Analysis: RIM's limited iPhone fight-back options

Research In Motion (RIM) isn’t taking Apple’s move into the enterprise market it dominates without a fight. The company has confirmed plans to push back with the introduction of social networking and entertainment features.


As part of the push, RIM has reached a deal with Black Eyed Peas’ artist,, to make that artist’s content and online community Dipdive available on the BlackBerry. ( was also behind Barack Obama’s successful “Yes We Can” video.) The company introduced Facebook software for its smartphones last autumn.

RIM’s in a fix. Apple’s introduction of Exchange support means core Blackberry customers have a choice of devices, and with the iPhone offering extra value in terms of screen real estate, iPod and other sexy features, the Blackberry maker must struggle to preserve its market.

Two-thirds of RIM’s 12 million Blackberry users are government or corporate clients. In order to widen its business and resist the Apple-driven iPhone assault, RIM has little choice but to extend its product’s versatility.

RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie told Reuters, "The two hottest trends in wireless are social networking and multimedia, which is principally portable music."

While the company continues to insist iPhone poses no competition, with economic downturn threatening sales in its key business sectors and the debut of iPhone, which threatens to clean up in the consumer market, things appear grim.

Apple has already seized the number two slot in the US smartphone market, grabbing 28 percent share. Blackberry continues to dominate this sector with 41 percent, Canalsys claimed last month.

In the consumer markets, a January ChangeWave survey showed a move toward smartphones, with iPhone and Blackberry competing for dominance. That survey of 4,182 consumers declared the iPhone to be the leading choice, with 17 percent of consumers planning to buy a smartphone planning an iPhone. That compares with 15 percent planning to pick Blackberry.

Customer satisfaction may be key to victory. 72 percent of those surveyed who already own an iPhone said they were "very satisfied" with the product, while just 55 percent were equally satisfied with their Blackberry.

The game’s afoot. Apple, which sells iPhone in just four countries and has confirmed four million sales of the device so far already holds 0.6 percent of the world’s cell phone market, according toGartner.

This compares to RIM’s 1.2 percent.

With Apple planning to sell 10 million iPhones this year, its overall market share seems set for steep growth, pushing ahead of RIM.

Investors are watching closely. Apple shares seem to have begun reclaiming a little lost ground on strength of last night’s iPhone SDK announcements (up a few pennies to $121.36). Beleaguered RIM has lost $1.72 per share to hit $96.20 on pre-market trading this morning.

Battle, it seems, is joined.

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