The Co-Chief Executive of Research In Motion (RIM) Jim Balsillie has said that the imminent launch of Apple’s iPhone does not pose a threat to RIMâ€™s consumer-geared BlackBerry Pearl, but simply marks the entry of another competitor into the burgeoning Smartphone market.
“It’s kind of one more entrant into an already very busy space with lots of choice for consumers,” Jim Balsillie said. “But in terms of a sort of a sea-change for BlackBerry, I would think that’s overstating it.” Balsillie made his comments as Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM launched the slimmest BlackBerry so far. The 8800 is a full-keyboard device (like other BlackBerries) with a built-in global positioning system, a first for the BlackBerry series.
“It’s definitely the thinnest BlackBerry yet … and definitely the premium product for the broad audience of mobile professionals,” Balsillie said. He added that RIM expects some consumers using earlier versions of the BlackBerry to upgrade to the newer model. Unlike the retail-aimed Pearl, which debuted to rave reviews, the 8800 is the latest version of the ubiquitous hand-held e-mail device aimed at the professional market. It is however, capable of playing music and video content.
While the BlackBerry is hugely popular among business professionals, it has yet to gain the same acceptance amongst ordinary retail customers. In order to penetrate the untapped consumer market for these phones, RIM launched the Pearl and Apple announced the June 2007 release of the iPhone. Balsillie said the iPhone’s launch validates RIMâ€™s thinking that multimedia features should be expected in cellphones.
But while the Pearl has received great response, some analysts questioned Apple’s decision to price its smartphone as highly as they have. Cost has already proven to be a key obstacle in turning regular cellphone users on to the more expensive handheld devices. But other observers have cautioned that despite the lofty price tag that appears, the iPhone could spell trouble for RIM’s Pearl as it further overcrowds a market already bursting at the seams with new offerings.