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BlackBerry rivals flood market

Cellphone makers are plunging into the hot market for high-end ?smartphones? ? threatening the domination of the popular BlackBerry e-mail device.

india Updated: Jun 12, 2006 13:56 IST

Cellphone makers are plunging into the hot market for high-end “smartphones” — threatening the domination of the popular BlackBerry e-mail device.

The latest BlackBerry, a slim, consumer-friendly model called the 7130c, was launched Thursday. It faces tough competition. Motorola’s much-anticipated Moto Q, which has a BlackBerrystyle keyboard, just hit store shelves. In May, Palm introduced its latest BlackBerry rival, the Treo 700p. Nokia, too, has a new smartphone offering, the E50. And Japanese cellphone-makers NEC and Matsushita Electric have publicly spoken about a partnership that would help them break into the smartphone market outside Japan.

Their target: Research in Motion (RIM), Canada-based maker of the BlackBerry. RIM makes only about seven per cent of the data-enabled cellphones sold worldwide, says researcher Gartner. But it looms over the market’s largest and most profitable segment, big business. By some estimates, BlackBerrys receive more than 70 per cent of wireless e-mails in North America.

RIM, for its part, hopes to keep growing by entering new markets. On Thursday, the company said it would bring BlackBerry into Japan. It has recently made similar pushes into China, South Korea and UAE. RIM is also trying to expand beyond big business. The BlackBerry launched on Thursday targets small-business professionals and techsavvy individuals. It can handle e-mail from Yahoo, Google or other personal accounts but isn’t designed for corporate e-mail systems.

RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis says there’s room for everyone. “The whole (smartphone) industry is at the tip of the iceberg,” he says. Sales of smartphones, which can usually handle e-mail, instant messages, webpages and other data, jumped more than 500 per cent from the first quarter of 2004 to the first quarter of 2006.