Research In Motion (RIMM) executives have been, in our opinion, incorrectly underestimating how much impact Apple’s (AAPL) new iPhone 3G will have on their business. Specifically, now that consumers account for the bulk of RIM’s growth, we see the company’s target market less interested in RIM’s proprietary email system and just happy to buy the best smartphone on the market for around $199. That used to be a BlackBerry; now it’ll be the iPhone.
Now it seems RIM could have other rapid growth plans — trying to court people who buy lower-end, “dumb” phones from the likes of LG, Samsung, Motorola (MOT), and Nokia (NOK), and Palm’s (PALM) cheap Centro smartphone. How? By selling a low-end BlackBerry for $49.99 after subsidy — the same price you’d expect to pay for a crappy RAZR. BlackBerry site CrackBerry.com reports that the new BlackBerry KickStart will sell for $49.99 on T-Mobile later this year, with an early-September launch target. That’s with some scepticism:
You may want to take this news with a grain of salt. I know the first time I heard this information I was sceptical. Then I heard it again, and again and again. And now that I’ve heard the same bit of news from multiple sources / informants / ninjas / tipsters / little birdies I can’t help but believe it to be true. So to the best of my knowledge… the BlackBerry KickStart will sell on T-Mobile for $49.99!
If true — we’re still not sold on this one — this could change the game for RIM by opening the company up wider to the massive, non-smartphone mobile market. The high-end smartphone sector, where RIM has done much of its business, is growing rapidly, but it’s still smallish — maybe a quarter of the broader market, which is around 1 billion phones per year worldwide. So a $49 low-end BlackBerry with better email support — and likely a better Web browser — than any other “dumb” phone on the market could be a big hit, and could help RIM keep up its growth rate.
(Now: How T-Mobile will subsidise this phone — and how RIM will be able to price it profitably — is a different story.)
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