CRN recently contacted Research In Motion for comment on stories running this week in CRN Tech News about the company and its struggles to find its footing in the era of the Apple iPhone. Below are responses to the questions we asked, answered by Robin Bienfait, CIO of the Waterloo, Ontario-based company, via email. For more of CRN's coverage this week, visit the iPad Exclusives section.
CRN: According to Gartner, BlackBerry accounted for 5.2 percent of the worldwide smartphone market in the second quarter of 2012. During the same quarter in 2008, BlackBerry accounted for 15.9 percent. What are the biggest contributors to RIM's loss in market share over the past four years?
Robin Bienfait: Thank you for the opportunity to address this question. With hindsight being what it is, we recognize that RIM missed on important trends in the smartphone industry -- especially in the consumer domain, but it's also important to recognize that the BlackBerry subscriber base has grown consistently since 2008. We now have 80 million BlackBerry customers around the world who rely on our products and services each day. To put things into perspective, the wireless industry is among the most competitive and fast-moving sectors in the world. The introduction of new competitors and the shift in market dynamics are two factors that should be considered when evaluating a change in market share.
The majority of mobile phone users around the world have not yet made the switch to smartphones. By the end of 2012, Canalys data predicts only 27 percent of worldwide mobile phone users will have a smartphone. It's also predicted that by the end of 2016, less than half (46 percent) of all mobile phone users will be using a smartphone. It's also worth noting the significant change in the size of the smartphone market from 2008 to 2012. Worldwide smartphone shipments have grown to nearly five times what they were four years ago. Approximately 143 million smartphones were shipped in 2008, compared with approximately 675 million by year end 2012. The smartphone market is growing rapidly -- Canalys data predicts that worldwide smartphone shipments will exceed 1 billion by 2015, and reach 1.2 billion by 2016.
With this said, the market opportunity and potential for BlackBerry to make an even larger impact is tremendous, especially with the launch of our new mobile computing platform, BlackBerry 10, coming in the first quarter of 2013.
CRN: Our sources have pointed to the co-CEO, co-chairman structure employed by former RIM executives Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis as contributing to this loss in share. What are your thoughts on this?
Bienfait: I worked closely with both Mike and Jim for a number of years, and personally found that the co-CEO structure allowed them to each focus on their unique areas of strength. Mike ran our product development, manufacturing and research and development organizations. Jim ran the sales, marketing, human resources, legal and finance departments. Mike and Jim worked together successfully for many years and undoubtedly built a company that changed the way people communicate.
CRN: CRN sources have also pointed to RIM's underwhelming response to Apple's iPhone as another reason for this loss in share. What are your thoughts on this?
Bienfait: We understand the challenges RIM faces in today's extremely competitive and rapidly changing market. We are committed to building a successful future, which takes full advantage of all of the lessons we have learned along the journey. RIM takes nothing for granted. The needs and aspirations of our customers around the world are very important to us, and we remain dedicated to continuing to refine our customer experience. We are confident that the changes we are making now will put RIM on a strong path going forward, as we move into the next chapter of mobile computing with BlackBerry 10.
CRN: How does RIM plan to recapture some of the market share it has lost to Apple and Google's Android platform over the past few years?
Beinfait: Times are changing, and we're readying BlackBerry 10 to power our next generation of smartphones and tablets. We have a significant base to build on -- with 80 million BlackBerry customers around the world, and over 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies relying on BlackBerry today. There is strong momentum behind BlackBerry 10, and we are on track for launch in the first calendar quarter of 2013.
We are partnering for success with our carriers, developers and enterprise relationships, and providing full toolkits to enable partners and customers to build on our entirely new, flexible platform. We are improving our developer tools, by giving the earliest access ever to our platform, to ensure that the most engaging applications are available on our mobile devices, from day one of launch. We're meeting with carriers around the world, who are excited and looking forward to joining us in the launch of BlackBerry 10. RIM remains confident that we can continue to maintain and grow our customer base with the introduction of BlackBerry 10.
CRN: What will make the upcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system a serious contender to Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems?
Beinfait: BlackBerry 10 is a brand-new operating system, and the only platform built for this decade. RIM is building on a strong foundation of increasing productivity, improving efficiency and enabling people to make the best, most informed and most timely decisions. BlackBerry 10 is a mobile computing platform that will provide consumers and businesses with a new, unique user experience.
PUBLISHED OCT. 2, 2012