T-Mobile accuses BlackBerry CEO of being anti-choice

The two companies have been trading harsh words for a week

Just when it appeared to be over, a public battle of words between senior executives at BlackBerry and T-Mobile USA has reignited.

It all began last week when T-Mobile emailed some of its BlackBerry users offering them a discount on a new iPhone. BlackBerry users, many of whom are loyal to the company, were not amused, and the T-Mobile promotion was soon making headlines on mobile phone blogs.

On Sunday, T-Mobile CEO John Legere responded on Twitter and told the BlackBerry faithful "I'm hearing you loud and clear." He followed up with a message reassuring customers that the carrier isn't about to abandon BlackBerry.

So, crisis averted, right?

Not so. On Tuesday, BlackBerry CEO John Chen wrote of his "outrage" on his company's blog of T-Mobile's "clearly inappropriate and ill-conceived marketing promotion."

And now Mike Sievert, T-Mobile's chief marketing officer and the executive with ultimate responsibility for that promotion, has fired back, accusing BlackBerry of wanting to limit choice.

"Yesterday BlackBerry CEO John Chen posted a blog criticizing T-Mobile's marketing to BlackBerry users," Sievert said in his late Wednesday blog posting. "The premise of his article was that it's best for customers if we restrict the free flow of information and limit consumer choice. At T-Mobile we totally reject that premise."

He said T-Mobile will start offering a US$200 credit to existing BlackBerry customers to upgrade their devices -- to any handset. If they choose to stay with BlackBerry and buy a Q10 or Z10 handset, they'll get an extra $50 in credit toward the cost of those phones.

"I love all the passion I've seen pouring in from the BlackBerry loyal these past several days," said Sievert. "Thanks for the Tweets. We hear you." "We simply have a different point of view on the matter of choice than the one expressed yesterday by Mr. Chen."

BlackBerry says it's not planning to respond to Sievert's blog posting, so perhaps the issue will end here. Executives from both companies will be in Barcelona next week at the Mobile World Congress expo, so perhaps they'll be able to meet and settle their differences.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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