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Old 04-13-2012, 03:07 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Future Shop / Best Buy Demo of PlayBook -- Major flaw losing millions of $ for RIM

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[Disclaimer: I still am a RIM shareholder; though I have profitted by selling 3/4 of the stock already before the depreciation]
[Disclaimer 2: I am also a user interface programmer; with some education in user interface design principles too]

Hello,

I am shopping for tablets for the first time, as I am now developing software for varoius competing models, but I also want to also root/support our little local Canadian company called R.I.M. especially since it should eventually become easy to recompile existing Android apps for BlackBerry App World, to give maximum support for any future turnaround....

I must confess that the PlayBook is still failing an important litmus test: The Best Buy / Future Shop demo.

While I was playing with a PlayBook for 15 minutes, and the 2.0 is an improvement, I have observed several customers walk up to pick up a PlayBook and try it out, persistently trying to figure things out for at least 30 seconds, some as long as 2 minutes (which is impressive; this shows they were trying harder: most people lose interest after 30 seconds) -- and then walking away after giving up, with some obvious frustration expression on their face, or shrug, or perplexed posture..

My observation is there's a fatal flaws in the PlayBook that prevents users from doing really interesting things with the PlayBook within 30 seconds, from the perspective of walk-up customers:
-- pretend you've never tried many tablets before,
-- but you have enough intelligence to fix an alarm clock or adjust a cable PVR
-- users will try to press buttons randomly and tap screen randomly, trying to figure out what it does.
-- This includes business-suit people deciding on what to buy for their company.

The following reason is why the PlayBook fails the 30 second fiddle test - while Android and iDevices were engineered to succeed in this. iDevices do this job better than Android, but Android does a much better job than PlayBook 2.0 in impressing users. For example, the only button on an iPod/iPhone/iPad is the Home button, which instantly presents a menu of delicious-looking icons. Android has the 'house' button, which is already a familiar icon (because people have seen house buttons in web browsers, representing "Home"). There's nothing similiar to this, on a BlackBerry Playbook. The PlayBook fails the 30 second fiddle test; all 3 customers standing next to me, walked away, after clearly struggling trying to get the PlayBook back to the Home screen. One of them was even carrying a BlackBerry on their holster!!! I later witnessed the same guy fiddle other Android tablets in what seems to be less frustrated body movements, and they all successfully go to its Home screen and launch a different application within 30 seconds; something that they didn't do within a few minutes on the PlayBook standing next to me at Best Buy Big loss of revenue for RIM... (I was pretending to look at the PlayBook I was holding, while I was watching people next to me, in the tablets area of Best Buy)

One of the users put the device stuck in some kind of a handwriting-gesture macro configuration screen (whatever it was called), and got confused how to "go back". (There's no BACK button, there's no HOME button). Even I myself, got very confused about how to exit that screen on PlayBook; that device remained in that screen 1 hour later when I came back (which means it probably repelled/discouraged people for the entire time period, since nobody who walked up, could figure out how to escape that screen -- becaues there was no obvious method of escaping the screen, for tablet-inexperienced walk-up customers)

NOTE: This booth at Best Buy advertised "PlayBook 2.0 OS", so OS 2.0 was already installed on the demo units.

Although there are MANY ways for the PlayBook to fail/be imperfect, this is apparently a major sales-killer for PlayBook even with PlayBook OS 2.0. It is my conclusion, based on this (and from what I hear about other people), these shortcoming results in the loss of many millions of dollars of RIM:

1. No fancy button or icon that does something demo-ably interesting to inexperienced tablet users, such as display a home screen of fancy icons.
Problem: The PlayBook doesn't have an obvious method of going back to its home screen. People will poke at the first fancy icon or button on a device, trying to get it to do something very 'interesting' (such as display a Home screen of temptingly fancy icons)
Solution 1: A persistent on-screen button titlebar/buttonbar for existing hardware (ala Ice Cream Sandwich, software-based touchscreen buttons that stays displayed at all times in all applications -- that like the one at the bottom of Samsung Galaxy Nexus devices)
Solution 2: Redesign the hardware to have a hardware button or two that does "something interesting" such as display a menu of icons, or go to home screen, etc.

2. No easy obvious method for random walk-up customers, to figure out how to escape screens
Problem: People ended up getting the BlackBerry PlayBook stuck in specific screens that couldn't be escaped to previous screens. They abandon the PlayBook. The next customers try to randomly tap and swipe at obvious on-screen icons, trying to get the PlayBook to a different 'interesting' screen, and then walk away. Alas, one can't make a good first-impression twice... It takes somebody knowledgeable to return the PlayBook to the home screen.
Solution 1: Persistent on-screen button that resembles a familiar button (such as a BACK button or HOME button) because everyone knows about those icons; today's people have grown up on web browsers; and inexperienced tablet customers will naturally tap the first button that "makes sense to them", such as a back button or a home button.
Solution 2: Demo mode, with a timer that forces the PlayBook to its Home screen if the device is untouched for more than a certain amount of time such as 10 minutes. Remember, to pop up a dialog "Demo Mode Idle Warning: Displaying Home Screen in 15 seconds"; to prevent interrupting people who are simply slowly reading an ebook page or watching a video.

3. Unlike most other tablets, PlayBook's don't do anything interesting with random inexperienced manipulation
[i]Problem: Tapping random icons or clicking random buttons, eventually gets a PlayBook stuck in a screen that can't return to the Home screen via further random tapping/clicking. This eventually frustrates the less experienced tablet users. The first 30 seconds need to make a good impression before the user decides it's worth spending 30 hours learning how to properly use the tablet. Unfortunately, the PlayBook fails this critical 30 second "demo test", or the "fiddle test", losing many sales for RIM[i]
Solution 1: The solution of a well-designed persistent on-screen bar (whether titlebar, button bar, or icon bar), would at least guarantee that at least some random actions by inexperienced tablet customers (button press or screen tap) will easily result in the Home screen. This makes it more likely for the inexperienced Future Shop / Best Buy walk-up user to spend extra time learning how to use the tablet. BlackBerry handhelds have the advantage of already having a Back button and a Home button (endcall behaves as Home)
Solution 2: Redesigning the hardware to have one physical button that immediately resets the device to a predictable screen, such as a Home screen. iDevices have 1 button that act as Home, while Android 2.3 devices have 3 or 4 buttons; Ice Cream sandwich turns these physical buttons into persistent-onscreen bottom-of-screen buttons)

Conclusion: PlayBook (Even OS 2.0) should never have been put in Future Shop and Best Buy without first successfully passing the 30 second Demo Test (the 'Fiddle Test'). These three design mistakes alone, probably easily results in a massive loss (i.e. easily results in the loss of more than 50% of sales). Some of these people who I witnessed, were BlackBerry-carrying business-suit people; not street kids walking up to the tablet. Big wigs that buy hundreds of devices for their company. Anecdotes also seem to be consistent with my observations at Best Buy and Future Shop in repeated visits over the last several months, including most recently earlier this month.

I am dissapointed in RIM, both as a user, and as a (mostly-former) shareholder, that they failed to consider practicalities such as this, which would have been useful in getting more sales.
NOTE: This is an educated opinion; both as a shareholder AND a software developer with knowledge in user interface design.
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Last edited by Mark Rejhon : 04-13-2012 at 03:19 PM.
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Old 04-13-2012, 03:23 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Future Shop / Best Buy Demo of PlayBook -- Major flaw losing millions of $ for RI

I wasn't sure whether to post this in Shareholder forum, or the PlayBook forum -- this is more of a rant, so that's where it goes. Feel free to move it to the PlayBook forum, if that's more appropriate.

IMO, it may be too late for the current PlayBook hardware, they should do a simultaneous hardware / software refresh, at least to make it look sufficently different from a product that people have tried and decided they didn't like.
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Old 04-16-2012, 08:20 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Future Shop / Best Buy Demo of PlayBook -- Major flaw losing millions of $ for RI

I think you are missing another element of the overall issue, Best Buy is having problems with their business model and appear to be another rudderless ship in the sea of electronics. In the states they just announced that 50 of their stores would be closed. Note that Sony is also having issues. I am trying to figure out if the business model is flawed, customers are changing their tastes or if the overall electronics market has finally saturated.

That being said RIM made some major tactical and strategic errors with the Playbook.
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Old 04-16-2012, 01:58 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Future Shop / Best Buy Demo of PlayBook -- Major flaw losing millions of $ for RI

While this may be true, most people would fail a 30-second test with a new BlackBerry device. Heck, I failed that test when I was issued my first 7290 over seven years ago.
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Old 04-16-2012, 03:48 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Future Shop / Best Buy Demo of PlayBook -- Major flaw losing millions of $ for RI

Quote:
Originally Posted by fourstringfuror View Post
While this may be true, most people would fail a 30-second test with a new BlackBerry device. Heck, I failed that test when I was issued my first 7290 over seven years ago.
lol, I failed the 30 second test reading the OP' rant.
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Old 04-17-2012, 01:34 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Future Shop / Best Buy Demo of PlayBook -- Major flaw losing millions of $ for RI

lol
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Old 04-18-2012, 02:39 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Future Shop / Best Buy Demo of PlayBook -- Major flaw losing millions of $ for RI

Quote:
Originally Posted by fourstringfuror View Post
While this may be true, most people would fail a 30-second test with a new BlackBerry device. Heck, I failed that test when I was issued my first 7290 over seven years ago.
That's totally true, and it was also true that before around year 2007, most people would fail the 30-second test with most cellphones on the market at the time. "Quick, launch the web browser!" "Quick, display the home screen!" -- operations now considered intuitive to the vast majority of the public on a random modernized device.

...Back in the 80's and the early 90's, the W.I.M.P. methology was only being brainstormed. Windows-Icon-Menus-Pointer. (W.I.M.P. on Wikipedia). Before then, menus, icons, scrollbars, mouse pointers, weren't a platform-independent expectation. Today you expect it on Mac, PC, Linux, etc -- they share the same basic UI concepts.
...Nowadays, we are witnessing a rapid evolution/standardization of mobile user interfaces, much like computer-based user interfaces rapidly evolving just twenty years ago. Standardization of a method of going to home screen (house button or main button, etc), standardization of zooming (the pinch-zoom), standardization of launching apps (tapping an icon with finger), etc, etc.

(BTW, I don't always like touchscreens, except for browsing and certain other operations. I am sort of a a physical-keyboard zealot. I type 75 words per minute on BlackBerries -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Egie4ApwoUg -- so my favourite Android device is the Motorola Pro+ which feels like a BlackBerry 9900 keyboard but with Android OS. I do, however, realize I am a dying breed with the prevalence of touchscreen keyboards, but I'm appreciative gadgets are still being released with keyboards. I *HOPE* I can return to BlackBerry ASAP, once OS 10 devices stabilizes after a few cycles, if RIM turns around, though. Some of you veterans here, may remember my obsessive writing about BlackBerries back in the berryfaq.com days back in year 2005, when I was still a moderator here on BBF) I haven't abandoned BlackBerry, I still keep two BlackBerries active on my own dime, too.

Recently, certain manufacturers have suceeded in being able to have technology newbies be able to pick up a device and do a simple operation such as launching a web browser, wholly based on their familarity of average gadgets (like home computers, home remote controls, ATM machine touchscreens, television and DVD user interfaces, etc). By carefully modelling user interfaces to maximize success based on what people are familiar with, a larger percentage of the inexperienced public gets captivated within 30 seconds just from basic operations. (And designing a device where coaching can stay minimal/fewest word to maximum success of device operation -- i.e. salesperson saying: "Safari is the web browser. Touch that." or whatever.) Some vendors succeeded shockingly well here, while other vendors such as Nokia and RIM failed to adapt, even long after iPhone and Android came out.
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Old 04-18-2012, 03:08 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Future Shop / Best Buy Demo of PlayBook -- Major flaw losing millions of $ for RI

Quote:
Originally Posted by JSanders
lol, I failed the 30 second test reading the OP' rant.
I wouldn't expect a non-shareholder to be patient enough to read a long, boring stockholder's rant.
(Fortunately, I sold most shares of RIM stock, before the fall.)
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Old 04-18-2012, 03:24 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Future Shop / Best Buy Demo of PlayBook -- Major flaw losing millions of $ for RI

I'm still not sure what being a shareholder has to do with anything..... *shrugs*
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Old 04-18-2012, 03:35 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Future Shop / Best Buy Demo of PlayBook -- Major flaw losing millions of $ for RI

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I'm still not sure what being a shareholder has to do with anything..... *shrugs*
If you think this thread is in the wrong forum -- be my guest and move the thread to the Shareholder forum. It is *both* a rant topic, and a shareholder topic. (You're familiar with the conundrum about deciding where to post, when a posting overlaps two topics. )

As I mentioned, it's already pretty obvious that RIM lost millions by the flaws I wrote about. My posting is written from the perspective as a shareholder that watched the PlayBook demo booth. Go walk into Best Buy and Future Shop, and "spy" on the PlayBook demo booth during a busy day - you will see what I mean.
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Old 04-18-2012, 03:53 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Future Shop / Best Buy Demo of PlayBook -- Major flaw losing millions of $ for RI

You missed the point. What does your being a shareholder have to do with alleged flaws in the device?

I know exactly what you mean about Best Buy, too. When I bought mine even the employees were clueless about how to use it. And I'm not a shareholder.
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Old 04-18-2012, 05:50 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: Future Shop / Best Buy Demo of PlayBook -- Major flaw losing millions of $ for RI

I did not purchase a Playbook when I demo'd it last year, but I can attest to the general ignorance of the Best Buy reps. I blame Best Buy for that, though. If they can't train their floor reps on the very basic functions of a device they want to sell, that's their problem. The only thing they wanted to show me was the racing game that came with it.

I passed the 30-second test, but then I have years of smartphone experience.
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Old 04-19-2012, 03:13 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: Future Shop / Best Buy Demo of PlayBook -- Major flaw losing millions of $ for RI

Quote:
Originally Posted by fourstringfuror View Post
I did not purchase a Playbook when I demo'd it last year, but I can attest to the general ignorance of the Best Buy reps. I blame Best Buy for that, though. If they can't train their floor reps on the very basic functions of a device they want to sell, that's their problem. The only thing they wanted to show me was the racing game that came with it.

I passed the 30-second test, but then I have years of smartphone experience.

I have went into Best Buy and showed a few poeple how to use it and after that there were like wow, didnt know the tablet could do that.

RIM needs to train them or Best Buy needs to get RIM in to train people.
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Old 04-19-2012, 05:45 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: Future Shop / Best Buy Demo of PlayBook -- Major flaw losing millions of $ for RI

Quote:
Originally Posted by fourstringfuror View Post
I did not purchase a Playbook when I demo'd it last year, but I can attest to the general ignorance of the Best Buy reps. I blame Best Buy for that, though. If they can't train their floor reps on the very basic functions of a device they want to sell, that's their problem. The only thing they wanted to show me was the racing game that came with it.

I passed the 30-second test, but then I have years of smartphone experience.
Excellent point about store reps and getting RIM to train them. There are people like some of us, who can pass the 30-second test, but let's consider the average Target or Walmart employee too, not just Best Buy and Future Shop. (They sell tablets too)

I think that devices should ideally pass the 30-second test with the average store employee too (inexperienced ones, mass retailers, etc) without needing pre-training. Most store employees never trained by Apple, including those who aren't even Apple-product owners, still are successfully able to show a customer a basic operation such as how to launch an app on an iPad.

Training helps. But it is hard for RIM to expand the market without maximizing the chances people can figure out primary basics (home, launch) within 30 seconds on PlayBook without training -- including store employees.
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Old 04-19-2012, 07:46 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: Future Shop / Best Buy Demo of PlayBook -- Major flaw losing millions of $ for RI

Quote:
Originally Posted by knottyrope View Post
I have went into Best Buy and showed a few poeple how to use it and after that there were like wow, didnt know the tablet could do that.

RIM needs to train them or Best Buy needs to get RIM in to train people.
Again, Best Buy may be more of the issue than the piece of fancy plastic.
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Old 04-20-2012, 08:56 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: Future Shop / Best Buy Demo of PlayBook -- Major flaw losing millions of $ for RI

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Rejhon View Post
Most store employees never trained by Apple, including those who aren't even Apple-product owners, still are successfully able to show a customer a basic operation such as how to launch an app on an iPad.
This is exactly why Apple products are so successful. They're very intuitive, even for the basic user. Children can pic up an iPad/iPhone and know how to get to Angry Birds and begin to play. This has little to do with a Home button, it is just that the interface/OS is so intuitive. It is going to be very hard for RIM or Android for that matter to compete with that in the tablet market.
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Old 04-25-2012, 05:10 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: Future Shop / Best Buy Demo of PlayBook -- Major flaw losing millions of $ for RI

Now, let's remember power users needs to be kept happy too. For power users, the touch sensitive bezel is neat. Perhaps some of us even like the gesture system.

BUT... a minor change such as silkscreening a house logo somewhere on the bezel, could have easily more than doubled Future Shop and Best Buy sales!!! The irony of it all.

Leaving this out obviously ruined the '30 second first impression' for the walk-in demo sales. Bad design decision from this POV. Anybody spying on the PlayBook booth at Best Buy and Future Shop, always consistently show confused users walking away. Big sales loss. Less devices sold. Less developers. Less apps for us. Hurts us all!
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