RIM chief exec talks up 'BlackBerry lifestyle'

Research In Motion has touted the consumer "BlackBerry lifestyle" at the CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment event in San Francisco, barely addressing enterprise-specific products at all.

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Research In Motion has touted the consumer "BlackBerry lifestyle" at the CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment event in San Francisco, barely addressing enterprise-specific products at all.

In a speech, RIM co-chief executive Jim Balsillie, referred to the company's strategy to build on its current crop of "lifestyle" applications and services, such as webmail, personal calendars, instant messaging (IM), social networking and more.

The CTIA event is for business and consumers, but Balsillie spent less than five minutes of his 35-minute speech on enterprise-related products and services. The only two enterprise-specific products Balsillie touched upon were RIM's BlackBerry Mobile Voice System (MVS), which can merge traditional corporate desk phones and mobile phones; and the company's Mobile Data System (MDS), designed to simplify mobile application development.

Balsillie's main focus was on the "convergence of the four screens", the home phone, mobile phone, PC and TV. In other words, consumers will increasingly ditch landline phones altogether and rely on mobile phones for all of their communication needs. RIM will make that transition more compelling with more consumer-oriented phone designs and social networking, IM and e-mail options.

RIM also plans to boost market share by bringing a desktop-like Internet environment and home television viewing experience to mobile devices, Balsillie said. "This is all doable today, and it's just getting richer and richer and richer and more and more exciting," he said.

Balsillie spoke about the various types of "messaging payloads" or communication methods, available via BlackBerry, that will help make RIM handhelds and other smart devices more and more essential to businesspeople and increasingly to consumers.

"In the non-enterprise market, payloads are diverse," he said.

Mobile email is RIM's real strength - users can add as many as 10 different email accounts, both enterprise and consumer accounts - but Balsillie also noted that BlackBerry is the only mobile platform that supports all five major IM services, AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo, ICQ and Microsoft's Windows Live Messenger.

"All of those are growing dramatically," Balsillie said. "Probably the most exciting one is the wireless support of social networking. We're seeing it emerging in the enterprise with things like Lotus Connections, but also really strong growth in the non-enterprise environment with companies like MySpace, Flickr and Facebook."

Balsillie says the Facebook for BlackBerry application, one of the most popular BlackBerry apps, has already received more than 2.5 million downloads since its release a year ago. "In our world, it has been the fastest take up of any application we've ever had," Balsillie said.

RIM is also announcing another consumer-centric mobile social networking application for MySpace users at CTIA, according to Balsillie and the company expects the program to be similarly popular.

Research from ABI Research suggests Balsillie may just be right - the company expects that some 140 million people will be using mobile social networks by 2013, most of them consumers, and they'll generate more than $410 million (£290 million) in associated revenue.

Balsillie talked up the BlackBerry's multimedia capabilities, which are principally aimed at consumers. The BlackBerry Media Sync application, which is currently available for free, can sync DRM-free iTunes music files with BlackBerrys, and Balsillie says a similar app to sync Windows Media Player libraries and BlackBerrys, as well as a program to sync desktop photos and video, is also coming soon.

RIM's co-CEO also sees huge potential in the idea of "remote media management," or the ability to cache media files for remote access, which he claims will come to the BlackBerry platform in the near future via a new partnership with a company called Slacker.

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