Interview: RIM founder and CEO, Mike Lazaridis

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Interview: RIM founder and CEO, Mike Lazaridis

RIM co-founder Mike Lazaridis sits down with iTnews editor Brett Winterford to discuss how the Blackberry will survive the onset of new competition.

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This year, Research In Motion celebrates its 25th anniversary and the 10th anniversary of the Blackberry device.

RIM has sold 50 million Blackberrys worldwide, with a whopping 26 million of those sold in the last 12 months.

The company's founder, president and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis likes to take credit for anticipating the "inevitable" convergence between the phone and PDA, and says his company is now reaping the financial rewards.

But there is significant competition on the horizon - with Nokia, the ever-popular iPhone, open source alternatives and the big spend of Microsoft bearing down on RIM's turf.

Today iTnews editor Brett Winterford stepped into Lazaridis' penthouse at the Wireless Enterprise Symposium in Orlando, Florida to discuss how RIM will attempt to stave of the competition.

It's been three years since RIM entered the mainstream consumer market with the Blackberry Pearl. How has RIM fared in this space?

Of the sales in our last quarter, nearly 60 per cent were to non-enterprise customers. So I'd say we've had a very successful transition from enterprise to consumer.

IDC projects that the real winners in the smart phone market during this economic crisis will be those that offer slightly less functional products at lower prices. Is a poor economy bad news for RIM? Does RIM have any price cuts or less sophisticated models in mind?

When there are economic challenges, there is a need for trusted brands and experiences. The Blackberry has become what we call a lasting, trusted brand. People prefer Blackberry, we have a growing brand presence. When you look at celebrities and pro athletes and business leaders and thought leaders, they are all carrying Blackberrys. They rely on it.

Would you still consider a Blackberry a high-end device, with a price tag to match?

Right now Blackberrys are very affordable. If you take a look at most of the plans in Europe, for example, you can get Blackberrys at very attractive prices.

And it is not just about low cost but best value. If you want an enterprise solution that is easy to deploy and maintain, it has to be Blackberry.

Your competitors have of late introduced a lot of new features that really step on Blackberry turf, if not improve on it. With iPhone 3.0, for example, Apple has enabled third party application developers access to the types of push technologies that have always set Blackberry apart. Is this going to erode your market share?

I think we'll have to let the consumer space decide that.

What I can say is that it has been very difficult for others to replicate the unique Blackberry value proposition and experience.  They may try and copy what we do, but the fact is we provide a unique experience.

There will be lots of opportunities for innovation in this space. On the one hand the yearly cell phone market is more or less a billion devices, which has been pretty stagnant. But on the other hand, the number of those that are smartphones has been growing steadily. So this is a very attractive market.

But I would argue Blackberry has a lead on global, push technology.

What makes Blackberry different at the end of the day?

You have to remember that Blackberry has been in the market over a decade. We design our own radio code, our own 3G stack, we have our own operating system, we have the most number of security credentials in the world, the most advanced mission-critical servers for Microsoft, IBM and Novell. Plus we provide a push-based consumer platform for all the different mainstream applications like Facebook, Gmail, Myspace etc.

When I introduced the Blackberry 10 years ago, I couldn't explain it, people didn't understand it. People didn't know what we were trying to do. But you know what? That gap gave us the opportunity to get it right - to develop it and perfect it over a decade.

Now everyone has realised the smartphone market is the future, that convergence is inevitable. And they also realise the wireless space is not going to follow the traditional wireline space, because of the issues of battery life, mobility, small form factors, network capacity, network speeds and coverage, it's a much more challenging environment.

Read on to find out how an old, two-way paging system will kill the iPhone

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