The Sage Grouse

Angry Birds

Here’s a universe I do not understand: smart phone competition.

In 1989 I bought one of the first cell phones in northeast Wyoming, a big rigid battery case with an appended phone that looked just like my home handset.  I could switch between the A and B channels, although I had to pay roaming charges on the B channel. There was coverage in Gillette, near Buffalo, in Sheridan, and near Cody. Dead air everywhere else.

As things changed I bought smaller phones and the coverage got better for a few years, then got much worse as cell phone companies sold millions of units to teenagers.

In 2005 many of my friends who lived in larger markets bought BlackBerrys. Although they did not work well in Gillette at first, the coverage later improved. I was disdainful of the unrelenting slavish devotion my friends paid to their BlackBerrys; they had to check them every 30 seconds, whether something buzzed or rang or not. It was like ET constantly telling them to phone home.

In 2007 my nieces ragged me about my archaic flip-phone; IT WAS ONLY A PHONE. No cruising the internet or checking email or sending texts. “Uncle RT you are a DINOSAUR.”

In 2010 I finally, resisting like a bolting calf at a rodeo, relented: I was going to get a smartphone. Not just a phone, I could check emails, etc. My friends in major cities unanimously insisted that I get an iPhone, but this was irrelevant; no vendor in Wyoming supported iPhones. So, I bought an iPod Touch, not the phone, and a BlackBerry.

I love my BlackBerry. I am horrified to learn that after only two short years, it is an obsolete rock in my pocket, ready to be exported to some peasant in India to be melted into a toxic brew of rare earths with a residual tiny fragment of gold.

I love my 2004 Chevy crew cab pickup too. I upgraded the OnStar and bought a couple of tires and it’s ready for another seven years. It’s not going to be recycled.

Likewise, I love my wife. It would be distressing to learn that she, like my smartphone, has a limited shelf life. The word “recycled” has no application here, or if it were to, I would be the subject of the recycling.

It appears that cell phones, like disposable airline earbuds, are rapidly approaching a life-cycle status comparable to disposable diapers.

The reader alert button is flashing. Okay, Okay, that was hyperbole.

But just barely.

Bloomberg Businessweek landed in my lap. A big story: Research in Motion (RIM), the Toronto company which makes and services the BlackBerry world, is in big trouble. The stock price has tumbled; everyone in business hates the new CEO; the iPhone and Droid phones have stolen all of RIM’s thunder; Google, Microsoft, and Apple are swallowing the market like steroidal Pac-Mans.

Free enterprise, don’t you love it? May the best app win. But, I protest, I like my app.

Hidden in the Bloomberg article is the deep dark secret. RIM and its BlackBerrys, including mine, are going down. Why? Because its market share, after a decade of dominance, has fallen to 11 percent. Why? Because it doesn’t support “Angry Birds.”

“Angry Birds” must be up there with online porn and FarmVille for wasting employees’ time at work. I could buy software to monitor my employees’ use of the internet; maybe I should do that.

While Clint Eastwood earnestly inspires us to believe in a new Detroit-led dawn in America, how many Detroit employee hours are wasted on Angry Birds? Hey, Santorum, Romney and Obama: is this lost on you? Santorum and Romney would (figuratively on the campaign trail where no “promises” matter) fire their asses, while Obama would consult the union.

Hooray, say alert readers: you have just insulted everyone in America from conservatives to union members in one short paragraph. Except Muslims.

When cell phones were so expensive only business-people could afford them, I had great coverage. When they got cheap and every teenager had one, the towers were jammed and I had no service. I whined a lot about cell phone companies putting volume ahead of service; this was in the early 1990s. I am still complaining.

Why should access to a useful, productive service which RIM provides for Blackberry owners be cratered because RIM does not support “Angry Birds,” a useless time-wasting substitute for solitaire?

But, say the youngsters, who cares? The Sage Grouse is SO LAST YEAR.

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Published on February 21, 2012

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