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RIM arms self with BlackBerry 10 in smartphone battle

Posted: 31 Jan 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:BlackBerry? smartphone? Apple? Windows Phone? Android?

Research In Motion is refusing to give up the smartphone spotlight with the release of its BlackBerry 10. The once industry frontrunner is struggling to remain relevant and viable in a market that is virtually ruled by only two companies. Samsung and Apple in 2012 accounted for close to 50 per cent of global smartphone shipments, making them the dominant market force in the mobile market, IHS revealed. Google's Android and Apple OS also held about a 90 per cent share of the smartphone OS market last year, the market research firm added.

"This year we will see multiple attempts to fight the Samsung/Apple smartphone duopoly in smartphone hardware-along with the twin Google/Apple duopoly in smartphone operating systems," noted Ian Fogg, senior principal analyst at IHS. "Because of the fast-rising adoption of smartphones, 2013 represents the last, best hope for RIM's BlackBerry 10-along with endangered specimens like Microsoft's Windows Phone, Nokia's Lumia and Mozilla's Firefox-to create a viable third smartphone competitor in the market."

Meanwhile, penetration by smartphones of the total cell phone market has reached a critical level, accounting for 49 per cent of total cell phone market shipments last year. In 2016, smartphone shipments will grow to account for nearly three-quarters of the global cell phone market.

"With smartphones soon to reach their maximum penetration, time is running out for RIM and other Apple/Samsung/Google competitors to stake a claim in the smartphone business," said Wayne Lam, senior analyst for wireless communications at IHS.

While time is running short for RIM, recent events also have opened a window of opportunity for the Canadian maker-as well as for other contenders in the smartphone market.

In particular, the struggle for traction by Windows Phone is opening opportunities for another player to establish itself. Leading Windows Phone proponent Nokia of Finland has shipped just 4.4 million Lumia Windows Phones in 4Q12 and posted poor ASP figures for its Lumia line. These facts suggest that the high-end Lumia 920 model has not achieved expected traction. And now with the revocation of the generous payments previously provided by Microsoft, the outlook for Nokia is tougher than ever.

Meanwhile, Apple posted extremely healthy iPhone shipments of 48 million in 2012. More importantly, Apple's average selling price (ASP) held steady, indicating that the much rumoured supply chain issues for the iPhone 5 did not adversely affect its sales.

However, Apple has had a few stumbles of late, including its widely criticised Maps app. Apple's missteps last year seem to have generated a consumer sentiment that was not there before-namely, a willingness among consumers to try other products that may deliver compelling value. This also represents an opportunity for a new competitor to enter the market.

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