Source: Financial Times, Tuesday January 23, 2007
Building on the success of the BlackBerry
The BlackBerry, the wireless e-mail and phone device, faces growing competition but it is managing to hold on to its market niche. Research in Motion (Rim), the Canadian-based manufacturer of the BlackBerry range, pioneered the market for wireless 'push' e-mail in the late 1990s. The first BlackBerry devices were distinguished by small 'qwerty' layout keyboards that enable users to respond to wireless e-mail. In spite of notoriously average phone features, the BlackBerry quickly became the 'must-have' device for the rich and famous. Doctors, lawyers and Wall Street traders became so addicted to their BlackBerrys that some US health centres set up physiotherapy sessions for users with 'BlackBerry thumb' and the term 'crackberry' was born.
Rim rode the BlackBerry's success to boost the number of subscribers to its dedicated e-mail service to more than 7m in the latest quarter and it has recently launched new devices, including the more phone-like BlackBerry Pearl, to fend off rivals, including Finland's Nokia, Motorola end Palm of the US and Microsoft, whose Windows-powered smartphones have gained market share.
In spite of the various challenges, Rim has held on to its dominant market position, although analysts believe that as the mobile e-mail market expands and handset prices plunge, rivals will be able to boost their share.
The latest smartphones offer digital cameras and the ability to play music files. These developments may well take the market for push e-mail and smartphones to a broader audience and help turn devices such as the BlackBerry Pearl into 'computers in your pocket'. Rim is also expanding its geographical reach. 'We have 30 carrier partners in 17 countries,' said Jim Balsillie, Rim's co-chairman, at ITU World 2006 forum in Hong Kong last month. 'We'd like to add another 15 to 20 carriers in the next year.'
Top of the list is Asia, a market analysts believe is ready to embrace smartphones. This year Rim will sell BlackBerrys in China for the first time.
Comment on this article through the concept(s) of portfolio analysis and the product life cycle. What conclusions would you state?
Which strategic options do you distinguish (or what combination) of strategic options do you see at the basis of the BlackBerry success and the continuation of this success story.