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Research in Motion's Strategy to Move out of Apple's Shadow

|Sep 2|magazine10 min read

Times have been tough for Ontario-based Research in Motion.

While the BlackBerry developer has been able to maintain its popularity in Canada and lead that smartphone market with a significant 42 per cent of the 6.6 million Canadian smartphone users, RIM’s global presence is much more dismal.

The American smartphone market is almost ten times larger than Canada’s, and a comScore report shows that BlackBerry is trailing its competitors in the U.S. With only 25.7 per cent of the market share BlackBerry is behind Android’s 36.4 per cent and iPhone’s 26 per cent share.

In June and July, RIM experienced its first drop in revenue in nine years and was forced to cut 2,000 jobs. RIM’s stock prices haven’t been this low since 2006.

To make matters worse, a reportedly high-ranking RIM employee wrote an open letter to the company’s senior management, urging CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie to refocus and regain its leading position. The author of the letter appears to have RIM’s best interests at heart, but the letter is ultimately a very public shaming of a company in danger of losing its global grip.

Apparently, even RIM’s employees are aware the company has lost touch with what the market craves.

“While I hide it at work, my passion has been sapped. I know I am not alone—the sentiment is widespread and it includes people within your own teams,” the introduction to the anonymous letter read. “Our carriers, distributors, alliance partners, enterprise customers, and our loyal end users all want the same thing…for BlackBerry to once again be leading the pack.”

RIM has yet to respond to inquiries concerning the letter, but there’s a possibility the entire incident could soon be forgotten, considering the company’s recent steps in the direction of a PR boost.

RIM hasn’t launched a new device in 12 months, but the company has just released the latest version of BlackBerry Messenger, and has unveiled plans to launch the BlackBerry Bold 9900, BlackBerry Torch 9810 and the BlackBerry Torch 9860 later this year, but crucially—before the back-to-school and holiday buying seasons.

On the heels of those announcements, PRWeek has reported that RIM has been holding meetings with a number of PR agencies and will possibly be parting ways with Edelman, its social media agency, and Razorfish, which handles its digital marketing.

“The recent launch of BBM 6 shows that RIM is moving towards the development of more sophisticated social apps,” said Lucre Social Senior Account Director Chris Norton. “This will help differentiate its smartphones and keep up with Apple. The Google Android market is pretty worried about the new iPhone, with some predicting a drop-off in sales of up to 40 per cent. The news is even worse for BlackBerry, with 67 per cent of its users saying they’re moving to the iPhone with their next purchase.”

“BlackBerry has lost its way over recent years, and its stranglehold on the business market has eroded. Apple and Android are growing very quickly and have evangelical supporters,” Debby Penton, Director of global tech PR firm EML Wildfire, told PRWeek. “BlackBerry needs to focus on building a community of loyal brand ambassadors to help raise the perception of its brand against the competition.”