The BlackBerry: In search of the 'prosumer'

TV ads, new developer focus reveal RIM's keen interest in consumer, prosumer market outside of its traditional enterprise base

So, just what is the promise of the consumer market for RIM going forward, especially as compared to its success with business users?

"Our strengths and success in the business market help us tremendously in the consumer segment," Guibert said. He noted that e-mail took off sooner for enterprise users than for consumers, but now has become commonplace for personal communications.

Similarly, text messaging and social networking "are both made better for consumers with a high end smart phone like BlackBerry," he said, noting that when RIM introduced software for BlackBerry smart phones that helps users access Facebook, more than 1 million copies were downloaded in less than six months. In addition, he said a large developer community is building BlackBerry smart-phone applications for games and other consumer applications.

Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner, said RIM has clearly shown it is targeting consumers as well as business users. "I think they will have more units" that partly target consumers, he said. "I was surprised this Bold was the only one" announced at WES. "I thought they would launch a clamshell."

Dulaney said he organizes the markets for smart phones into three groups: enterprise, enterprise/prosumer and consumer. The Bold is primarily targeted at the enterprise/prosumer group he said, because it includes a camera. Many enterprises do not want employees to have cameras on their smart phones simply to avoid security restrictions when they visit secure locations, he said.

Still, Dulaney said Bold is expected to sell for US$299 to $349, meaning it will have to be for those who can afford it and are willing to pay well above the cost of many multimedia-capable cell phones purchased by pure consumers, he said.

And if it isn't clear enough by now, Dulaney said RIM will not want to concede any market to Apple or any other vendor. "They are targeting consumers, of course," he said, while continuing to innovate for big business customers.

Lotus Connections to run on the BlackBerry

Also at WES Wednesday, IBM and RIM announced that IBM's social networking software for business users will run on BlackBerry smart phones, the first mobile device to use the software.

IBM Lotus Connections, a Web 2.0 social networking application, is available Wednesday, officials for IBM and RIM told visitors at WES. Lotus Connections software starts at US$110 per user. IBM said it has predicted there will be more than 1 billion Web users by 2011, which will create a significant shift in the way most people interact with the Web.

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