RIM Plans China Rollout Soon

Research in Motion (RIM) is China bound.

The Ottawa,
Canada-based maker of the popular BlackBerry e-mail device said China
Mobile will soon introduce the service in the world’s largest market.

RIM said it will initially focus on multinational corporations
operating in China and offer the BlackBerry devices “at a later
date,” according to a statement.

RIM CEO Jim Balsillie called China “a large and important market.”

But although China opens a huge market for mobile services, RIM must
deal with multiple cultural and technical challenges, said Ken Dulaney, a Gartner analyst.

First, RIM’s e-mail service must gain credibility in a nation
obsessed with text messages. According to one estimate, China Mobile
handles 800 million text messages each day.

“Chinese really don’t
accept e-mail,” Dulaney said.

Second, RIM will not be able to sell a single national plan, but
must compete in many regional areas.

But the most important question,
according to analysts, may be if a carrier, such as RIM, can sell its
service without offering a native Chinese product.

Already, onlookers are questioning whether RIM can compete as native e-mail
services blossom. China Mobile plans to offer PushMail, its own
mobile e-mail service. Credit Suisse, in a March research note, said
PushMail will cost $12 per month compared to $50 for RIM.

China Unicom, the country’s second-largest mobile provider,
introduced RedBerry, a service costing $1 per month with a small additional charge per e-mail.

“RedBerry is a bad rumor,” Dulaney said. While
BlackBerry users are mostly professional IT workers, the RedBerry is
marketed to consumers.

According to Gartner analyst Todd Kort, RIM is, “mostly upset because these guys have so brazenly leveraged
the BlackBerry brand and the Chinese government (which owns China
Mobile) has not seen fit to ask them to choose a different name.”

While RIM looks forward to China, it is still dealing with U.S.
legal complaints of patent infringement.

RIM is defending itself against
a suit filed by Visto earlier this month in Texas. Visto is charging the BlackBerry-maker infringed on three patents.

This
latest legal challenge follows RIM’s $612 million settlement of NTP’s long-running patent lawsuit.

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