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Tue 7 Oct 2008 05:00 PM

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Khaled Kefel, Research In Motion

RIM's director of sales for the Middle East talks about the strategy in place for the region and its plans for GITEX 2008

The name ‘BlackBerry’ is now synonymous with smartphones. In fact, Gartner predicts that more than 300 million of these devices will be in use by the year 2011. itp.net caught up with Khaled Kefel, director of sales for the Middle East at Research In Motion, to find out about the company’s strategy for the region and what's in store for GITEX 2008.

What are the highlights of RIM exhibiting at Gitex this year?Gitex is considered to be the meeting place about everything ‘tech’ in the Middle East and is the premier IT fair in the region. It is a fantastic medium to demonstrate the full BlackBerry smartphone range. We are really looking forward to working with our ISV alliance members to ensure Middle Eastern consumers and enterprise users gain the maximum output from their BlackBerry smartphones. For example, we want to show those visiting our stand that the BlackBerry solution offers more than email.

At Gitex this year, RIM will be looking to support its local carriers, Etislat and Du, and to create awareness for our ISV alliance members (Spinvox, Handheld PCs, Softecno and Blue Systems.) In doing so, we will be able to help Middle Eastern consumers and businesses learn more about life on BlackBerry.

What value will Gitex bring to the company?With over 19 million BlackBerry smartphone users worldwide and 30% of those outside North America, we are thrilled about the prospect of new customers in the Middle East. RIM sees the MENA region as an integral part of our expanding global footprint and Gitex is an excellent forum to facilitate this.

Is this the first time RIM is exhibiting at Gitex? What are your impressions of the event?This is the second year that RIM has exhibited at Gitex and we have high hopes. RIM recently announced the global launch of the BlackBerry Bold which will be showcased during Gitex in partnership with Du and Etisalat.

What is your opinion of the telecommunication market in the Middle East?In terms of our offering, Gartner has predicted that more then 300 million BlackBerry smartphones will be in use by 2011. Obviously, a common global trend is consumers’ need for a flexible approach to working and the ability to communicate and access information on the go, so we expect this to continue being reflected in the Middle Eastern market. What has been the uptake BlackBerry has experienced so far?We shipped more than 6 million BlackBerry smartphones in Q2 FY2009. In terms of local uptake, any product offering which is localized and offered in Arabic sees incredible demand in the region. We are pleased to be able offer the BlackBerry Curve and BlackBerry 8800 smartphones with Arabic keyboards and software.

What are the major challenges the market is facing?The current global economic conditions must be considered a challenge for our industry as consumer spending across markets falls. However, because of the functionality and flexibility afforded by our solutions, we anticipate continued growth. BlackBerry was reported as the fastest growing brand by Brandz Top 100 in April 2008, with a 390% rise in brand value over the year. What is RIM's strategy for the region?Our focus is currently on supporting our operators and carrier partners – thus we look forward to working alongside Du and Etisalat at Gitex this year and are excited about our product entering a completely different market for the first time.

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