Mike Lazaridis, co-founder and co-CEO, and Jim Balsillie, co-CEO, Research In Motion
What makes them powerful: Smartphones are huge right now--and that means BlackBerry is huge right now. Around 32 million U.S. cell phone users (out of a total of around 233 million) currently own smartphones, according to new numbers from research and measurement firm comScore. And that number is poised to grow significantly. A survey by the Yankee Group shows that around 43 percent of U.S. consumers plan to go "smart" with their next mobile device.
While industry noise on the topic of smartphones generally centers on the "i" variety, numbers from comScore show that BlackBerry far outstrips the iPhone in the U.S. market. According to the firm's July numbers, there were 13 million BlackBerry users in the U.S. market, double the nation's 6.6 million iPhone owners.
Research In Motion's strategy has been to expand from the enterprise segment into the consumer market using its messaging strengths. That strategy was highlighted by the company's introduction of the BlackBerry Pearl, but continues with its Curve and Bold lines. Further, RIM has worked to counter the iPhone's hype with its own touchscreen device, the Storm. Although the first version of the device debuted late last year to tepid reviews, the company's Storm2--set to launch in time for this year's critical fourth-quarter holiday shopping season--appears to have addressed concerns with an improved touch interface and the inclusion of WiFi.
Despite RIM's solid position in the marketplace, critics have warned that it may be in danger of falling behind the cutting edge. They point to BlackBerry's relatively sluggish adoption of touchscreens and its less-than-stellar browser functions as evidence.
Thus, RIM's Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie likely will be busy next year with efforts to ensure BlackBerry can meet the challenges posed by iPhone, Android and other competitors. --Mike