Pivot points and cowboy spurs

Keep Calm and Be Bold
By Chris Umiastowski on 18 Apr 2012 11:11 am EDT

Yesterday evening, Simon Sage brought to our attention an interesting blog post that RIM VP of Developer Relations made. Except this post by Alec Saunders was not on the developers blog. It was a personal post on his own blog. You can read it here.

Much of the CrackBerry team was surprised at the post. In short, Alec was writing an open letter to another small company CEO friend of his in the voice messaging industry. Alec's advice to his old pal was, "It's time to hang up the spurs cowboy."

If you read Alec's entire post, he's basically telling his friend that his main product, visual voicemail, isn't a business anymore. It's a feature. To his friend, the CEO of this visual voicemail service, he writes, "From where I sit, it looks like YouMail needed to pivot five years ago to remain relevant, and you missed the window."

I was, quite frankly, surprised to see Alec blog something like this. It's a pretty public way of slapping someone in the face. We're not used to seeing this from him. He is an incredibly good public speaker and the whole Crack Team really likes the guy.

One commenter fired back with what I can only describe as the elephant in the room: "It looks like RIM needed to pivot five years ago to remain relevant, and you missed the window. "

Ouch! But RIM did need to pivot years ago, and is undeniably very late. I don't think it's clear yet if they missed the window, but it's possible.

I can also see how Alec Saunders would have been a bit offended by the implications of YouMail's blog post, where they announced a discontinuation of work on the BlackBerry platform.

That post, from YouMail (and the CEO's own reply on Alec's blog), suggest that BlackBerry users in the US market are not adopting YouMail. Is that because nobody wants a BlackBerry period? Or is it because RIM already delivers a very good visual voicemail experience on BlackBerries sold via the major US carriers?

I would have thought the latter. But YouMail's CEO seems to be saying that his user base is growing on iPhone and Android despite those platforms having a built-in visual voicemail app.

So, perhaps its time to ask our audience. If you are a BB user in the US, do you like the visual voicemail feature RIM provides? Have you ever used YouMail? What about those of you on Android or iPhone? Besides the friendly face slaps being exchanged by two friends, let's get some opinions from the user base.

Reader comments

Pivot points and cowboy spurs


I hate voicemail, never use it period. How many times do people leave a message, you listen to it, call them back, and they rehash the message anyway?! On top of that if the user would just BBM/Text/Email/Tweet whatever me I could easily hit reply on my own time and respond to it quickly without the need to use my minutes or have a 5 minute+ call.

To me, voicemail is dead. Regardless of visual or not.

I disagree on this one and feel VM should stay around. I need those who feel they can do more than one thing at a time like Drive and Text use VM.

I totally agree as well.  I don't even have a voice mail account on my phone.  If people can't email me important stuff, I don't need to know about it.

Here, here!
The phone comes with voicemail.
If I need it, I will use it.
So many apps are just toys for the bored.

Totally agree. My wife and I both hate voice mail. She simply let's her inbox fill up so people can't leave her a message. Well she did until she ditched her BlackBerry for an iPhone 4S where she can delete voice mails without listening to them.

I, however, use Google Voice as my voice mail so I don't have to listen to them unless I think it is absolutely necessary. Google Voice does an okay job of transcribing and I can usually tell what the message is. The only issue I have with it is ever since I upgraded to the 9930 I can not listen to a voice via Google Voice if I choose to do so. They won't play for some reason. They worked on my Storm2 prior to that so now I must be at a computer or use my PlayBook if I want to actually listen to a message.

I have a 9930 and I can check my Voicemail through the app. Once you download it, it will work near perfectly.

I agree. I can't stand voicemail. I rarely use it, but I have Google voice for those couple of voicemails I receive each month. I had tried YouMail before, but eventually moved to Google Voice.

I also agree. I hate voicemail! I have call display so I can see you called me and will call you back. I don't need you to leave me a message telling me that you tried calling me and to call you back. I hate having to call in and deleting my voicemails.

What a stupid comment... Voicemail is still one of the most requested features for not only landlines but mobile phones.

You could say YouMail is dead because there are built-in options in most phones and most carriers provide it, but to say voicemail is dead because you'd rather "tweet or text" back is sad.

I tried out YouMail for a month and hated it. It was a horrible experience and it wasn't better than the standard visual voicemail RIM already provided. The ideas were nice, but the execution failed miserably.

Good for Mr. Saunders for coming out and defending RIM. I'm glad he did it. Getting sick of people bashing RIM and RIM not defending themselves.

Several key quotes from the article worth discussing (http://www.extremetech.com/mobile/126407-abandon-ship-blackberry-loses-y...):

1) "YouMail was the seventh most popular application in the productivity category of BlackBerry App World as of Tuesday afternoon."

2) "Blackberry usage has steadily declined while downloads for YouMail’s Android and iPhone apps soar"

3) "...on many days we’re now getting fewer BB users than Windows Phone 7 users, and we don’t even have a Windows Phone 7 app"

From this, you can glean a few things and pretty much destroy Alec Saunders entire blog post:

- YouMail is doing well on other platforms, indicating there is demand for their product.

- YouMail was doing "well" on BlackBerry as well, as the 7th most popular app.

- App World must be an absolute piece of junk if an app in 7th place generates less users vs another platform where the app isn't even available.

So that's that.

And let's face it folks, we can make a big story out of YouMail, but what's the point when pretty much every major developer abandoned BlackBerry years ago. "Another developer abandons BlackBerry" is a non-story.

True, and our primary focus should be in BB10, not BB7 since BB10 is not backward compatible...

Sad thing is, there's really no good news about BB10 every since the delay...Even if we want to have any kind of hope at all for the new os, there's really nothing that allows us to do that...

We are seeing app developers running away, and we don't see any running toward the Playbook os....no plans, no proposals, no strategic purchases...absolutely nothing...it is worrying that BB10 might be launched with even less app supports...

At this point I really think RIM has passed the window...consumers in general don't think RIM is relevant and don't pay any attention to RIM's current and coming products...many tech sites stopped reporting BlackBerry...many of the new handsets after the 9900/9810 launch didn't even get reviewed...It will take tremendous marketing effort to even garner the slightest attention from consumer when BB10 is launched...

And all these happened over the last quarter, and we have two more to go before BB10 is launched...Last month I still said RIM will not reverse the situation with BB10 but may slow the loss and eventually reverse it if they do extremely well and get new functions out quickly in the next few years....but the lack of any interest in RIM in the past month leads me to believe that reversal is not even possible, future products will only determine the time RIM has left and/or an extreme change in RIM's product (i.e., no longer following the handset/os/service model)...

I'm sure RIM/someone will do something a few years down the road but the worst case scenario is that someone will buy RIM for patents only and BB will be gone...


RIM is doing extremely well, so well that it doesn't need BB10 or any app at all, the reports on RIM suddenly rose and they are all very positive. The new BB7 handsets are extremely popular and everywhere on the web...let's all live in delusional world!!!!!


I believe that you exaggerate a bit, but I do feel that the situation you describe will come soon if RIM doesn't hurry up.

I don't think any real conclusions can be made from their ranking unless you know how those rankings are calculated, if its an all-time ranking then an app could have done well in the past and it could have a high total and position while not being currently popular at all, particularly in NA where blackberry sales are terrible.

Firstly Alec will be pretty useless not to fight RIM's corner.
Secondly being the SEVENTH most popular app in productivity section on a BLACKBERRY is not a great achievement. The OS is geared towards productivity, esp communication. If you are talking about communication then you cannot take way BBOS's crown. Seriously why do you need an app for voicemail? Even feature phones do this pretty well.

The quote "From where I sit, it looks like YouMail needed to pivot five years ago to remain relevant, and you missed the window." makes me think of RIM. Was it not 5 years ago that the iPhone came out?

I'm the biggest RIM supporter out there (even bought stock too!!!) but I have to agree with you. When Mr. Saunders made that quote the very first thing I thought of was RIM. That really is the pot calling the kettle black. Ugh.

Long Live The RIMpire!!!

P.S.-- and they talk about Crapple's "reality distortion field"...I think Mr. Saunders has been drinking too much of the companies' Kool-Aid. What a shame :-(

Agree, how Alec is not fired I still don't know. This is someone who works in developer relations. RIM is starved of developer support right now and basically had to beg to get devs to make apps for their platforms, going so far as to give out free playbooks.

And now, one of the top 10 devs for BlackBerry with an app that is highly rated and used, is publicly trashed by the RIM exec in developer relations.

Newsflash RIM, no one wants to develop for your platform because of these CEO's who have no clue how bad of a shape you are in.

If I was a blackberry developer, I'd count my losses now and leave the platform.

"No one wants to develop for your platform."
Newsflash Madness87: Insupportable sweeping generalizations are swamping the Crackberry Comments section....

Seriously, it would be worthwhile for everyone to actually have a look at Alec's blog entry, although I note in passing that it's been edited somewhat since it was first posted. http://www.saunderslog.com/ Go ahead, folks, it won't hurt to read something before you comment on it.

Alec's main point was frustration that a single app developer drops Blackberry and it makes CNN headlines. Meanwhile, RIM (largely through Saunders' efforts) recruited 14,000 developers last quarter and launched 25,000 apps. So now we know. "14,000" in Troll Speak actually means "no one."

Sigh, I'll respond to the assertions in your comment. YouMail was perhaps the 7th best app available for BlackBerry.

And it was one of the highest rated with millions of downloads.

So it's not just a single developer leaving, but one of RIM's earliest and most successful developers leaving.

Then, you cite the number of 14,000 developers recruited and 25,000 apps added, but you never once state just how many of those 14,000 developers actually came out with an app that was available through the App World, or how many of those additional 25,000 apps are just ports or versions of other successful apps from other OS'.

Do you know how easy it is to become a BlackBerry developer? The only reason they got 14,000 extra developers is because they promised free playbooks. Watch how many developers Apple would get if they gave free ipads to any developer who tries to make an app.

The fact that Windows Phone 7 which is largely considered a failure itself, and hardly had any phones out but now has more apps than the app world which has been out for over 4 years is ridiculous.

I've used both. YouMail on my 8300 and 8900 and VVM on my 9800 and 9810. I have to say, even when I used YouMail as a voicemail service I rarely used the app; I had it go to a "voicemail" email address as an attachment. The app was quite slow.

All that being said, I'm tempted to go back to YouMail for voicemail service. Why? It's cool. People love hearing the personal greetings where the message uses their name when it answers. There are some hiccups (sometimes it doesn't pick up, if the caller ID info is odd the message is odd - e.g. "Hi, Last Name, Jonty12 can't come to the phone...", etc), but overall, it makes voicemail interesting. Also, having web access to all your messages is great (you don't need your phone).

I do think the biggest factor in YouMail app decline is the availability of VVM as people upgrade from OS 4/5 and the simple fact that the app was kinda lousy. Again, service is good though.

I tried youmail last year and found it to be useless. I don't use the verizon version because my bill is high enough as it stands. I didn't use it on my iPhone either, so no thanks.

I see no reason for another company to have access to my personal voice mail.

Whether true or not, the carriers offer some sense of "phone" security, meaning, I'm pretty sure AT&T or Verizon are not mining my voice-mails for marketing purposes, or mining them for whatever other purpose they think necessary. Youmail on the other hand somehow needs to make money on this service... so what exactly are they doing with their data?

Good to see RIM in a 'fist' fight. About time. Dont care who is right or wrong, nice to see the 'company' stand up for itself.

The last thing RIM needs to do is have their executives in Developer Relations publicly trash one of their top developers with one of the most used apps in BlackBerry on a personal blog.

Why would anyone want to continue building apps for RIM if they're going to be trashed for doing what is natural? BlackBerry OS is dead, why spend money developing apps when you don't see much returns?

The last thing RIM really ought to do is lie back and take all the stupid shots every North American analyst and his sister is taking at the company. Bravo to Alec for not only hitting back, but also doing it with an almost incredible class. After posting his blog entry, he called up the guy who runs YouMail to talk about it. This is the result: "UPDATE: I just connected with Alex. We had a good chat, and I sent him a free pass to the the upcoming #bb10jam. I wish YouMail and Alex the best."

I never use visual voicemail or youmail or anything like that...I want to hear the tone of my voicemessages. Or else they can just email, bbm, text, facebook, tweet, etc.

I think it's good for Alec to call out a developer who is trying to get attention by feeding the negative media machine for their own benefit.

But by calling him out, Alec is just creating more attention. I honestly wouldn't have known (or cared) about the situation unless Alec did a post about it. 

I used Youmail a few years ago and didn't like it. I can understand Alec's blog post. The Youmail guy was probably looking for publicity. I agree that RIM discussing missed opportunities is silly but between the two companies at least RIM has a chance at a future. Youmail really doesn't in my opinion. I think voicemail is used less and less by folks. My voicemail is free on TMO. I'm guessing the people who buy this app the most probably are charged for it by their carrier.

I often wonder how many of these "No one wants our BlackBerry app anymore, so we're cutting the cord" shops really just had crappy apps that no one wanted to use.

I personally thought youmail was horribly bad when I tried it. Never again. I'll stick to the one that comes on my bold

YouMail needed to be put in its place. And all other misconceptions need to be cleared up that the media, bloggers and other publications have caused in the US market. I'm glad Alec did this. Looks like hes the only one with balls at RIM.

But to combat the times ahead, every RIM executive is going to have to grow brass balls. No more Mr. Nice Guy RIM.



Bringing plastic curves and 'high end' Bolds with no dual core or front camera to this fight is like bringing a knife to a gun fight....

I used youmail when I had a blackberry, and I use it now on Android. It helps for those times when I actually do get a message, instead of going thru all the menus and entering a passcode, all I have to do is click on the message. I would never pay for it though.

Whether Alec was right or wrong about the visual voicemail market, it does not matter. By taking to his personal blog, he made the issue way too personal and looked condencending with his whole "You should have pivoted 5 years ago" comment. At best he should have invited the YouMail developers to BB10Jam to try ang get them on board the BB10 platform. At worse, he should have just thanked YouMail for providing an app for all these years and ask that they give RIM another look once BB10 is released.

Actually, it made him look petty and small for his comments. And rightfully so were the comments that turned his words against him in terms of what's been going on at RIM.

If he was truly professional and classy, he would have done what you suggested in terms of thanking them for providing an app and inviting them back when BB10 is released. That would have demonstrated strength of character and done more to assure fans, consumers, business partners, etc that he was a man of integrity.

Instead, it just looks like more arrogant comments from individuals at RIM who think that their precious company is 100% right while every single other person, individual, and tech. company, is 100% wrong. And it is this type of thinking that has all but destroyed RIM.

Agree! Alex Saunder's blog post filled with frustration and anger is of course a reaction to the precarious situation RIM is in. He is also painting a too rosy Dev. Picture.
Seems like he is a little "spaced out ", like we used to say in the Hippie days.
To work for RIM these days is not just a nice walk in the park.

+100000 This is the best response i've seen. I think Alec took it personal. RIM has admitted they fell behind, you can't come back and tell someone else hey you s*ck when RIM has made the same mistake. This should have def. not been taking to this level.

PS: Im a blackberry lover but in order to make a comeback RIM needs to clean up its mistakes and this sure is not helping.

Why shouldn't he have said something, if people are going to use the media's love of reporting negative stories about Rim as a means to get some attention for an increasingly irrelevant type of app (how often do people really use voicemail these days at all?)then why not return fire.

Unfortunately, the media don't really seem to care about RIM anymore, which may be an even worse sign...It's like there's no more hope....

The idea of YouMail was interesting several years ago, but I never really used it because I hardly ever get VMs to begin with, and the added benefit of having them visual wasn't that great because it is a rare occurrence for me.

That's also why I won't pay for VVM service on my BB, so I haven't ever used it. It really should be an included feature at this point and not something that carriers bill extra for.

People are quick to have a go at him for putting down the YouMail company and for maybe being hypocritical, but your forgetting that YouMail did not need to go to the major Press and make out blackberry was no good for them..

Blackberry might have made its mistakes but it has not stood out to attack anybody like that.

For me it was nice to see him hit back and also shows there is still a little fire in RIM, and that they are not going to lay down.

Clearly YouMail is bummed at RIM for them not being too bothered about their dated App. so they are suffering from sour grapes and going to the press was bellow the belt and trying to kick a man when he is down.

I for one hope RIM prove all the nay Sayers wrong. I personally think they will eventually sell large parts to someone like Microsoft and even if they do go down they will leave their work standing. I hope so as I do not want just one or two companies ruling the roost, I like consumer choice.

I've been using YouMail for the past 3 years on every BlackBerry I've had, from my 8310 to my 9930 now. I love the application and the way it answers my callers. I've never used the BB provided app, because it wasn't out when I starting using YouMail and saw no resaon to switch when they released it. It does provide a much better VM experience for me than the standard Sprint VM. I have some messages that I've had saved for 2 years! Sprint won't allow me to do that.

I hate the fact that they aren't developing for BB anymore. I've supported them for years and have brought others to their service using ALL platforms. I don't buy the BS about waste of time and money to develope for BB. It doesn't take that much to support the FIRST platform you supported. YouMail is just like every other developer jumping on the "everyone hate BlackBerry" rhetoric being spewed everywhere. BlackBerry isn't for everyone, but for some it's perfect. I despise the way the wireless industry is going and hope that people wake up and realize that only 2 platforms to choose from is stupid and kills any competition in the marketplace. I weep for our wireless future...

Proud 9930 and PlayBook Owner...

If you ask me, I think that youmakil is feeling the pressure from google and their google voice app. It offers way more features and is more user friendly in my opinion. I just dumped youmail and made google voice my full time voicemail app of choice (yeah, I have sprint service). With that being said, I also believe that when times begin to look and become tough, you will see more and more app developers that stand the risk of becoming cannibalized by their competition start to look towards the lower end of the phone manufactures spectrum and begin to throw jabs and darts at them in order to create buzz and draw attention from the better selling hand set makers and buyers because its the "thing that everyone else is doing". It reminds me of when my parents would ask me, "if everyone you knew jumping off a bridge would you follow them and jump too?. I might jump depending on the circumstances. If that bridge was burning and there was no way to put it out, then quite probably. All that to say, rim, your bridge is burning, put it out cause I think I speak for most of us when I say, we don't really wanna jump.

What position was youmail in Appworld BEFORE the announcement because I never used it before the press release and I think it's a wack app as in the email I sent customer service "what reason do they need access to my gps considering it's a voicemail app and knows my area code (general location). Anytime I restart my phone it would ask for permission even tho I deny just gps each time. Data mining wack apps we don't need, a big drain on battery for nada....

I think most people have never even heard of youmail, raising suspicions that it's all a marketing ploy. It's Alec's own blog and so it's his own views and not RIM's views..

Never used youmail, and refuse to pay an extra monthly fee for ATT's visual voice mail. Not sure really why this was such big news other than a stab at RIM and blackberry. I first heard they were dropping the blackberry app on an overnight radio talk show as news for a radio program that talks mostly about supernatural stuff. Must have been a slow news day.

Alec is correct Visual voicemail is a feature for a smartphone now and RIM will anyways put a nice voicemail client in BB10. Youmaill or any other such client does not have any scope of growth or big business in this field. What is the value of addition of such an application for the user.

I use Youmail, but cant stand the app. It sends me an email, and if i need to listen to the message i can. Most of the time they just get deleted, and i call the person back. Way easier.

Sorry, YouMail.

VVM is a standard feature. YouMail is not a versatile platform, nor can it ever be.

RIM is undeniably late in delivering it's new versatile platform. No room needed for bye-gone YouMail.

Visual voicemail on ios is pretty solid but onm android the native visual vm(from at&t anyway) is terrible. High lag times between message keft and notification and sometimes the. Messages just won't download. My bb native visual vm is excellent. Maybe this is part of it?

I agree that this blog seemed out of character for Alec and probably could have been avoided. But in the same breath, I agree with all those who have said that it needed to be done to show that there is fight left in RIM and to send a message to all those app developers who have a desire to make a name out of themselves by using RIM as a whipping boy - it is not the first time it has been done, and it probably won't be the last, and if RIM continues to ignore it then the perception alone will kill RIM. The bottomline is nobody should tell anybody else how to run their business, but if Youmail didn't see the need to quietly move away from Blackberry, then there is no reason why RIM should be silent. And let's be honest, it is this type of bravado which won Steve Jobs so many kudos as a CEO. Steve Jobs also backed it up with actions. And although Alec can not claim Jobs type success as of yet, he has done a phenomenal job in the past half year compared to his successor Mike Kirkup. So hopefully this type of fight is the new RIM along with action to back up the words.

YouMail wouldn't work on my Alltel 8330 years ago so what I did (and still do) is forward my calls to a Grand Central phone number. I get on-line access to voice mails, text messages with a (roughly) transcribed message and it doesn't cost anything.

That said, my voice mail message suggests texting me if they can as that is my preference.

What I would like is a button to press while the phone is ringing for my BlackBerry to answer the call and play the prescribed message I select or, alternatively, hang up and send a quick preset text message.

Of course, I wished I could flag individual contacts numbers as to which accepts text messages. as there are actually people who can't or don't want to receive them.

The built-in VVM is great on BB. The YouMail app has been crap for quite a while, yet better than the IPhone and Android VVMs. let them leave. YouMail making this big announcement was just a big marketing stunt.

I don't need an app to access it, but if I wanted visual voicemail, I could easily add it on. Calling in is fine for me, at least I can listen to the messages. Voicemail is good. Forget texting and using text speak. I don't comprehend it.

I agree that it was a sleazy stunt for YouMail to announce dropping their BB product.

That would be like Toyota making a special press-release to announce that they're no longer providing 2 keys and a user manual with every car (charging extra for them), or Verizon making a press-release announcing that they are raising everyone's prices and cutting back on their support hours.

So obviously they were trying to generate PR attention by capitalizing on RIM's struggles. I'm not surprised at all that people at RIM were angry about that, though I often think that anger could be channeled in more creative ways, even public ways, that don't come off like stupid frat-boy whining or chest-beating.

To those people who suggested that RIM was "trashing a popular developer" - I would have thought it was rather obvious that by pulling this kind of stunt, YouMail was A) no longer a BB developer, and B) the first one to burn bridges.

Screw them.

I surely use visual voice mail. In fact, I use YouMail on my Storm2 (stop laughing... that's not polite - MY Storm2 works fine... there's just that point of memory leakage. I also use SureType keyboard on it to add to another CB article...) but I digress... In point of fact, when I saw the article stating that YouMail was ending their work on BB, I had just received notice of an update to YouMail in AppWorld. Irony much? Since I'm on the subject of irony, how did I know SOMEBODY was going to bring up this article and what Alec stated to his friend Alex? I sincerely hope that RIM can get it together. The PlayBook is a fabulous device and I consider it the BEST gadget I've ever purchased. It would be a shame if it (and BlackBerry) was shut down just as it was getting it's second wind

I don't want a visual list of voicemails.
I do want something Luke PhoneTag that transcribes voicemails so theyncan be quickly and silently read. I love it. I haven't listened to a voicemail in 6 months, the transcription is so good.