TORONTO (Reuters) - BlackBerry maker Research In Motion will target multinational corporations in the first phase of its new push into the huge Chinese market, its co-chief executive said on Wednesday.
"It's exciting, but the main focal point, phase one, is very much the multinationals, for sure," Jim Balsillie told Reuters in an interview.
RIM's deal with Alcatel-Lucent to distribute BlackBerry smartphones in China, as well as its existing service partnership with China Mobile, "creates an ideal framework for us to very powerfully ... enter into China with something that will take a lot of our resources," he said.
RIM announced this week that about three years of work -- and some rumored delays -- had paid off in a deal that will see it start selling its popular smartphone in China by the end of the year. It also announced the first shipment of handsets to the Asian country.
Balsillie said following large multinationals already familiar with the BlackBerry into China is the natural starting point of the Waterloo, Ontario-based company's effort.
"They have a large presence there; they need the same productivity and collaboration tools as they have everywhere around the world," he said. That is contrasted by the fact that investments on personal productivity technologies by domestic companies are still relatively limited in China, he said. RIM will be patient in building a customer base, starting with the multinationals, Balsillie suggested.
"We're not trying to be all things to all people," he said. "It's a very big market, it's a very demanding market." Amit Kaminer, an analyst with the SeaBoard Group in Toronto, said China has an estimated 540 million wireless subscribers.
Still, wireless penetration is relatively low, at about 30 percent, and Kaminer said that in 2006 wireless carriers' net subscriber additions were about 70 million. China Mobile, RIM's carrier partner in China, has about two-thirds of market share by subscribers, he said. RIM is expected to face competition from low-cost rivals already operating in China, including a popular local device known as the RedBerry.
RIM's shares closed 63 cents lower at $123.90 on Nasdaq. On the Toronto Stock Exchange, they dipped 11 Canadian cents to finish at C$120.31.