Openness and optimism in Orlando Anthony Reinhart May 2, 2012 Communitech ORLANDO Of all the mornings here this week, you’d have expected this one to get off to a slow start. It was, after all, the morning after a pretty amazing night at Universal Studios Orlando, where a good many of the 5,000 attendees of the BlackBerry World 2012 and BlackBerry 10 Jam conferences gathered for a party. Then again, there were strong incentives to be up bright and early; specifically, the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device – a working prototype of the new mobile platform Waterloo-based Research In Motion will release on an all-touch smartphone later this year. Every registered Jam participant received an Alpha device today, and the most eager developers wasted no time in moving on from last night’s festivities and getting down to work. The devices were distributed starting at 7:30 a.m. in a basement room at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, home to the Jam event. By noon, at least one development team already had an app up and running on the Alpha, which they presented to a mildly incredulous Alec Saunders, RIM’s VP for Developer Relations and Ecosystem Development. Saunders, who was addressing a special BlackBerry Ambassador Lunch at the time, gave the app a go and then couldn’t resist tweeting about it. He went on to make some frank comments alluding to RIM’s past challenges with developer relations, and he encouraged developers going forward to be similarly candid about their experiences in building for RIM. He asked them to pose tough questions and blog “in your own voice, not the one you think RIM wants to hear.” In response to a question about marketing, Saunders acknowledged there have been missteps in communicating the value of BlackBerry handhelds and PlayBook tablets to customers in previous ad campaigns, a situation RIM intends to rectify with the imminent appointment of a new marketing chief. Saunders’s remarks contributed to an overall feeling, already sensed by many in Orlando, of a renewed openness to discussing how to restore RIM’s leading position in the mobile market through its transition to BlackBerry 10 and other initiatives. Journalists who met with RIM CEO Thorsten Heins on Wednesday morning came away with a similar feeling after a free-flowing session in which Heins acknowledged that consensus-driven management had hampered RIM’s ability to execute quickly, and that rapid growth had left the company with “fat on its hips” that it is now shedding. On Wednesday afternoon, meanwhile, tech blogger Al Sacco hosted an Ask RIM panel in which company executives fielded questions submitted by Sacco’s readers. Again, there was acknowledgement of past mistakes and of the need to refocus on leveraging RIM’s great strength: the hyperconnectedness of its millions of loyal users, whom Heins likes to call “BlackBerry people” – who use their smartphones not just to pass time, but to get things done quickly and done right. The sense that these efforts are paying off is growing with each passing day in Orlando, where the buzz around BlackBerry 10 is sustained, and the heartbeat of Canada’s most successful tech company, tested this past year, remains strong.