Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of Research in Motion, has admitted that they just barely got the Blackberry Storm out by Black Friday. The mad rush to release a product before a major shopping day cramps the normal development and testing cycles, which lead to more and more bugs being included in the shipped product. Balsillie says this is the “new reality”, basically telling consumers to suck it up.
There’s no doubt that modern smartphones are challenging to engineer and produce. Form factor, battery life, durability, and processing power all work against one another. Bugs and shortcomings are to be expected during the design and development phases. But is it really the “new reality” that complex smartphones are going to ship with more and more bugs? This is not news. I complained about id Software‘s “release buggy software, and then issue patch after patch” way back in 2003. I’m no historian, but I’d wager that as long as there have been companies producing goods there have been companies taking shortcuts to get their goods to market first.
I think we, the consuming public, have some culpability in this issue. We’re all too eager to buy into the marketing hype of things like Black Friday and Cyber Monday — so eager to get a good deal that we all but force companies to hurry up their development cycles to make sure they have a product to deliver to us on these holy shopping days. And then we have the gall to wonder why things aren’t better, or why our new smartphone locks up.
Wall Street deserves some blame, too, for the trigger-happy buying and selling of stock based on forecasts and predictions. Companies are rewarded for being first, not being the best. A company that takes its time to develop and release a stable, high-quality product is penalized. A company that rushes to market with a mostly-functional product gets rewarded even as customers are made to suffer through patches and product updates.
Are you willing to wait a little longer to get a smartphone — or any other gadget or piece of software — that is robust and reliable out the gate? Or is the “Oooh, shiny!” factor so strong that you’ll happily suffer through upgrades just to get your grubby mitts on that new piece of tech?