Can You Trust the Reviews?

Please Note: This is an edit of a previous posting I did when RIM Playbooks and Google Chromebooks first came out.  With the advent of Windows 8, Windows Surface and now Windows Phone 8, I thought it was timely to revisit this topic.

I drink my coffee black.  I didn't always take it this way. When I started, I was like many who would enjoy a Timmee's DD (This is a Canadian colloquialism, it has nothing to do with cup size), but then I dropped the sugar.  Then the cream.

When I first decided to drop the cream, (to preserve my lean, lithe, pantherlike figure) I hated the stuff in the cup.  This was not coffee, it was more like a mixture of motor oil and camel spit.  (Not that I was speaking from experience, but I do have a vivid imagination.)

It took weeks for me to start appreciating the rich aromatic flavour of a good cup of coffee.  It got to the point where coffee with cream tasted bland, and there is no way I would ever go back to cream in my coffee.

So what does this have to do with hardware and software reviews?

In the past while, we have been subjected to major announcements from Microsoft, which have filled the blogs / tweets / review sites with opinions both pro and con. Some of the highest traffic on my posts have been around my views on the RIM Playbook when it first came out. I'm sure if I wrote about the 10 Reasons You Should buy/not buy a Microsoft Surface, I would get a tremendous number of hits. People love to read this stuff.

I've found that my opinion on this topic is equally reinforced regardless of which company is rolling out the product, whether it is Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, or RIM.

Since many of these reviews are written from a brief exposure to the new product at a press event, or reading the blog of someone that attended the press event, there are one of two scenarios:

Scenario 1 - The review is purely an opinion piece, written by someone who:
1. Really wants the product, (and secretly hopes the manufacturer will give him/her one).
2. Really hates the company, and wouldn't write anything positive about the product if their life depended on it.
3. Really, really loves the company (i.e. fanboy) and wouldn't dare say a negative thing at the risk of being excommunicated.
4. Has a deadline for their next blog post, and this device seemed like a good topic.

Scenario 2 - The review is based on a pre-release demo unit, or a free unit given out at a conference (why don't I get to go to those conferences - at my last conference I got a memory stick), or by the person who just has to have the latest "toy".

The problem with the first type of review (mine included) is that it is based purely on opinion.  There are a few pundits that have the depth of opinion that is very worth reading, but most of the reviews are partisan in nature.

Give it time...

The second type of review is what I call the "Black Coffee Syndrome" (BCS).  If you had asked my opinion of black coffee in the first week, my review would be less than favourable - completely opposite to what it is now.

I would say the same for the Blackberry Storm (when I had one).  I hated it at first, but grew accustomed to its quirky screen and quite liked it later.  As long as I compared it to an iPhone it lost, but when I evaluated it on its own merits, I was ok with it (except for the Internet browsing experience - which is why I switched to an iPhone).

Over a year ago, I switched to a Windows 7 phone, and after a few weeks, really like this device.  While I can't plug my guitar into it, I am certainly dealing with the "business of business" quickly and efficently.  This device extends my work environment much more effectively than either my iPhone or BB.  And I say that from real, in the trenches experience.  I could never say that if I only got to "play with it" for a few days.  The urge to compare it to the familiar is too strong.

By all means, read the hardware reviews. But take them with a grain of salt.  Unlike the reviewers who get a new device to play with each and every time it comes out, you will have to live with your decision for a long time - whether it's the 3 year plan on the mobile device, or the 3-4 year cycle on the computers, or the 4-5 year cycle on IT infrastructure.

Wisely you must choose young Jedi.


Post a Comment