BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) has reportedly begun to lose its home-ground advantage in Canada to Apple’s iPhone for the very first time since it began operations and revealed its first BlackBerry back in 1999. This is yet another sign that the once dominating mobile company is losing its advantage in smartphone innovation which is now being outpaced by Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices and Android smartphones.
In January of this year, RIM’s COO Thorsten Heins took over as CEO after the company’s long time joint CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, resigned after 20 years. Though trying to shake up things at RIM is a good move, Heins does not appear to be committed to a full-scale reboot that the brand desperately needs, a move that is especially important in the wake of BlackBerry’s service outage experienced last year by frustrated users in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
Bloomberg reports that RIM, which is based in Ontario, shipped 2,1m BlackBerrys last year in Canada, while Apple shipped 2,9m units of its popular iPhone. In 2008, RIM was outselling Apple nearly five to one according to IDC.
Sales in Canada, which account for about 7 percent of RIM’s revenue, fell 23 percent in the fiscal third quarter from a year earlier as U.S. sales tumbled 45 percent. That dragged worldwide revenue down 5.9 percent, offsetting rising emerging-market sales.
Paul Taylor, asset manager at BMO Harris Private Banking in Toronto who manages about $15 billion in assets, including RIM and Apple shares, told Bloomberg that “For RIM, in its home market, to lose that number one position to iPhone is strategically important. It does identify, even with a home-country bias, how consumers are responding to the greater functionality of the iPhone.”
However, RIM does still have loyal supporters in Canada with many of the country’s banks and federal government agencies issuing BlackBerrys to staff. However, this is beginning to show signs of shifting with the Toronto-Dominion Bank also allowing employees to use iPhone and Android devices for corporate purposes.
BlackBerry still has an edge over the iPhone in some emerging markets. In the Middle East and Africa, RIM shipped 8.3 million handsets to Apple’s 2.5 million iPhones last year and in Latin America RIM outsells Apple by an even larger margin, with 10.6 million BlackBerrys shipped versus 2.1 million iPhones in 2011.
To halt a sales slump that’s spreading north from the U.S., Heins has vowed to do something “dramatically different.” The BlackBerry 7 phones introduced last year have better Web browsers and touch-screen navigation than older models and the BlackBerry 10 devices due out this year will represent further improvement, Heins said.
BlackBerry recently announced the launch of its Playbook OS 2.0.