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The Sad 'Wake Up' Saga Just Gets Sadder

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
May 3, 2012 5:00 AM PT

I'm often blown away by the pathetically misguided marketing campaigns that clearly out-of-touch executives in large corporations green light ... and then shell out millions of dollars to put into motion. But the "Wake Up" flashmob that tumbled out of a clearly expensive bus in Sydney, Australia, had me scratching my head while simultaneously clutching my belly to ease the pain of laughing so hard.

The Sad 'Wake Up' Saga Just Gets Sadder

Here's what happened: An Australian blogger happened to be in an Apple Store in Sydney when a big black commercial-grade bus pulls up on the street and releases a few dozen people dressed in black. They each carried big black poster board signs with the message "WAKE UP." on them -- that's right, just a period, not an exclamation point.

What happened next? They crowded the sidewalk in front of the Apple Store, start waving their signs, and chanted, "Wake up. Wake up. Wake up."

Fortunately, the blogger shot some video of the flashmob and posted his impressions of it to his YouTube account.

It Was Painful

The video shows the mob doing its thing, and the passersby have an odd mixture of confusion and what I see as a lack of emotion or true interest.

Ah, how do I explain this and my own reaction? Clearly these are people being paid to go through the motions of a protest. I'm guessing they weren't actually actors, either, because it sure as heck seemed to me that their hearts weren't really into the message behind it.

This was clearly not an organic protest by a bunch of Apple haters with too much free time on their hands. Plus, the bus was painted with the WAKE UP message. When something like this happens, with all these made-by-money clues, it's hard to get truly invested in a mob protest, right? Basically, anything that's fake -- that clearly busts up a person's natural inclination to suspend disbelief in situations like this -- fails miserably.

And, wow, I just can't imagine that any of this a) affected the brand loyalty of any Apple consumer, and b) affected the intent to buy an Apple product by anyone, now or in the future. If anything, this sort of pathetic effort just makes it more clear that Apple is the place to be ... and that the competition is not only struggling, but perhaps desperate, too.

Speaking of the Competition: Samsung Initially Gets Blamed

Most of the mobile tech-focused blogging world jumped on this news right away, speculating on the nature of the contrived flashmob and who was behind it. Many assumed Samsung did it because, after all, Samsung is Apple's primary rival in the smartphone and mobile space. The two companies are neck-and-neck when it comes to phone and tablet sales, plus Samsung has pretty good mindshare going for it, too. And Samsung's poked fun at Apple's most eager customers in advertisements before.

RIM Fesses Up

Just as this whole thing was fading quickly from my memory, various bloggers and tech enthusiasts started digging deeper, and while I didn't pay attention to the details, I certainly faced an utter blast of mind-numbing confusion when I saw that RIM had admitted its role behind the flashmob.

Research In Motion? The maker of the once iconic BlackBerry? Really? According to IDC, RIM captured just 6.7 percent of the smartphone marketshare in the first quarter of 2012.

So let's get this straight: RIM wants Apple users to "wake up?" To what? A floundering company that might not even make its own phones -- or maybe even anything at all -- in a year or two? Doesn't RIM have something better to do with its time?

One Soft Spot Where RIM Could Attack Apple

When I think about the challenges facing RIM, coupled with the value and promise that Apple brings, going head-to-head against Apple or positioning itself to take on Apple ... seems silly. Sure, Apple was once a fledgling company that attacked the big dominant monster corporations, so it's not unheard of. But it helps to have a product that's different, that has the potential to really matter. In most places, I'm not seeing that out of RIM.

There is one astoundingly weak point in Apple's iPhones, though, and at least to my ears, it's conversation sound quality. I'm not talking about perfect fidelity, I'm talking about speakers that blast out the conversation so everybody can hear what's being said when there's background noise to deal with. I get irritated when I borrow someone else's phone and realize how much crisper and louder the conversations sound in my ear.

What's worse is when I use the iPhone's speakerphone -- it sucks! Seriously, I'm sure my hearing isn't the best, but I've heard plenty of other smartphones -- and even feature phones -- with much better speakerphone capabilities. The voices are louder and crisper, making the voices easier to hear, and the listeners on the other end can hear you better. What's really crazy is that Apple's FaceTime provides a much better speakerphone-like experience. If I use FaceTime, it's great. But the speakerphone feature via AT&T's service? It's so bad that I hesitate to use it even when the situation calls for it.

Maybe the iPhone 4S is significantly better, but when I was talking with a buddy's 4S on speakerphone on the street a few weeks ago, I didn't notice any difference.

Now this, of course, isn't exactly the thing that will cause a lot of people to buy RIM phones over iPhones, but at least it makes sense: The one thing I appreciate about another guy's BlackBerry is that its speakerphone could actually be used by real people in real situations. There's a no-nonsense angle here that could be part of a bigger campaign for RIM.

Then again, if any press is considered good press, some people might claim that RIM got just what it was after -- attention -- by leveraging and manipulating the most active fan base in the world.

MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at Gmail.com.

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How do you feel about accidents that occur when self-driving vehicles are being tested?
Self-driving vehicles should be banned -- one death is one too many.
Autonomous vehicles could save thousands of lives -- the tests should continue.
Companies with bad safety records should have to stop testing.
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The tests are pointless -- most people will never trust software and sensors.
Most injuries and fatalities in self-driving auto tests are due to human error.