Blackberry shifts focus to emerging markets including Pakistan

By Farooq Baloch

After losing significant market share in North America, Research In Motion (RIM) is shifting its focus more towards emerging markets that accounts for 68% of its revenues.  BlackBerry App World’s official launch, with limited access though, in Pakistan is another effort towards protecting the revenue-base; say industry experts.

The Canadian manufacturer of BlackBerry once dominated the North American smartphone market with more than a 50% share now sits just under 15% in the US, according to market research firm Neilsen.

RIM continues to do well throughout the world where its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service is popular, according to research group Canalys.

“In Q4 of 2011, 68% of our revenue came from markets outside the US, UK and Canada,” RIM’s Managing Director for the Middle East Region Sandeep Saihgal said in an e-mail to The Express Tribune.

Saihgal did not share its revenues from Pakistan but maintained it was an important market for the company, hinting there is more to come after App World. “We currently support the Pakistan market through our partnerships with local carriers and distributors. We receive regular updates on our activity in this important market.”

RIM has opened the doors of App World to the sixth largest mobile market, three years after its launch in US, Canada and UK – indicating a shift of focus to the emerging economies. With the inclusion of Pakistan, App World is now available in over 130 countries.

Pakistani BlackBerry users can access apps that include the newly introduced BBM connected apps, which make it easier for users to stay in touch with their contacts, share content and play multiplayer games, and discover new things from their BBM community; Saihgal said.

There are already several applications available in App World that were developed with Pakistani users in mind, the MD said, including the Pakistan Cricket News app for sports fans; the Abida Parveen Collection for music aficionados; the Karachi Love application for tourists visiting the port city and even a Pakistan Animated Theme to liven up the smartphone.

Limited access to apps

BB users welcomed the much-awaited launch of App World, however, they still don’t have access to all the apps available on the store. RIM may have to put in more to win over rivals iPhone and Android whose users enjoy unlimited access to the App Store and Android Marketplace, respectively, according to experts.

Pakistani users, according to Saihgal, will have access to the Middle East catalogue that provides access to only 40,000 apps.

Though appreciated, RIM’s recent move was not a surprise for industry analysts who believe it was always on the cards – especially due to increasing popularity of iPhone and Android-powered phones.

“BlackBerry certainly dominated Pakistani market until 2010. However, its market share fell recently after iPhone gained more popularity among masses,” said a telecom official who requested not to be named. Introduction of android-powered phones to the market was another blow to the Canadian smartphone maker, official added.

Responding to a question, the official said companies usually give BlackBerry to their executives and managers as part of their job package, which is why it dominates the corporate sector. He, however, added iPhones and Android-powered phones have recently gained much popularity among masses in the country, it is, therefore, hard to say whether BlackBerry still dominates the country’s smartphone market or not.

The exact figures for BlackBerry’s market share in Pakistan could not be obtained – mainly due to the information being confidential – however, three telecom sources estimated that there are about 1 million BB users in Pakistan.

Opportunity for app developers

Besides giving BlackBerry users access, the official store also provides economic opportunities to local app developers.

RIM actively supports developers in Pakistan and across the world in order to provide apps that leverage the many advantages of the BlackBerry platform, Saihgal said. “Our App catalogue for the region consists of over 40,000 apps with 10 to 20 apps added by regional developers every week,” he added.

Research also shows that BlackBerry App World has more paid downloads thus leading to more revenue generation for developers, Saihgal said. According to Evans Data Corp, 13% of BlackBerry developers make $100,000+ from BlackBerry App World apps, which is more than developers for other platforms,” he added.

The Express Tribune

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