Apple Beating BlackBerry in Canada, Microsoft Looks to China

Apple is bringing a smartphone war to RIM's home turf. Right now, the iPhone is beating BlackBerry in Canadian sales. In the meantime, Microsoft is eyeing the Chinese market.

Smartphone makers are fighting a turf war, and in some cases the competition is taking the fight to the other team€™s home field. The most visible example of this is in Canada, where Ontario-based Research In Motion and its BlackBerry device are losing ground to Apple€™s iPhone, according to a March 21 analysis by Bloomberg.

For the first time, in 2011, Apple€™s iPhone outsold RIM€™s BlackBerry in Canada, where RIM had built up a loyal, homegrown following. In fact, BlackBerry sales fell 23 percent during RIM's 2011 third quarter, compared with a year ago. In the United States, sales fell 45 percent.

"[RIM] got so good at innovation they just expected the product to sell itself," Alfred DuPuy with Interbrand, a brand management company, told Bloomberg, in part explaining the fall of a brand once widely considered the smartphone gold standard by business users.

Apple's rise, meanwhile, has been attributed to its enormous application ecosystem, good looks and user-friendly features. During the fourth quarter of 2011, Apple shipped 37 million smartphones, according to research firm IDC, compared with Samsung's 36 million, Nokia's 19.6 million and RIM's 13 million units.

Still, RIM's lower prices have made it a favorite in the select regions, particularly Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. Bloomberg notes that in Saudi Arabia, young adults favor RIM handsets because BlackBerry Messenger is an easy way for users of different sexes to communicate€”a thing forbidden by local religious police.

(Saudi authorities, however, have been less keen on the device, believing its secure messaging service is an undue asset for criminals.)

Pricing is another reason that RIM beats out Apple in some markets, as in Latin America, for example, carriers generally don't subsidize devices, leaving the iPhone a markedly more expensive purchase.

Price is also cited as a reason Apple may lose notable market share in China€”not to RIM but to Microsoft.

IDC expects device shipments to China to rise by 52 percent this year, for a total of 137 million units, besting the No. 1 U.S. market for the first time.

Simon Leung, Microsoft's CEO for the Greater China region, told reporters in Beijing March 21, according to a separate Bloomberg article, that on Microsoft's way to overtaking Google's Android, passing Apple is an "interim goal."

"We will continue to drive the price down," Leung continued. "Our goal is [to be] No. 1. Having a goal to be No. 2 is not really a goal."

According to the report, Microsoft plans to work with partners, such as Nokia, to release devices priced as low as $158.

At the March 21 Beijing event, HTC, another Microsoft partner, announced that its first Windows Phone in China had gone on sale. (Underscoring how mixing across cultures is not an effortless ordeal, English-speaking audiences have dubbed the phone the Eternity, its internal code name, though the Taiwan-based HTC says the name more precisely translates to "triumph" or "victory.")

The phone features a 4.7-inch display, front and rear cameras and, according to the Windows Phone Blog, "comes stocked with a slew of popular Chinese apps." It added that it's the "first of many great Windows Phone handsets headed for China ... this year," though it didn't note the price.

Offering a variety of Android-running devices has been a key strategy of HTC, Samsung and other phone makers, working to appeal to U.S. consumers. Wooing Chinese consumers, manufacturers are expected to take a similar tack with Windows Phone handsets.

Teck-Zhung Wong, a Beijing-based IDC analyst told Bloomberg, "That alone, as opposed to what Apple is doing, will give Windows Phone an advantage."