Research In Motion told investors Thursday that it shipped 14.2 million BlackBerrys in its November-ending fiscal business quarter. Moreover, RIM said its BlackBerry account base grew to more than 55 million through the addition of 5.1 million new subscribers during the three-month period.
According to RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie, international markets continued to adopt the BlackBerry in record numbers in the latest quarter, making it the number-one smartphone in several markets in Western Europe, including the United Kingdom. "The prepaid smartphone market in the U.K. alone grew 245 percent year over year versus postpaid, at only 65 percent growth," he said.
Balsillie also noted that RIM is hugely investing for the future -- not only for growth in numerous markets around the globe, but also in new categories and value-added services.
"This is not a time to be penny-wise, pound-foolish," Balsillie observed. "Business models are changing, and I think we'll have some pretty pleasant surprises in what we're doing throughout 2011."
Strong Global Growth
Certainly RIM has picked up in the consumer space, thanks to its BlackBerry Messenger instant-messaging service, but more so thanks to the cheaper prepay options that were offered by network operators, noted Gartner Research Vice President Carolina Milanesi.
"I believe that for RIM to grow more share, there is a need to have a device with the price point of the Pearl but with a full touchscreen design," Milanesi said. "Competition from Android is growing rapidly and the price point is decreasing, making it an interesting proposition to both carriers and consumers."
Balsillie noted that Verizon Wireless continues to be a strong RIM partner and has been one of the most aggressive carriers to promote BlackBerry in the United States. "BlackBerry products are featured in most of Verizon's holiday promotion across various media, including TV and print advertising, which is coupled with some of the most attractive pricing on BlackBerry products in the U.S. market," Balsillie said.
However, RIM's favored status at Verizon may change if the widely rumored addition of Apple's iPhone comes to pass in the opening months of 2011. Still, the effects may not be as potentially devastating for RIM as some industry observers have been predicting.
"Lots of RIM's growth is international, which is not affected by the iPhone coming to CDMA," said Al Hilwa, director of application development software at IDC. "On the Verizon iPhone, I would be more concerned about its potential aggressive pricing and the nature of the device from a feature perspective than simply its availability on Verizon."
The PlayBook Tablet
Balsillie believes RIM's PlayBook tablet will quickly gain traction among enterprise customers when it launches in the first quarter of next year. "I think the PlayBook redefines what a tablet should do," Balsillie told investors. "We're committed to ensuring that the BlackBerry PlayBook is enterprise-ready for launch by delivering on key customer requirements."
Among other things, RIM intends to ensure that the PlayBook will be able to pair with BlackBerry smartphones. "We have lots of corporations with several tens of thousands and some even approaching 100,000 BlackBerrys," Balsillie said.
Other business-friendly PlayBook features will include a secure enterprise VPN, true multitasking, document viewing and editing, and a best-in-class web-browsing experience, Balsillie said. Enterprises are attracted to Adobe Flash, because various dashboards and enterprise applications currently work in a Flash environment, he added. "Phase I of [PlayBook] shipments is going to be very heavily weighted to B2B because of the pent-up business demand," Balsillie said.
RIM appears to have successfully righted its momentum with a browser acquisition, a new phone, a revamped app-store strategy, and better caring about its developer ecosystem, Hilwa observed. "Having a congruent tablet will help attract applications and help it bridge to the new OS as it executes that strategy," he added.