Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. A saying that aptly applies to the BlackBerry handset maker, Research In Motion, which is fighting a grim battle to stay relevant in the global smartphone industry. The Canadian firm, which has seen its market share gnawed by smarter devices from Apple and Android even among its dominant turf, corporate consumersdebuted its much-awaited BlackBerry 10 platform last week, available on two new smartphones, the BlackBerry Z10 (all-touch) and BlackBerry Q10 (touch with physical keyboard). It has adopted the iconic BlackBerry name in order to have a single cohesive global presence.
It might be somewhat early in the contest but the smartphone maker, once described by the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a national crown jewel, seems to be making the right moves in a market that is already saturated with Android and iPhone users. The companys reinvigorated marketing efforts were evidenced by the simultaneous global launch of its new platform and devices in New York, Toronto, London, Paris, Dubai, and Johannesburg.
Not only that, the company is seeking to attract a lot more applications. After all, apps are the direct touch point between the company and its users. With 1,00,000-odd apps in the BlackBerry App World, the company clearly lags behind Apple and Google, whose app offerings number a staggering 7,50,000 and 7,00,000 respectively.
Truth be told, the global smartphone industry has effectively become a duopoly as consumer demand has polarised around mass-market Android models and premium Apple designs. Statistics from consulting firm Strategy Analytics reveal the big picture. The global handset industry shipped 217 million smartphones last quarter, a 38% leap from the 157 million shipped in the prior years quarter. For the year, shipments hit a record 700 million, up from 490.5 million in 2011.
The two platforms (Apple and Android) captured a record 92% of worldwide smartphone shipments in the final quarter of 2012. Android took the lead with 152.1 million shipments last quarter, almost double the 80.6 million shipped in 2011s fourth quarter. The market share for Android jumped to 70% from 51% in the same time frame, as Android vendors shipped almost half a billion smartphones for 2012 as a whole. Apple shipped 47.8 million smartphones last quarter, grabbing a 22% market share. That compares with 37 million smartphones in the year-ago quarter, which translated to 24%. The writing is on the wall: Apple and Android easily maintained their tight grip of the market.
Interestingly, the Strategy Analytics report highlights that growth in shipments actually fell to 43% in 2012 from 64% the prior year as smartphone ownership has begun to saturate in developed regions such as North America and Western Europe. Taking a cue, BlackBerry is moving aggressively into the developing markets. We have witnessed a lot of growth and potential from India and consider India as one of our priority markets in the world, not only for sales but also for app development, says Annie Mathew, director, alliances and business development, Research In Motion
Down South, Kochi hosts BlackBerrys first app development centre in the Asia Pacific region. Last year in May, Alec Saunders, vice-president, developer relations announced that Research In Motion was committed towards building the developer community globally and had announced to invest $100 million towards this initiative.
The BlackBerry Innovation Centre or the Rubus Labs situated in Startup Village, Kochi is an initiative orchestrated by Research In Motion for the developer community. It supports student developers with not only the necessary hardware, software and infrastructure, but also with the right environment and guidance. Most importantly it provides a place for developer communities to converge, discuss and learn from each other or experts in informal and formal ways. We are currently in an ecosystem where merely providing software development kits is no longer adequate. In fact, for the BlackBerry 10 platform, we also shared several BlackBerry Dev Alpha devices with developers at Rubus Labs and across the world for testing and quality checks of the apps. This way, we have helped develop market ready versions of applications, says Mathew.
Rubus Labs is benefiting app developers by providing them access to physical space, resources, knowledge, pre market access to devices, mentoring etc. This results in developers getting exposed to development on BlackBerry and in turn accelerating their development cycles in BB10 app development, says Startup Village CEO, Sijo Kuruvilla George. One such example is the internship programme we offered the students. Over 80 students participated in the programme. The students spent around 25 days at Startup Village. When the students started, most only had limited exposure to coding and most were seeing a BlackBerry device for the first time. Throughout the course of the programme, there were exposed to the various aspects and opportunities of BlackBerry development.
At the end of the 25 days, we had 144 apps that came out of these 80+ kids, ranging from a Yoga app to one that helps to start an accelerate an automobile.
RIM created the first BlackBerry smartphone in 1999 and changed the way millions of people around the world stay connected. It has used that same ingenuity and innovation to redefine mobile computing with BlackBerry 10. Lets hope it becomes the companys killer app to bring customers back to its fold.
APP MAKERS @ KOCHI
Several apps from start ups at Startup Village have found their mark on the BlackBerry App World
Their best app is the Yoga app. They have to date developed 12 apps6 of which are on appworld.
Qedge has developed 32 apps23 of which are on appworld. Their flagship is the storyboard app Storyboard.
They have developed 5 apps3 of which are available on appworld. Their flagship is Examvoice that allows anyone with a BlackBerry to teach anyone any topic of interest.
Hangout India (www.hangoutindia.org)
With 80-100 app developers working on 144 apps, Hangout India has 70 apps on appworld.
Their showcase app is VIKIthe Intelligent Personal Assistant which acts as a personal assistant to all your needs.