RIM’s BlackBerry Still in the Lead

From all the hype on the news, you would think that the only two smartphone platforms that matter anymore are from Apple and Google. Not so fast there. Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) still holds the lead at 35% of the US market compared to Apple’s 28% and Google Android OS’s 9% (facts from Neilson Co.). While RIM’s share of the market has surely fallen and is down 15% from five years ago, the company that practically invented the smartphone is still alive and well.

The company will be rolling out its BlackBerry 9800 Bold/Torch/Slide device this year along with the BlackBerry 9300 “Kepler,” and possible the BlackBerry Storm 3. BlackBerry OS 6 will be released very soon and promises to fix what users have been complaining about for years—poor web browsing. RIM’s tablet may even also see the light of day late in the year. So why does every news report you read seem to be declaring the death of RIM?

The answer is simple: it gets readers. Nearly everyone in North America has owned or borrowed a friend’s BlackBerry at one point. While the company certainly has had some problems in the past few years, the problems are not nearly bad enough to be declaring RIM dead anytime soon. The company still has the majority of the smartphone market share on the continent!

RIM realizes that it is in a tough position though. Its shareholders are upset that its sales did not quite reach its projections. It faces stiff competition from newcomers on the scene. Newcomers that come from industries that have little to do with smartphones. Who ever thought that Google would become an OS provider for cell phones? Or that Apple would start making them (to be fair, when I was a kid I did want an Apple Newton)? The high-tech world is ultra competitive, so companies have to leverage all available resources that they have and branch out to remain profitable.

The real question is how RIM will respond to all of the negative press it has received recently. Since both of its phones that will come out this year will feature touchscreens, it is safe to assume that the company has started to “get it.” Touchscreens are sexy and do not limit the user to a pre-defined set of physical buttons. Once RIM gets its touchscreen phones on a roll, users will start to come back. The BlackBerry brand name is still just that strong. After all, five years ago BlackBerry and smartphone were practically synonyms.

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