May is Over...

I don't think any company, or any person for that matter, sets a deadline with the intent of missing it.

Now that May is over, BlackBerry fans and critics in the USA are reminding me -- in the forums, via email, on Twitter, on BBM Channels -- that the company just "missed" two key deadlines. 

The understanding by most was that May would be the month that delivered both Q10s and a Z10 OS 10.1 update to the USA. With May 31st here and gone, it's onward we look to June...

The first deadline that was (arguably) missed was the launch of the BlackBerry Q10 in the USA. Going back to the January 30th BlackBerry 10 launch event, we found out that the Z10 would launch in the USA in mid-March, rather than early February as it did in Europe and Canada. Coming into the launch event, we were still under the impression that the "delayed" launch of the Z10 would not affect the rollout of the Q10. At that point, we were still hoping the Q10 would be in the USA in April. That dream vanished quickly though as BlackBerry executives were putting the launch of the Q10 in the USA anywhere from 8 - 10 weeks following the Z10's release. While no exact date was given, even at that point a late May / early June US launch for the Q10 was in the cards, though I don't think any of us wanted to believe it would be June before America could buy the Q10.

I know I didn't want to believe the Q10 would launch in June, considering back in December 2012 I wrote an article with the strongly worded headline of BlackBerry 10 phone w/ QWERTY keyboard WILL BE HERE before June based on a statement I received from BlackBerry in response to an article Forbes published based on a Detwiler Fenton research note (these are the same guys that later wrote that bunk article about the Z10 having high return rates based on real data - at least none they were willing to produce). I don't like publishing incorrect headlines, and rarely do, so even coming into BlackBerry Live in Orlando I was hoping we'd get word that the Q10 would be hitting the US in late May. It didn't seem like a stretch to expect Q10s in May, given that more recent interviews by BlackBerry execs pointed to that. Instead, during the keynote we received the update that the Q10 would first hit carriers in early June.

Some of you took this newest mention of the June release date in stride - after waiting so long, what's a few more weeks, right? Others were less than happy, feeling that this push back to a Q10 launch date was all too reminiscent of the "old BlackBerry". Here's a pointed email I received shortly after that BBLive announcement from Erik (@e1slaven), a CrackBerry member in the USA, who's been anxiously waiting for the Q10:

I'll start by saying that the RIM of old had a notorious reputation for product delays and an overall lack of execution, so a major hope of mine with the new regime under Heins was a much quicker turnaround of products, especially in the US.

After the Q10 launched in over 10 countries, Heins told several US media outlets that the US release would be in May. Then, during the keynote, he said June, without anything more specific. Well, "early June", which is open to interpretation. Sprint has already said "late summer", which probably means September, while AT&T hasn't said a thing. So, at best, the US is looking at more than 4 months between the launch in NYC and actual availability, with 6 or more months possible. This is PlayBook launch territory...

It's outrageous that BlackBerry's single largest market has to wait until June to even start receiving a device that launched in January, again in a major US city. Other flagship devices from Samsung and HTC launched afterward and have been available for weeks, in the US and worldwide. The Z10 is a great device, but the Q10 is the one.

"Carrier testing" is becoming an old, stock excuse. The carriers do create barriers, no question. But the delays here are way out of proportion and Canadian carriers are subject to similar testing restrictions. The Q10 passed through the FCC many weeks ago, T-Mobile is already making them available to corporate customers (so it's obviously ready to go), AT&T's retail units have been distributed to media outlets for review (several weeks ago) and Verizon's retail unit has been seen several times (so it's most likely ready for primetime).

BlackBerry is definitely responsible for these delays, at least in part. Maybe they're paranoid that the Q10's app selection is inadequate for the US. Maybe they can't make enough units and chose to favor other markets over their largest. Maybe they want to try and move more Z10's before introducing the more popular Q10. Whatever the rationale, it only punishes their US customers and mirrors the horrible execution issues of old. BlackBerry fans and loyal customers only get angry and resentful when they see the US get bypassed and have to watch Heins announce yet another delay at BlackBerry Live (in another MAJOR US CITY). We should be able to follow along and enjoy their major show with our own Q10's, not wonder in frustration when they're ever going arrive.

On a side note, I'm personally not surprised about the PlayBook/BB10 issue, but it once again illustrates their persistent credibility problem. They've been saying for months that the PlayBook would be upgraded, and now, all of a sudden... Probably not.

Whether accurate or taking liberty, Erik's email sums up the frustrations I've been seeing expressed by a LOT of CrackBerry readers. Both to the Q10, the whole BB10 coming to PlayBook saga, and most recently now, the OS 10.1 update on the Z10 in the US. On keynote Tuesday at BlackBerry Live, the company announced OS 10.1 would begin rolling out to carriers that day, with 10.1 in the US slated for release by the end of May. June is now here no US carriers have pushed out 10.1 yet.

Damned if you do, Damned if you don't

While writing this post, I couldn't help but have a mental flashback to my childhood youth and Bart Simpson singing Deep, Deep Trouble (listen above). When it comes to missing deadlines, BlackBerry is somewhat in a position where they're damned if they do, damned if they don't. Given the company's position as being publicly traded and going through a big transition, they need to communicate - to their customers, and maybe more importantly, to their investors. Part of that is giving dates on when things will happen. If the company didn't communicate, they'd be damned. That said, once a date is communicated, then there's a commitment - and the CrackBerry community tends to be pretty unforgiving when it comes to missing deadlines. Also damned. 

This week the Q10 begins its official US roll out. And let's hope 10.1 begins dropping in the US too. After that, the next big commitments are cross platform BBM and the Q5 this summer. Here's to hoping things stay on track - I hate writing articles like this. 

* Photo taken and edited on the BlackBerry Z10, with Lomo filter applied.