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RIM's BlackBerry becoming top consumer gadget

Consumer market is the new mobile email focus

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion says the growth in the number of consumers buying its handset outstripped growth from the enterprise market in its second quarter.

While announcing earnings, the company pointed to a selection of new products targeted at consumers and small business, including two smartphones and free mobile collaboration software, BlackBerry Unite, that provides mobile access to shared calendars, pictures, music, and documents on desktops to up to five users.

The company reported revenue for its quarter ending September 1 of $1.37bn, up 27 percent year-over-year. It reported net income of $287.7m, up from $140.2m posted last year.

RIM added 1.45 million subscriber accounts and shipped 3 million wireless units during the quarter, and reached a milestone of 20 million devices shipped and 10 million subscriber accounts.

One growth factor for RIM was the diversification of its user base, said Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM. Growth in the non-enterprise space was bigger than the enterprise space, he said in an earnings conference call. The company hopes to grow further in the consumer market with new multimedia- and-consumer-centric devices.

The new consumer wireless devices he detailed during the call include the BlackBerry Pearl 8120 smartphone, which has a 2-megapixel digital camera, Wi-Fi connectivity, a memory card slot, email and web browsing features. The phone will be first launched in Spain with mobile provider Telefónica.

RIM has also announced the BlackBerry Pearl 8130 smartphone, which has a 2-megapixel camera, email capabilities, web browsing, maps, built-in GPS navigation and expandable memory. The phone will launch in the US later this year.

RIM also is reaching out to consumers with BlackBerry Unite, mobile collaboration software introduced on Wednesday that helps users interact more efficiently by sharing calendars, multimedia files and documents on desktops with up to five users. The free software is a low-cost way for family members and small businesses to collaborate, said Balsillie.

The software can backup data to a desktop computer if a device is lost or stolen. It can also wirelessly erase data from a lost or stolen handset.

The idea of RIM pushing into the consumer business makes Bill Hughes, an In-Stat analyst, uncomfortable.

"The next big wave [in handheld devices] is for business use," he said. "The company that has achieved success in that area is RIM. To dedicate as many resources to the consumer side, it's going the wrong direction."

Though the Pearl smartphone, designed for consumers, was a success, RIM has a niche in the enterprise market and the company should exploit it, he said. RIM is succeeding internationally with the BlackBerry email application and the mobile device has been the epitome of the business device.

"The consumer effort is a distraction," he said.

Moreover, RIM will have its challengers in the consumer space, like handhelds running the Windows Mobile OS. RIM will need to put a lot of effort into attracting retail consumers, which is a challenging task and could affect the resources it has, he said.

See also:

Exclusive review: BlackBerry Curve 8310

BlackBerry 8830 World Edition PDA

BlackBerry 8820 quad-band smartphone

All mobile phone reviews


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