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'Four or five new Blackberry models in 2008'

November 20, 2007 10:20 IST

Blackberry dominates the corporate PDA market. However, Research in Motion (RIM) clearly wants more. Growing international momentum and retail push are driving the demand for Blackberry Curve as well as Blackberry Pearl, promising a good Christmas season for RIM.

Gregory Wade, vice-president (customer accounts), RIM, spoke to Business Standard about how the company is planning to fight the challenges as rivals offer similar devices across price segments.

According to Gartner, RIM continues to lead the PDA market but its product mix has shifted towards smart phones. Is this an answer to competition?

Competitors cannot make up overnight for the years of engineering and refinement that have gone into the Blackberry solution and devices.

The Blackberry Pearl represented almost 55 per cent of RIM's total shipments in the first quarter of 2007 and with Pearl 8120 (dubbed as Pearl 2) our commitment to have devices that are beautiful and rich in multimedia applications continues.

RIM recently shipped its 20 millionth Blackberry smart phone and the devices are ranked number one in the global PDA space with 18 per cent market share according to third party research.

We will also announce another 4-5 models in 2008 and all of them would be packed with consumer-friendly applications and design.

Is RIM now targeting individual customers instead of enterprises?

We remain focused on the executives in boardrooms and have added individual customers to our potential consumer list.

Late last year, we started focusing on retailing Blackberry devices in India through our operator partners like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance, among others. The carriers have reduced prices of data plans that allowed for services such as wireless e-mail, and the traction is visible.

Retail clients are clearly a new frontier of growth for RIM. Approximately 30 per cent of our subscribers are non-enterprise and trend is more visible in emerging markets.

RIM shipped close to 3.1 million Blackberry handsets in the quarter ended September 2007, and we now have more than 11 million subscribers overall.

RIM announced a host of new mobile applications aimed at pleasing the individual buyer. Will this be the company's strategy for Blackberry devices in the near future?

Push-email paved way for the early success of this market, but mobile applications will drive the next phase for us, especially in emerging markets like India.

Emphasis on multimedia will continue to grow as Blackberry becomes more of a personal device for the user. RIM's most recent tie-up with Facebook that brings the social networking site to the phone promises a lot of growth potential.

Our software staff is working on bringing more navigation and global positioning system (GPS)-based tools to Blackberry along with developing a "map application" to display an address or a route on the phone's screen.

Also, our software partners are developing support for 3D graphics to enable more powerful gaming, and rich-media content is on the cards too.

At $3 billion in revenue, RIM is bigger than companies in the networking world but still far smaller than a Nokia or a Motorola. Will this be reason enough for RIM to aggressively tap the Indian market?

I don't think that RIM aspires to become a Nokia or anybody else in the market. India is a huge market, especially for devices like Blackberry Curve and now the Pearl 8120.

It's inevitable that the Asian market will surpass other markets. Last quarter, RIM added 1.45 million Blackberry subscriber accounts and that speaks volumes about our ability.

Priyanka Joshi in New Delhi
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