How big is the BlackBerry?

Does the UAE ban signal the end of a golden era for BlackBerry and RIM?
By Shane McGinley
Sun 01 Aug 2010 04:06 PM

The popularity of the BlackBerry can be put down to its main selling point: the fact that it enables users to securely access their email accounts while away from their desks.

This flexibility undoubtedly made doing business in the UAE faster and more efficient, and US research firm IDC claims that more than 187,000 BlackBerry devices were sold in the Emirates last year.

The device’s popularity quickly helped BlackBerry’s Canadian owner, Research In Motion (RIM), carve out a niche for itself; it now accounts for nearly a fifth of the global smartphone market and has secured nearly half a million users in the UAE alone.

Nearly half of the 45 million BlackBerry users worldwide regularly use the BlackBerry Messenger service, a free user-to-user instant text service.

However, the UAE’s Telecoms Regulatory Authority (TRA), like many government bodies around the world, said recently that it had issues with the fact that BlackBerry data is immediately exported off-shore, where it is managed by a foreign, commercial organisation. On Sunday the TRA announced that it was banning BlackBerry Messaging, email and internet services from October 11.

This followed hot on the heels of ongoing issues RIM is also facing with authorities in India, China and other parts of the Gulf, and may help to change the global dynamic back in favour of Apple Inc.

RIM had previously taken the lead over its international rivals and in the second quarter of the year it shipped 11.2 million BlackBerry smartphones, compared to the 8.4 million iPhones sold by its California-based rival.

This helped the Canadian technology giant to increase its revenue for the second quarter of the year by 24 percent to $4.45bn.

However, these results were below analysts’ estimations and Forbes has already forecast that Apple's iPhone will overtake RIM’s BlackBerry in the global smartphone market by 2011. Already Apple stated that around 80 percent of the Fortune 100 companies were testing usage of its iPhone.

If other countries around the world decide to follow the UAE’s lead then it could signal the end of a golden era for BlackBerry and RIM. Somewhere Steve Jobs is surely smiling at the UAE announcement.

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