BlackBerry: Greater Challenge in Asia

Research in Motion is struggling to defend itself against competing platform Windows Mobile in the Asia-Pacific region

RIM's dominant U.S. market share hit 44.5 percent last quarter, according to IDC.

But in the Asia-Pacific region, Windows Mobile devices hold stronger market penetration, at an estimated 6 million devices shipped last year—while RIM's was under 1 million, according to Springboard Research.

Bryan Wang, research director, connectivity, at Springboard, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview that BlackBerry's uptake in the region is slower than that in the U.S. partly because of Windows Mobile's dominance, and also due to the associated service costs associated with BlackBerry's push mail function.

Besides the cost of the BlackBerry server, its service costs are higher than Windows Mobile's push mail service, resulting in a higher total cost of ownership (TCO), he explained.

"BlackBerry's service price is considered high in the Asian business context, especially for the SMB (small to medium-sized business) sector," said Wang.

RIM also faces competition from service providers in Asia offering push mail to users, he said.

China Mobile has a service charged at RMB148 (US$21) per month—RIM's exceeds RMB300 (US$43) each month—and the client does not have to pay for a server, either, Wang said.

But RIM hopes to change this, with its recent introduction of a software product.

The software, called BlackBerry Unite!, is aimed at consumers and SMBs, allowing up to five users to connect to a push mail platform.

Gregory Wade, RIM Asia-Pacific regional vice president, said in an e-mail interview the global economy is pushing SMBs to be more connected, as these organizations recognize the productivity gains with doing more work on the go.

According to Wade, this need has moved beyond the top layer in organizations: "The value proposition of the BlackBerry and smartphone reaches well beyond the traditional high-level corporate user."

Singapore launched the Unite! service last month. The software is a free download, although users still bear mobile data traffic costs.

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