For Research In Motion (RIM), the Canadians makers of the iconic Blackberry mobile phones, 2011 has been a difficult year. Apple’s iPhone and mobile phones on the Android platform have outperformed and outsold Blackberry’s in the western market. India is one of those countries where Blackberry fans are on the rise and RIM would hope that it can continue its services in India and other countries in Asia, without any disruptions.
In the last couple of years RIM has faced problems in India from the Government, over security concerns. The Blackberry USP of providing top-quality encrypted data sharing services is the same the reason for the trouble as well, with the Indian Government wanting RIM to provide them access to the data or setup a local server in India. And then the Big Outage fiasco took place. Last month for more than three days all the Blackberry services were down and this incident has created skeptics out of fans. The fact that it took RIM more than three days to restore services is extremely worrying :(. Amidst declining sales forecasts, RIM had to come up with a $100 apology pack containing premium apps, including games and a Siri replica.
Besides India, Blackberry has faced similar issues in other countries as well. Saudi Arabia is a prime example. The Saudi Arabia Government had banned the BBM (Blackberry Messenger) service, but then rolled it back after RIM agreed to some of the conditions put forth by the Government. UAE, Lebanon and Indonesia are some of the other countries who have expressed concerns about the Blackberry services and the threat to security. Ironically, these are the same countries where popularity of Blackberry has increasing rapidly and RIM would have hoped that these markets will boost its flagging fortunes.
RIM has once again reiterated that the concerns about security over encrypted data is an industry wide concern and not specific to Blackberry. Recently Sunil Lalvani, who is the director of enterprise sales in India, said that RIM is constantly in touch with the Indian Government and has had several discussions with their representatives. He stated that RIM is currently waiting for the Telecom Policy 2011 to be finalized, which will direct the next step. Mr. Lalvani further impressed the point that India is an important market for Blackberry devices. International Data Corporation figures say that Blackberry phones have a 15% share of the Indian smartphones pie. Blackberry has started launching new phones in India within a week or so of its international debut. They are banking heavily on their new Blackberry 7 OS and the apps based on the NFC technology.
Talking about apps, Blackberry AppWorld has not been able to match either the Apple AppStore or the Android Marketplace, both in terms of quality and quantity. Smartphones users like their apps and interesting apps can be the difference between success and failure. iPhone’s prohibitive price has meant that in emerging markets likeIndia, it has not found many takers. While phones on the Android platform have lowered the price of a feature packed smartphone drastically. Blackberry needs to introduce phones at sub-Rs. 8000 level to be able truly capture the market. Blackberry Curve 8520, which is the lowest priced Blackberry phone in the market at present, is almost an obsolete model. In comparison Nokia E5 is at the same price category and packs in a lot more punch.
So can Blackberry come out trumps in India and other Asia countries and recapture its lost glory? I guess we have to wait and watch.