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Any patriotic support BlackBerry once had at home has been mostly lost: analyst

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins is photographed on an older BlackBerry device after he speaks to guests at the The Empire Club of Canada luncheon in Toronto on Tuesday February 5, 2013 THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO - There was a time when Research in Motion could say it enjoyed a strong home-country advantage and thrived with the support of patriotic smartphone-carrying Canadians.

Not anymore. In fact, according to analysts at IDC, BlackBerry now has a smaller slice of the smartphone market in Canada than it does globally.

When the new Z10 phone launched in Canada on Tuesday — a long-awaited milestone that's seen as a make-or-break moment for BlackBerry — there were no major crowds waiting outside stores. While Apple product releases spawn endlessly long lineups no matter what the new gadget is, the new BlackBerry 10-powered smartphone couldn't inspire much in the way of palpable excitement on the streets.

The leagues of proud BlackBerry devotees have thinned over the years in Canada, and the IDC report makes plain just how far its fortunes have fallen in its home country.

Research in Motion — now simply named BlackBerry — had just 4.5 per cent of the Canadian smartphone market in the fourth quarter of 2012, less than a tenth of Apple's market-leading 47.5 per cent, according a preliminary estimate compiled by IDC. Samsung was second with 32.7 per cent, followed by LG with 4.6 per cent.

BlackBerry fared slightly better globally, with 4.6 per cent of the overall smartphone market. Meanwhile, it had a dismal 1.4 per cent of the smartphone market in the U.S.

The company blew much of the free goodwill it had built with once-happy BlackBerry owners, who were increasingly lured away by Apple and Samsung, said Kevin Restivo, a senior analyst with IDC Canada.

"Any advantage BlackBerry had here in Canada at this point (is mostly gone) given the long transition between operating systems and the path it has taken," said Restivo.

"There's a breaking point for users.... (BlackBerry's) share of the smartphone market in Canada has dropped dramatically over the last two years for really the same reasons it happened abroad."

In the fall of 2009, IDC had BlackBerry pegged to finish the year with about 67 per cent of Canada's smartphone market and Apple was targeting 15 per cent. Globally, RIM had about 20 per cent of the market.

Despite the company's dramatic reversal of fortune — caused by its failure to keep up with the innovations developed by Apple and Google's Android platform — there are many BlackBerry fans who have stuck with the company through its tough times, particularly in the Kitchener-Waterloo area where it's based.

BlackBerry's early growth into a global mobile leader had a huge impact on the region and the company's success going forward would mean a lot to the community economically, said Ian McLean, president and CEO of the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce.

"Certainly it still employs thousands and thousands of people, so it's very important, no question," McLean said.

"(BlackBerry) has been good to the community and we in turn have been good to them. There's a lot of people who have been rooting for (the company's) success.

"So there's obviously a strong degree of goodwill and good wishes for (BlackBerry), no question."

While noting Canada has become a "very Apple-friendly and Samsung-friendly country," there is a base of supporters that BlackBerry can still build off, said Restivo, particularly in the business community which would like to see the Canadian brand rebound.

"Any company based in a particular country typically enjoys some hometown advantage and I think for BlackBerry you find that most common in some of Canada's largest organizations and also with wireless service providers as well, who have worked with BlackBerry for years," he said.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2013
The Canadian Press

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