Dear company in Canada that makes BlackBerrys, how are you? Hope things are well at your end. I am fine.
But of course I was merely trying to be polite there. In fact everybody knows that you are in very bad shape indeed. Your revenues are down, profits have dropped, market share is plummeting, stock price is in free fall and your market cap is hurtling headfirst and down.
Also Read | Sidin Vadukut’s previous columns
Now it is never pleasant to see a company descending from greatness to comprehensive panic. The lives of hundreds of employees, suppliers, vendors, retailers and users are dependant on your company. When the company struggles, so do these dependants. And often for no fault of their own.
So it would be exceedingly cruel to poke fun at you at this critical juncture.
Still I hope you will forgive me when I say this:
In your face, BlackBerry! In your face! This is what you get for ruining the lives of thousands of poor cubicle-dwellers for years! You thought to yourself in a Canadian accent, ‘Ha ha ha! I will put a full Qwerty keyboard here so that CEOs can never ever stop sending stupid, short, rude emails ever again… Ha ha ha!’
Now look who is laughing, you sinister purveyor of cruel corporate mayhem! (Answer: Steve Jobs.)
Why do I hate thee Berry? Let me count the ways.
First of all you empowered IT departments in companies. Why did you do this RIM, why? It was bad enough when they played diabolical games with Lotus Notes.
This email is to inform you that the email system has been taken down for maintenance 5 minutes ago. The Lotus Notes server will be restored at a unspecified future date. To enable smooth functioning of corporate messaging in the interim we have prepared the following FAQ:
FAQ 1: Will the email system be up by ‘enter date of your choice’ because I am expecting some important documents?
Answer 1: No.
Thank you all for cooperation.
But now suddenly they had the power to give away BlackBerry devices. Excited young recruits would approach them to pick up their devices only to be met with frosty aloofness. Sorry about this, megalomaniacal IT villain would say, handing you an old, broken device. But currently we have a shortage of new devices.
He is lying. Fifteen minutes later the recruit realizes that the screen is not a screen but a sticker. The scroll wheel only goes up and not down. And once you press the letter ‘V’ you cannot stop it till further notice.
Of course once you get one, the device slowly sucks the life force out of you. Keen observers of the cubicle life will have noticed that people respond to vibrating BlackBerrys differently from how they do to any other vibrating device. In case of the latter they just look a little hassled and sometimes ignore them entirely. But in the case of a Berry there is first that glazing over of the eyes. A look of helplessness, that encapsulates career regret beginning from stream selection in Class 11th up till Convocation, flashes across the face. A mild profanity is not uncommon. And then the email is read. Sometimes the message requires no further action: “Welcome to the new Kerala Spa for all employees…”
Sometimes it requires further action: “Sidin, many thank for your 321-page report on entry strategies for the Austrian market. However it appears there was a mix-up in my email last month. I was referring to the Australian market…”
In such circumstances, entertainment in the form of a game would provide welcome comfort. However, the best you could do RIM was Brick Breaker, a game of profound and sad corporate connotations. In it, one paddle (the CEO) was used to destroy arrays of bricks (employees like you and me) using a bouncing ball (Variable Pay Plan, ISO 9000, CMM, swipe cards).
Later, RIM, you released new devices with preloaded songs and music videos. Unfortunately these were never by popular bands or performers such as K.J. Yesudas.
While initial devices did not have any cameras at all, later ones had whimsical photo-taking abilities. “I have the same sofa in a different fabric”, one would say to his boss when he showed a photo of the wife and kids on the beach.
I also do not need to remind readers, or RIM, about the cheap thrills IT folk got from blocking almost any useful app, service or website on staff BlackBerrys. The policies usually lacked logic or consistency. The most popular one is where they blocked the company’s own website because of ‘adult material or spiritual content or both’.
But the greatest source of negative karma has to be the sense the device gave people that emails should be responded to immediately always. What happened to the ancient human arts of rumination and analysis? Or sleep?
RIM, I hope you see how you could have built up millions of man-hours of negative karma. Which has now exploded with a vengeance.
That apart, I wish you well and hope you recover soon.
Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org