RIM, the Waterloo area really is a Silicon Valley of the north, with a lot of talent with a strong worth ethic housed within a collaborative environment. It's a recipe for great things.

The formal part of the day ended with an enlightening tour of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. This is the facility and endeavor that was founded by RIM's founder and Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis. Mike L has put a lot of his own money into PI - to the tune of $170 million to date. When I'd heard about PI in the past I can honestly say my thought was that if I had $170 million lying around I could probably think of other things I'd spend the money on, but after visiting the facility and seeing the vision being lived out, I can honestly I say I get it. Instead of just waiting around for the next Einstein of the world to show up, PI is creating the conditions to allow the brightest people in the world to make amazing discoveries. We're not talking better smartphones and tablets here, but literally the kinds of ideas that will alter the world as we know it. Again, I'll follow up with a more detailed post on this later.

As you can imagine, by this time I was spent... so it was off to Morty's for wing night and beer. Tomorrow is going to be another action packed day in Waterloo, which will end off with the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders. I'll be on location and live blogging here on CrackBerry, so keep it locked right here!

Reader comments

CrackBerry Kevin Goes to Waterloo - Sees BlackBerry Bold 9900s on the assembly line, plays with Android app player and way more!

131 Comments

These are the kinds of posts we all hope to read everyday and keep us coming back to CB MANY MANY times a day!!

Visiting RIM must be like visiting Disney World for a small kid for the first time! I've added this to my bucket list!

Great job Kevin! Keep us posted!

hey kevin....just nod or shake ur head to this question. i was told that the playbook will be getting the android marketplace in september in exchange for bbm on android devices. the delay for the playbook update isn't the fault of rim but the fault of google. is this true?

ps. if it is, i hope rim sends them a bbm lite/express version instead of the full bbm experience!

Wow, Kevin! Sounds like it's a dream come true for you! I assume they all knew who you were? That's so cool. It's really awesome you got to learn some more secrets too, gotta love NDAs :P

Our offices for a startup I work for are located in the Communitech Hub :)

Can we get any comments on how the Android player ran?

What a lucky guy.
They make BBs in Canada? I thought that they were made in Mexico or China or some other place. Now I know why the quality is so good.
How did you like the line up? You get to bear of any release dates?

J.

The only piece of info that matters to me is whether the next crop of BB phones will be QNX compatible when its released next yr for smartphones or will they be bricked all the OS6 phones.

thats so weird that you're in Waterloo, I've lived here my whole life and RIM's always just kinda been in the background of things,
they just built 5 new buildings by my neighbourhood

shame they cant get us BB's before people in the states though

edit: i do remember one rumour one halloween that Jim Balsillie was giving out BB pearls along with candy, i never did know anyone who got one though..

but his house is huge, he has a swimming pool in his front yard

"but his house is huge, he has a swimming pool in his front yard"

I laughed so hard at this! I can imagine this becoming part of common vernacular to illustrate the immense wealth that a person has.

OMG!!! That experience must have been something like: Kids Visiting Willy Wonkas' Chocolate factory. I have to say I envy you... YOU GOT YOUR GOLDEN TICKET. I don't know if i'll be able to sleep after this. I'm becoming very eager to finally own my 9930; Seriously, I've been holding my breath for this new blackberry since January!

What a lucky guy.
They make BBs in Canada? I thought that they were made in Mexico or China or some other place. Now I know why the quality is so good.
How did you like the line up? You get to hear of any release dates?

J.

Hey Kevin, how was the atmosphere around RIM?
Did everybody seem disgruntled like the (possibly fake) letters to BGR would have everyone believe? Were the employees in shackles? Being whipped by a slave driver?
Did the cafeteria menu consist of bread, water, and gruel?

Keep up the good work! I can't believe it's the first time you've visited the mother land.

lol @ the "motherland" reference.

Not to be a butt smoocher; however, RIM should embrace CB full on for its tireless promotion of the BlackBerry brand. To wit, I am glad they let ol Kev past the velvet rope. Kudos.

"Were the employees in shackles? Being whipped by a slave driver?
Did the cafeteria menu consist of bread, water, and gruel?"

No that's the Foxconn employees in China making iphone/ipads for Apple

Holy f*ck guys!!! Its just a god damn phone, would yall quit freaking out over a blackberry and where its made?? Wooowww :O

Who called the "fun police"? You must be a blast at parties... although with your attitude, I highly doubt you get many invitations.

For some reason, I can't compare my level of excitment at a party to my level of excitment for an upcoming gadget, I just can't get super excited for an upcoming phone as I would for a party I'm about to go to. Therefore I apologize for lacking the ability to get super excited over a phone. I just can't get that excited over a gadget, really, I've tried many times before but failed.

No need to apologize for lacking the ability to get excited about a gadget, nobody is asking you to get excited. But, just because others do enjoy such things, doesn't mean you should look down on them for that fact and attempt to rain on their parade. If someone enjoys something that you don't and that enjoyment has no negative effect on you, then let them be happy. So many comments are negative just for the sake of being negative and to make the poster feel like some kind of man.... Is that who you are, who you want to be?

Lol chillax I just meant that that was a little over board with the excitment not trying to rain on anyones parade. Btw just because I said what I said on my comment doesn't mean that that's who I actually am. Just saying. No hard feelings man.

maybe next time you should think before you type. saying "not trying to rain on anyones parade" does not make it right. you did rain on everyone's parade.
if you did not want to rain on anyone's parade, then don't rain on their parade. don't write this kind of comment.

Wow what a display of control. Standing next to all those 9900's and not stealing one! I am proud of our leader!

Wow u are Lucky as hell Kevin!! Thats great... u should have gotten the complete treatment like the queen and should have been able to take one of the 9900s home!!! Or did u? ***wink wink*** lol

Intentional or not, what a brilliant marketing maneuver by RIM. Bring you to Waterloo. Give you the Charlie treatment at the choclate factory. Have you sign an NDA. Let you go home with a lab coat that will become your video podcast / conference attire. And let you go home and relate your experiences to Crackberry Nation. This visit will pay off bigger than any of the NBA or NHL ads they paid boatloads for. Keep the info coming!

Kevin. I need to know more.
My curve 8330 was born in Mexico, so does that mean that Canada and Mexico are the same country?

I didn't see any employees in the background. Were they all fired?

A news article showed a bunch of moving trucks in font of the RIM building. I guess that they never moved. The media is full of S*IT. RIM is strong, CrackBerry is strong, the Empire is strong, and our berries are going to live on.

RIM has at least 25 buildings in Waterloo, so I think they were just moving stuff around, but 25 buildings sounds like a lot but none are over 4 storys tall

Awesome review, now i just realized im on the right track to have all my blackberry gadgets, especially my playbook, good job Kevin, keep up the review..

regards from Indonesia

Welcome to Waterloo :) if you have extra time between 1145 and 145, Laurier has a summer softball league playing at all 4 fields at waterloo park. Maybe sneak me a 9900?

It's about time that RIM treated you like royalty. You and Crackberry have probably done more to boost their sales over time than just about anyone else. Congratulations! I am glad that you are having a great time on your first (and presumably not last) trip to Waterloo!

I am not here to bash Blackberry, but really how can you say that the quality of RIM devices is so so great? i have owned several Bolds and Tours over the last two years and every one from the day they were purchased had dust/ or something embedded all around the seams of the display. It may seem silly to some, but for what these devices cost they should be perfect. How about the original Tour and the battery door. You call that quality? I called RIM about these issues and was told someone would get back to me but nobody ever did.

Maybe Kevin you could bring this up with somebody there?

"#GreatestDayEver!!!" Yeah - for you!

How about giving us some real information instead of all of these hints and "I can't talk about it" stuff!

Just jealous is all

"How about giving us some real information instead of all of these hints and "I can't talk about it" stuff!"

I feel like that's all RIM does give us these days. And being a current Torch owner, THAT just doesn't seem to be enough.

Why do you guys like BlackBerry "RIM" so much? I don't understand, I hate my BB S2 or any other BB there all same, cheap piece of shitty device, for business? F that I ain't no business guy I want a SMARTPHONE NOT a DUMDPHONE, RIM you guys sucks.. fallin' way behind even Apple is better well for me waiting for the DROID Bionic to come out and then bye bye BB another customer lost "RIM" WACK-Berry. Who wants a "Fruit" for a phone... oh I know, you guys do, bunch of .... ahhh.... w/e am out.

Calm down and try to type in English...
Uunless you're 11 years old in which case nice post.

Hey Douche.. I mean Dariuscuh. If you have such a dislike for BlackBerrys, why are you posting on a BB site? Also, DUMD is actually spelled DUMB.. but judging by your post, you already know that.

HAHAHA! Classic 14 year old trying to troll like the "big kids". If you dont like or cant seem to figure out how to use a Blackberry, get something else. How funny that you need to make an announcement.

aww, that's cute! It's like watching a kitten play in a basket full of toilet paper!

You better start doing your chores now if you want a chance of getting your mom to buy you the phone you want!

Here's a tip for you... If you get to the store and she refuses to buy you a big boy phone, all you have to do is start crying and then scream at the top of your lungs "why do you always have to f*ck me in the a$$ mom?!"

hahaha. right. like any of your responses after the original comment weren't childish in the same respect??? the adult thing would have been not to respond at all. wow.

owning a smartphone will not make you any smarter.
i am not sure if you are aware of this, but apple is also a fruit.
have a phone that meets your need. no need to impose others on what kind of phone they should use. this is how a war started.

"I got to see Blackberries being born".......what a great quote.

And all I could think of with the two thumbs up is Borat saying "Very niiiiice...sexy time".

its so sad to see RIM paying you to go to their god aweful looking campus to hype them up. Too little too late, honestly. RIM user for 5 years, and have had enough of their aweful phones. I mean, its so freaking obvious that they're having one last ditch effort to get some consumer excitement going for their devices. Coincidentally a few weeks after those employee letters came out..and right before their shareholder meeting..sure...if i were to ever trust locking myself into a 2 year contract with one of their crap devices again, its gonna take a lot more than fanboy running into their prison-like corporate park and showing me a display case. How about a management shakeup and a bold vision? Nah, screw that...They'll just add some more chrome lining to a bold... and hey, theyre selling like hotcakes in indonesia, what do first world countries know about smartphones anyway?

cberryuser.. are you sure you don't want to change your name to iZombielover? If you hate BlackBerry so much, don't let the door hit you!! I'm sure you'll be back once the 9900 (and eventually QNX) phones are released.. and you are left holding a toy that plays iFart apps.

Umm... Kevin wasn't paid to go. But if you didn't realize that on your own then I'm probably just wasting my time typing this.

Kevin,

Please stop using "there's" when you mean "there are"; and please correct other simple stylistic and grammatical errors in your writing. You are a serious voice in the RIM universe. Please don't cheapen your image. Write to high standards.

Finally a post with something to look forward to in it! The Playbook has a long way to go and this post finally gave me some hope that said it is going to get there!

1. The folks at Consumer Affairs are on crack to say that BlackBerry has the lowest failure rate of all smartphones. I have sent a BlackBerry away every day for repair, for a variety of reasons. It takes roughly 6 weeks to get them back leading to frustration on the customer's part. BlackBerry is getting a reputation of being unreliable amongst my customers.

2. I cannot believe that Mike and Jim did not grant the editor of the largest BlackBerry fansite in the world some time. If not for an interview, even just to shake your hand. Shows you the arrogance of these two pricks.

I am sure Mike and Jim have an abundance of spare time the day before the shareholders meeting for interviews with CrackBerry. lol

@Kevin - great story. I'm looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip to Waterloo. Are you sure you can't share anything about the coming PlayBook updates? I'm hoping RIM management considers adding functionality to the PlayBook to allow your BlackBerry handset to work like a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Frankly, I'd rather not have to carry around another accessory.. and I can type relatively fast on my 9000 (hopefully soon to be 9900) so using the large Playbook screen, with a keypad and pointer from my handset, would be AWESOME!!

" I'm hoping RIM management considers adding functionality to the PlayBook to allow your BlackBerry handset to work like a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse."

GENIUS. Kudos for coming up with that idea, so simplistic and yet such a great solution to a nagging problem on tablets that takes advantage of the Playbook's strengths. If you haven't already, send this idea into RIM just in case!

@Kevin - oops, I forgot one last question. Can you confirm that the 9900 are in production mode or are they just creating "test" devices?

That was a Consumer Reports article, Kev! BlackBerrys were the most reliable smartphones with the fewest defects! Awesome! Androids were by far, the worst.

Someone please confirm these numbers, but I think it was something like 2.4% defects on BlackBerrys and something ridiculous like 21% defects on Android devices. iPhones was about 5%.

any word on the monaco? have you seen that or heard anything about it? also, is it false hope to think that a playbook update could potentially come this month or even in august for that matter?

Actually, Kevin quotes the article from Consumer Reports. Smartphone defects are as follows:

3.7% BlackBerrys
8% iPhones
9% Windows Phone 7
14% Android

Pretty impressive for RIM!!! Thank you, Kevin, for sharing that.

this is all very good kevin but i'm still waiting for native PIM and an IM client like digsby or jivetalk for my playbook.
i am a blackberry user but i dont like the bridge so much. and the paucity of an IM app is shocking.

Go to imo.im or another IM website. It's better than an app because you have so many IM options! Web = The ultimate free app!

That glass BlackBerry display case is a fitting image of RIM's not to distant future. RIM is on a dead end road and BlackBerries will soon be showcased in Canadian museums like the extinct dinosaurs.

Hey Kevin, make sure to hang up a big FOR SALE sign before you leave Waterloo...

Rainforrest.. why don't you take your stupid comments and go get lost in a rain forest somewhere in the Amazon. Maybe you can take your iToy with you and play animal sounds so you don't get eaten. I bet they have an app for that... oh wait, I better not say "app", I'm sure I'll be getting a call from crApple's legal team.

thanks for your interesting insight into the RIM has been up to.
what i would like to know is, are they major updates for the playbook in the near future and do they plan to release a newer playbook soon.

Great report, Kevin! I know RIM is hurting as their stock has lost over 50% of its value this year alone. However, it's not all bad. The company is healthy and I'm confident that things will rebound nicely over the next 12 months, starting in August!

LMAO.... Good video and good article. Looking forward to the 9900. Hopefully Rogers will officially announce it.

Kevin, can you confirm or deny that the crypto kernel certification on the Playbook is what has been holding things like the Native e-mail, PIM and other items up?

Ok two things was that video made in iMovie? Irony? Those pop up graphics look familiar. Two, THAT is the BB display case??? Come on RIM THat looks like a case from a museum that has junk in it.

Now about the phones, pretty cool that the 9900 is in production so that means it should be hitting the shelf "later this summer" just kidding should be out sooner than later.

This is sort of like "wish you were here", but you're not!!!!

Shouldn't Kevin hold a contest to let one of us (the real RIM customer) win a trip to their headquarters?

Kevin started this blog, so I guess it's cool to share his "best day ever". It just seems like he's having all the fun!

any news on AT&T getting the Bold 9900? Been waiting for 5 months for this to get here, but gambling that it won't be released for AT&T, or that it won't be included as an upgrade device.

Frankly, I would be shocked if AT&T didn't carry this as part of their handset lineup. They haven't released a new Bold handset since the 9700... and the 9900 is going to the be the Rolls Royce of the Bold series to date, so they would be stupid not to offer it.

This post really gave me some hope for RIM and the update that might be coming to my PB :) I look forward to the featured articles.

On a side note how was Morty's? I love everything they have their except their wings (which they are known for) I went to WLU across the street, they look abnormally big for wings haha.

This all just sounds awesome! I just hope this means there's an even brighter future for RIM and the BlackBerry brand! Hail to the kings!

This all just sounds awesome! I just hope this means there's an even brighter future for RIM and the BlackBerry brand! Hail to the kings!