The Korea Herald


‘BlackBerry won’t lose out in Korean market’

By Korea Herald

Published : Dec. 28, 2011 - 20:54

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Norm Lo, managing director of Research in Motion Korea (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) Norm Lo, managing director of Research in Motion Korea (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

RIM Korea aims to continue this year’s sales momentum to strengthen presence here

A growing number of Koreans may be tiring of the fierce rivalry between Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy and Apple’s iPhone here.

Amid the cutthroat competition to dominate the small but crucial Korean market, Research In Motion enjoyed a boom in its BlackBerry sales this year.

"Korean customers are very smart and demanding. They look for something special and distinctive and with BlackBerry they would get that," Norm Lo, managing director of Research in Motion Korea, told The Korea Herald last week.

Even though the managing director of RIM Korea declined to comment on the numbers, SK Telecom, the local network operator, estimated almost a 40 percent growth in BlackBerry sales this year in Korea.

Like other foreign handset vendors such as Nokia and Motorola, the Canada-based global smartphone leader has struggled in the Korean market for years.

This year, however, the company gained fresh momentum as its Bold 9900, the thinnest BlackBerry smartphone yet, drove overall sales due to its popularity among business people and young people here.

Since the establishment of RIM Korea Limited last August, the distant fourth player in Korea has also made stronger commitment to the local market, launching its first localized services such as an after-sales center and a mobile app store this year.

On Monday, the company also introduced the latest version of KakaoTalk, Korea’s No. 1 mobile app and messenger, which is designed to be run exclusively on BlackBerry handsets.

“Having a local team is very important, especially in Korea where customers want local support and local offering,” said Lo, who usually stays in Vancouver and visits Korea once a month.

He visited Seoul last week to join the launching event of the white version of the Bold 9900 and to meet local business partners including SK Telecom.

For the multibillion-dollar international company, Korea may not be a mass market. But Lo stressed the strategic status of Korea for the company’s global operations.

“Korea’s telecommunications and smartphone business are extremely advanced relative to the world. It’s very important that we participate in this market and to be very candid for us to learn from Korea,” he said.

Lo, who has overseen the Asia Pacific market at RIM since 2000, praised the growth of Samsung even though its Galaxy phones running on Google’s Android operating system gobble up BlackBerry’s sales pie globally.

“I have been with BlackBerry for 12 years and there has always been competition right from the beginning. Now it’s Android, before something else like Windows and Microsoft. That’s also the exciting part of our industry,” he said.

About the recent strong performance of rival companies like Samsung and Apple, Lo still had good reasons why consumers should choose BlackBerry, not Galaxy or iPhone.

He emphasized its security ensured by a unique network system, together with the QWERTY keyboard and BBM, the BlackBerry Messenger.

BlackBerry’s email and instant messages route through RIM’s own servers and data centers, where they are encrypted and pushed out to users.

“Security and privacy are not so much an issue now. But with mobile payment and everything else coming up, that would be very important differentiation,” Lo said.

“Our products, whether you like it or not, are very distinctive. And if you want to be different and progressive, then BlackBerry could be your choice.”

Recently the company’s top executive officials announced that RIM would delay the introduction of new handsets until late next year, which dealt a blow to the company’s business outlook and dismayed BlackBerry fans.

Lo explained that there are BlackBerry handsets that have yet to be introduced to the Korean market, hinting at a new lineup next year that could include fourth-generation Long Term Evolution phones that are being rapidly adopted by Korean customers. 

By Lee Ji-yoon