Faced with defections among its core government and corporate clients after years of immense success, Research In Motion Ltd. has reached out in a statement to stress that its BlackBerry smartphones are more secure than rival devices.
In recent months, some major corporations and government agencies in the United States have said they will be supplementing or replacing their thousands of BlackBerrys with Apple Inc.'s popular iPhone and devices running Google Inc.'s Android platform.
Halliburton Co., a massive oil and gas industry supplier, recently announced that it was phasing out 4,500 BlackBerrys in favour of the iPhone. Both the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives are reportedly planning to stop using BlackBerrys, as well.
But in a statement released on Monday, Waterloo, Ont.-based RIM, which has lost market share in the crucial U.S. market to Apple and others, said it still had more than one million public sector users "in North America alone."
Although the company has recently revamped its enterprise service to be able to offer support for rival devices with a product called BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, RIM also said it was working with government agencies to replace their thousands of BlackBerry devices, many of which are now aging.
"The mobile sector is very competitive with many new consumer offerings. However, in an era of real cybersecurity threats and attacks, BlackBerry continues to offer unmatched security, reliability and value for government agencies concerned about securing and protecting sensitive government information," the company said in a statement. "In many instances, government workers are using BlackBerry handsets that are years old and we are working with agencies to upgrade their devices in order to provide significantly greater functionality and speed."
In addition, RIM stressed that a new product called BlackBerry Balance would allow corporate and government IT departments to allow their employees more freedom with the devices by putting a secure wall between personal applications and ones that access confidential data. For years, many BlackBerry users have had a RIM device for work and an iPhone or Android device for personal use. As security and enterprise functionality has increased on these other devices, many users have abandoned BlackBerrys, which critics feel don't offer the same number of applications or functionality.
In the United States, RIM accounted for only 6.6 per cent of new mobile subscribers in the three months ended January, 2012, and has seen its market share shrink to 15.2 per cent from 17.2 per cent in the quarter before, according to market analysis firm comScore. And although the company has continued to see enormous growth in many emerging markets in Africa and Latin America, a global service outage that affected BlackBerrys around the world in October, 2011, also dented the company's reputation.
In the face of these results, RIM has been trying to ramp up marketing efforts to boost sales of its latest devices, the ones running the BlackBerry 7 operating system such as the touch-screen Bold 9900. The company is counting on these devices to hold over consumers until its BlackBerry 10 smartphones arrive later this year after a significant delay.
"RIM's new BlackBerry 7 devices offer a highly competitive and compelling choice for both government workers and government IT departments, and the BlackBerry platform continues to offer the best value for taxpayer dollars while providing advanced security for potentially sensitive government data," RIM said in its statement. "We believe security standards set by government are important and no other platform has been certified by more independent government bodies than BlackBerry."