Europe, Asia Next Targets for RIM
By Carlo Longino, Mon Oct 18 21:45:00 GMT 2004

The maker of the BlackBerry sees its business expanding outside its North American stronghold, with Asia as its next major market.

Research in Motion said it had 1.7 million users at the end of its second quarter, but just 300,000 of those were outside North America. But after starting the quarter with less than 200,000 overseas users, RIM sees demand for its products heating up around the world.

Chief financial officer Dennis Kavelman told an investor meeting in New York that Europe will see "substantial" growth for the company in the next year, and Asia will follow. The company's been helped by the launch of a Vodafone-exclusive device in Europe, one of a new series with a more phone-like form factor, as well as the news that it will very shortly launch BlackBerry devices and service in India.

Europe should be solid ground for RIM, given users' more familiar understanding of mobile messaging and data. Perhaps the only real competition for the company's devices will come from its software, which many European manufacturers have licensed to include on their business-targeted devices. Om Malik also surmises the company should do well in India, where the Treo 600 has already proved popular and many users could be looking to use smartphones as PC replacements rather than PC accessories. Support for the company's products by carriers around the globe will also help RIM target multinational corporations with global systems and services, such as one recently deployed by Vodafone and system integrator EDS for Dutch Bank ABN AMRO.

Kavelman said the company will begin by focusing on English-speaking users in India and China, raising the question of if the BlackBerry's popularity will be able to extend to users of other languages, particularly those that don't use the Roman alphabet, or what tweaks or changes the company will have to make to the user interface to succeed in different markets around the world.