By Pradyut Hande:

The global Smartphone market has gone from strength to strength in the last few years alone. Fuelled by rising demand, increased affordability and accessibility, enhanced network capabilities and manufacturing prescience; the Smartphone segment continues to register healthy rates of growth, year on year. With a predicted annual growth rate of 20-22% in the next couple of years, the Smartphone segment that presently accounts for 15% of the entire mobile phone market is touted to be worth USD 150 billion by 2014.

competition

Set in this backdrop of hyper competition and cut throat margins, Smartphone manufacturers are pulling out all the stops to offer their consumers quality products whilst enhancing their market shares. The last few years has witnessed the astounding ascendancy of the Google developed Android and the Apple iOS platforms that have ushered a veritable revolution in the industry. With traditional powerhouses in Nokia and BlackBerry struggling to keep up with the “cooler kids on the block“, the once fractured market is pulling away on the back of ever improving hardware and software capabilities at the altar of cutting edge technology.

Canada based Research in Motion (RIM), the makers of BlackBerry, has gradually witnessed the erosion of its market share since the arrival of Android and the Apple iPhone. According to Gartner, BlackBerry’s global market share has fallen from 11% to just over 5%, whilst Android has further consolidated its market leader position by enhancing its share from 52% to 72% in 2012 alone. Uninspiring designs, sluggish systems, rigid interfaces and limited apps in comparison to its rivals; have collectively contributed towards ensuring BlackBerry’s poor performance. RIM’s stock prices have fallen by as much as 72% in the last two years alone, indicative of dwindling consumer confidence in its products. The appointment of Thorsten Heins as CEO in 2012 was deemed as a necessity as the company looked to shed its lackadaisical garb of indecisiveness and breathe new leadership and vision in an endeavour to tackle the ceaseless competition and drum up demand for its future range of products.

Consequently, RIM is all in readiness to launch its BlackBerry 10 Operating System and new handsets powered by the same. Given its current market position, RIM has bet big on the BlackBerry 10 and thus, can ill afford another debacle. With a host of new available features, sleeker designs and fluid user interfaces enabled through touch screen and keypad functionalities; RIM hopes to not just safeguard its present market share but also wrest some of it back from its more enterprising competitors. It has also revamped its Application Store, re-christening it the BlackBerry World (previously known as BlackBerry App World) and is in the process of expanding the same with many more apps, catering to an increasingly diverse consumer spectrum.

The situation demanded that RIM throw caution to the wind and embrace a more proactive approach by investing heavily in the development of an altogether new platform and that is precisely what it has done. It is undoubtedly a big gamble, but one that has to be taken in an unforgiving industry that doesn’t hand out plaudits for those who fail to finish at the top. The fact that RIM has always had a loyal segment of consumers in the Government and Corporate sectors ought to work in its favour. Its Smartphones have also won immense favour with younger users, what with the success of its multi-utility instant messaging service, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). The challenge now for RIM is to suitably leverage its inherent strengths of network security, reliability and device durability to re-position itself as a Smartphone maker with a difference. It does possess the “brand appeal” that cuts across age, sex and occupation to a great extent. All it needs to do is drive greater “device appeal“, and that ought to happen with the launch of a product that truly intrigues its consumers. The initial response to the marketing initiatives for the BlackBerry 10 has been most positive. Whether RIM can translate that interest into product sales and enhanced revenues in the next few months remains to be seen.

Instead of punching above its weight and trying to run as fast as its other heavyweight industry opponents, RIM ought to rediscover and further consolidate its niche market positioning, foremost. Only then can it hope to challenge the likes of Android and the Apple iOS on a larger scale in the future. For now, its survival and success hinges on the BlackBerry 10.

About the author: The Writer is a Business student with a degree from NMIMS, Mumbai. He is presently working as a Senior Executive with a leading Public Relations firm in Mumbai. Through his writing; he attempts to address myriad issues of both domestic and global consequence, ranging from Business and Economics to Geopolitics…from Sports to Arts and Culture. He has over 200 publications to his credit in some of the leading national dailies and weekly magazines across the country. He is also a keen debater, munner, quizzer, painter and amateur freestyle rapper. His other interests include Sports, Music, Reading, Travelling and Social Entrepreneurship. For his latest postings, follow his blog . To read his other posts, click here.

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