Talking with Gary Klassen is always so refreshing. He has this child-like glee that sparkles in his eye at least once every conversation. Even at hard times like this for BlackBerry, he manages to keep this spirit alive. In fact, I bet he secretly relishes the challenge of a dramatic (and some say impossible) turnaround. As you might expect, most of my questions with Gary revolved around BBM, and specifically the demo of BBM running on Windows during the general session. I hounded him for a release date, features list - anything concrete - he shot me down, but at least it was in a pretty interesting way.
BlackBerry Jam is a dev conference. That said, if product launches happen at the show, that's convenient, but not necessary or expected. So why show anything remotely new at all? The short answer is to inspire by example, said Klassen. Providing technical guidance to developers has never really been BlackBerry's big problem. They've never really provided conceptual guidance, however - a trait some might consider infinitely more valuable. To that end, the BBM demo on PC still serves a purpose, even if it never reaches consumers. Our conversation meandered to other screens which mobile interfaces could be projected to, like cars, or airplane entertainment consoles.
"We show these things with intent."
Through that lens, BBM on PC, enabled over Wi-Fi and borrowing elements of Link and Bridge, is less of a product announcement and more a demonstration of the power of the platform. It certainly reiterates BBM's focus on mobile first, rather than building an entirely separate product category to manage. Gary was also clear that the demo also showed the general direction BlackBerry drifting towards. Other demos, like BlackBerry Sweden's rocking chair game and Tim Neil's fitness app started falling under the same color. Though vaguely indicating what kind of products they're working on does choreograph their next steps, that's probably something they need to do if they're courting bidders to go private.
"To me, we're victims of our own success."
It was hard to talk to Gary and not bring up the BBM for iOS and Android situation. As far as he's concerned, the beta did exactly what a beta's supposed to do: show flaws in the software so they can fix it. Obviously the leak wasn't quite a part of the planned beta process, and ideally nothing would have broken at all, but it's certainly better that things get fixed before the public launch than after. Ultimately, Klassen was reiterating what BlackBerry had said originally: the leak of an older build exacerbated a problem they were already tackling.
Beyond that, Gary talked about some very high-level stuff, like their goal of enabling developers so they can focus on making great experiences rather than getting bogged down in the technical nitty-gritty. Similarly, they aim to have consumers naturalize a lot of the navigation so the task at hand is the only thing really using up any concentration.
More coming from BlackBerry Jam Asia tomorrow!