4/7/2009 4:37:00 PM
RIM shows power of a specialist
Just when I thought the world had gone completely bonkers, I saw a 14-year-old telling his dad he wanted a BlackBerry for his birthday. Apparently, he’s not the only 14-year-old coveting one.
BlackBerry sales have been phenomenal: almost eight million units around the world between December and the end of February. These are spectacular numbers given the niche market RIM operates in, how comparatively expensive its devices are, and how few countries it sells phones in. Profits, margins and revenue all look like they are going in the right direction. But most interestingly, RIM’s move for teenagers and other non-pinstripe demographics looks like it is set for even bigger growth. The use of email, Facebook updates and instant messaging is increasingly the way more people choose to communicate.
BlackBerry has stolen a march on claiming this territory, but it is still difficult to fully believe that its brand can resonate with a mass market. RIM does have a very operator-friendly position, given its potential to crank up data revenues and lack of brand empire building that operators fear of powerful manufacturers.
More than anything, RIM appears to have picked off a segment of the market and executed it fantastically well. The associations of being a specialist are reaping rewards. The next stage will be difficult: maintaining that specialist identity while growing.
Personally, I think the BlackBerry devices are unattractive compared to Nokia’s QWERTY devices but it is difficult to argue with the sales. Nokia will undoubtedly look at those results and see its worst fears. The E71 must have created similar awe at RIM. It’s a stunning device that has apparently sold by the truck-load. The new E75 looks even more compelling, and looks set to push the battle between RIM and Nokia into a new gear.