BlackBerry's Chinese Competition: The RedBerry

Fresh off settling its patent fight with NTP, RIM is preparing to take its BlackBerry push e-mail service into China, but one carrier there has made a pre-emptive strike with a competing service, creatively named “RedBerry”. China Unicom’s push email service works across its CDMA device portfolio, and offers users an account for less than a dollar a month plus a few cents per mail sent. Compare this to the premium price RIM typically charges — for instance, in Hong Kong, an average BlackBerry account costs up to $64 per month. China Mobile, too, plans to offer its own push email service (again, creatively named — PushMail), which will also let users receive the service on their existing handset. Ignoring the brand privacy angle, the competition awaiting RIM in China highlights the problem we’ve been talking about for a while: the commoditization of push email. When carriers can offer low-cost basic service across their device portfolio, BlackBerry will feel the pinch, despite its keyboard-centric devices and added features. For many users, even plenty of business customers, a basic push service is good enough, particularly if it doesn’t require the purchase of a new device. And it’s not just carriers RIM has to worry about, it’s got a slew of competitors, as well as email server software companies like Microsoft.

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