Saturday, March 14, 2009

U2 Bono?

I read this past week that U2 has partnered up with Research In Motion, makers of the Blackberry. RIM is apparently sponsoring U2's current tour. This has raised eyebrows around the world, particularly because U2 most recently endorsed Apple's iPod. Apple even produced a U2 Special Edition version of its ubiquitous MP3 player. It would be understandable to assume, then, that if U2 was going to endorse a hand-held communications gadget, it would be Apple's iPhone.

One has to ask oneself why the sudden shift in the group's corporate loyalties. Bono is, of course, well known, not only as U2's front man and lead singer but as a staunch activist, having carried the banner for such causes as AIDS and poverty relief, international trade reform, Greenpeace and nuclear disarmament, to name but a few. So perhaps the affiliation shift from Apple to RIM was driven by a closer sharing of principles between Bono and Mike Lazarides' Waterloo Ontario-based tech giant.

Alas, the likelihood seems to be that it had more to do with money. Analyst Rob Enderle speculates that Bono probably simply played the two smart-phone makers off each other and awarded his and his group's support to the highest bidder. "RIM was able to come up with the cash, and Apple didn't" says Enderle. It's as simple as that.

I personally own neither a Blackberry nor an iPhone. I do carry a Blackberry when on call, but it belongs to my employer, not to me, and I'm happier when I'm without it, so be it known that mine is not the voice of an iPhone lover crying "Foul!" in outrage. I do wonder about Bono's motivations.

Surely Bono has more than enough personal wealth, so it seems curious to me that he would lend his support to the highest bidder in any engagement. His reputation as an activist and as a champion of the underdog, on the other hand, is likely much more important to him. That being the case, it behooves him to consider the optics of decisions such as this one. A man like him aught to be careful about being perceived as going to the highest bidder.

Heaven forbid that the world should learn, tomorrow, that RIM employs child labour in the manufacture or distribution of its product ("I hear that even some of their programmers are ten-year-old whiz kids!") or that they are financed by the drug cartels (perhaps the moniker "Crackberry" is more appropriate than anyone realizes!) Understand that both of these allegations are nothing more than the product of my own over-active imagination, but wouldn't Bono et al have egg on their collective faces if they happened to be true?

All I can say is, if Bono and Jim Balsillie become joint owners of any NHL franchise in the near future, I'm gonna have some hard questions.

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