#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!