BlackBerry Gets Tough On Remaining Fans With Legal Action Against Leakers

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Despite A Low Stake In Box, Aaron Levie Has A High Influence

BlackBerry, this is not how you handle a zealous fan base. CEO John Chen published a blog post today in which he promised that the company would pursue legal action against a “party who stole confidential information about a future BlackBerry product and made that information public.” Ugh.

This is tiresome because it represents the company taking an inexplicably tough stance against something which arguably works to its benefit. Leaks are not in fact “distracting, and at their worst downright misleading to our stakeholders,” as Chen claims, but a natural part of the gadget and mobile device ecosystem, and an expression of genuine interest from people who might actually want to purchase your products.

There’s a reason this open letter of admonition and warning is an exceptional case – other device makers know that ultimately, rumors and early reports at worst generate buzz around products, and at best attract some eyeballs that may otherwise not have been tuned to your company to begin with. Chen, in his post, argues that this latest leak crosses the line into “criminality,” hence the need for legal action.

But it’s telling that I had to do some Google-fu to figure out leak likely being discussed here, which presumably is this reveal of BlackBerry OS 10.3 from a few days ago. And Chen closes by suggesting we’ll see fewer blog posts containing photos and rumors about the next BlackBerry smartphones – which, as far as I can tell, has no downsides for anyone but BlackBerry itself.

This ‘get tough on leaks’ stance might in itself be an attempt to draw more attention to upcoming products (Chen links to the Z3 official profile, after all), but whatever it is, it sounds tone-deaf. It’s true that Apple came down hard on the early leak of its iPhone 4 after it was left by an employee in a bar and subsequently sold to Gizmodo, but that was an extreme case. Generally, the leak cycle goes on unbroken, and even when OEMs do feel the need to respond, they almost never draw attention to the fact that they’re doing so, because alienating fanatics ultimately has very little upside.