What the BlackBerry announcement means to consumers

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Rim says in future it will focus on business clients. But what does that mean to consumer users, or those who have just signed a contract?

What has RIM announced?

Thorsten Heins, chief executive of BlackBerry parent company Research In Motion (RIM), said the firm would withdraw in part from the consumer market and instead go after “targeted consumer segments”.

Heins said:

“We can’t do everything ourselves, but we can do what we’re good at. We believe that BlackBerry cannot succeed if we tried to be everybody’s darling and all things to all people.”

It means RIM will focus more on the “bring your own device” demographic – employees who would buy a BlackBerry on their own and bring it to the corporate environment. A spokeswoman therefore said calling RIM’s move a complete withdrawal from the consumer market was “wholly misleading”, but RIM did not supply any projections for how big this new market might be or how this will compare to the group’s more than 8.5 million active UK subscribers.

RIM announced the changes as it produced disastrous quarterly results, with a loss of $125m (£79m) over the past three months and total revenue down by 25% on 2011.

When will the changes come into effect?

There is no set date. In a statement, RIM said it will continue to “drive BlackBerry 7 sales to sustain the subscriber base” and “aggressively incentivise sales of BlackBerry 7 smartphones”.

In other words, RIM wants to flog all the devices that run the new OS that are currently available, as well as those due to be launched in the next few months – but after that it has not said how its refocus will play out.

What does this mean?

RIM will not immediately stop marketing devices to consumers through network operators such as O2, T-Mobile and Orange, and retailers such as Carphone Warehouse, and has not said there will be any reduced services in the future. So all those teenagers who have bought a BlackBerry for its instant messaging service BBM will not be affected for the forseeable future. In fact, the RIM spokeswoman said BBM was “amongst our strengths”.

But once the current inventory of BlackBerry 7 devices have sold, it remains to be seen whether RIM will scale back its product range. If it does so to a noticeable extent, third-party app developers may stop building consumer-facing apps for the BlackBerry App World store, meaning an already inferior offering – RIM has struggled to keep up with rivals such as the iPhone and devices running the Android operating system – could reduce further.

That said, a RIM spokeswoman said the group remains committed to the “key entry level smartphone segment” and will actively seek partnerships to deliver consumer features and content such as “media consumption applications”.

I’ve just agreed a 24-month contract. Will I be affected?

RIM says not, and mobile phone networks do not envisage any problems with email, text, phone or messaging services. But as previously noted, it remains to be seen to what extent RIM’s refocused business strategy will impact on the range and quality of apps and other media in the future.

Can I pull out?

If you have already paid and taken delivery of your device, you would have to check with your provider to see if you can cancel the order. Personally, we don’t think is is even close to necessary.

Distance selling regulations apply if you have ordered your device online, meaning a “cooling-off period” of seven working days applies and you can usually cancel your order for any reason and get your money back. But you do not have this right if a new service starts immediately, is personalised or made to order, or where a security seal has been broken.

If you have already paid for the items or services the trader must refund your money within 30 days of you cancelling the agreement. Check the government’s DirectGov website for more information.

I have a BlackBerry through work, will I be affected?

Probably not. If anything, a concentration of efforts from RIM on the business segment of the market could see improved facilities.

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