BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is in a fight for its corporate life, with even once-reliable markets no longer a given for the companys smartphones and back-end infrastructure services. However, emerging markets such as India and Indonesia may offer the lifeline RIM needs, according to several new reports.
In the United States, BlackBerry use is in a free fall, according to an April 17 OnForce Confidence Index report. BlackBerry use among field technicians fell to 7 percent during the second quarter, down from 11 percent last quarter, representing a 36 percent drop among BlackBerry use in only three months. Meanwhilebased on surveys with more than 600 technology professionalsthe company found iPhone use to have ticked up from 24 to 25 percent, while Android smartphone use jumped from 46 percent last quarter to 52 percent currently.
Additionally, analysis firm Ovum, in an April 18 report on how bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies are driving the mobile-device-management (MDM) market, shared how the mix of devices in the workplace is changing. While just two years ago there were conversations galore about whether iPhones were enterprise-compatible, Apples iOS is now the most-preferred platform, Ovum found, with 40 percent of iPhones managed on MDM platforms, compared with 24 percent of BlackBerry smartphones.
Such findings have become a too-familiar narrative for RIM, where a new CEO has laid out plans for turning the company around, though at a pace analysts find worrisome. The BlackBerry 10 platform, which RIM had hoped would reignite interest from U.S. enterprises and business users, wont arrive until the fourth quarter of this year at the earliest.
RIM has for some time enjoyed success abroadeven as U.S. numbers began slippingparticularly in developing markets. During an April 2010 earnings call, RIM executives called BlackBerry a top-selling smartphone brand and shared that 48 percent of its 2010 fiscal fourth-quarter revenue had come from outside North America. During its most recently completed quarter (its fiscal 2012 fourth quarter), sales outside the United States, Canada and Great Britain were to thank for 68 percent of RIMs revenue, up another 7 points from the quarter before.
However, RIM faces building competition for users in areas such as India and South Africa, where Nokia and some makers of low-end Android phones are also vying for first-time smartphone owners.
In an April 18 report, Reuters cites an Ovum analyst who explains that on slow connections RIM is able to offer a better experience than equivalent Android handsets. More than RIMs security featureswhich have long been highly touted in the United Statesusers of such phones are also interested in the BlackBerry Messenger feature, says the report. RIMs newest BlackBerry to arrive in India, the Curve 9220, features a dedicated side button for BBM, as well as a built-in FM radio, also thought to be an exciting perk.
While operators in Indonesia, for example, are offering plans as low as $5 a month, according to Reuters, BlackBerry handsets are still priced beyond many potential users reach, not uncommonly costing approximately two months salary.
During the early days of Nokia CEO Stephen Elops tenure, he emphasized the potential Nokia saw in developing markets, especially China. In October 2011, Nokia introduced a line of aspirational phones for what it said were the next billion people to come online. In a presentation that included mini case studies of users in India and South Africa, Elop described the worlds next billion users as mobile-savvy, really young and living in high-growth, emerging markets. Asha, in Hindi, means hope.
While some suggest RIM doesnt yet grasp how critical pricing is in such markets, and what more it can do to make phones more attainable, RIM seems to be banking on the wiggle room that a billion people affords it.
Patrick Spence, RIMs global sales chief, told Reuters, The reality is that only 15 percent of people have a smartphone. Its still quite early.