The elitist days of the Blackberry is over. With competition catching up, devices of the kind (that offer to push your email onto your mobile) might soon become commonplace in cities.
Not just the top boss, but everyone down the rung – including young BPO yuppies and college-goers who have the means might own one.
The cost of owning a device and using it is also likely to fall.
Even today, more than half the Indian Blackberry users are individuals, a trend that is unique. Worldwide most users are executives whose employers foot the bill.
India today has around 30,000-35,000 users of Blackberry. Most of them are users of Airtel, that launched two years back. But in a year the number can go up to five lakh or more.
The entry of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communication – offering Blackberry and similar services on their CDMA phones – is sure to shake up the market.
Today Hutch and Idea too have Blackberry offerings. Airtel also offers the Windows mobile service. Reliance has already launched a similar service -- UT Starcom’s and is set to launch Blackberry in January on CDMA as well as GSM.
Harit Shah, a telecom analyst with Angel Broking says, "To increase mobile revenues from cities value added services are a must. Push mail services are likely to be the next big wave, getting better acceptance than 3G services like live video."
Shah feels that five lakh push mail users in a year is no big deal for an industry that is adding 50 lakh new cellphone users a month.
Airtel’s Gopal Mittal, the director for marketing says, "We were the pioneers. Competition is welcome now, as it will grow the market. We have also introduced the Blackberry Pearl – the first launch in Asia Pacific."
Reliance also plans to bring the price point down. Sources indicate that Reliance is looking at a Rs 15,000 price point. It’s CDMA Blackberry will also offers faster downloads speeds for Internet connectivity.
"There is tremendous growth potential for applications, like the Push Mail service, that require high download speeds. We want to offer enriched features to all our customers on the Reliance Communications network across 6,000 towns and three lakh villages in India," said a Reliance spokesperson.
But first what is the push-mail service?
It’s a software the helps you get your email pushed on to your mobile instead of you downloading it.
The emails, as they land on the email server, get pushed on to the handset. It can be done for office mail as well as for web-based email like hotmail and yahoo by opting for the POP3 service. Some web-based email sites provide this for free while others charge a small amount.
There are two aspects to the service -- the software and the device. Blackberry produces both. You can access a Blackberry service with a Blackberry device or similar compliant devices from Nokia, Sony Ericksson etc. You can access a Windows Mobile service through IMate or HP’s IPaq.
* Cost of service varies from Rs 500 – Rs 1000 a month
* Minimum cost of handset Rs 17,000-Rs 19,000. The resale value can be as low as Rs 10,000, so you can pick up one easily off the grey market
* It offers emails and also allows you to connect to the net. The CDMA offering promises higher download speeds
* Blackberrry, Nokia, Sony Ericksson, Hewlett Packard, Imate are the major manufacturers of such devices
* Half of Indian users are individuals. Something that is unique in the world
* Blackberry had 7 million users worldwide in September 2006. Almost double of what it had a year back.