The Blackberry Shift: From the executives to the urban poor

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    It happened without us even noticing. Blackberry’s user base has shifted. From business executives to the urban poor. It happened so fast that it’s hardly been noticed in the media. RIM may not even know it themselves. This past weekend the riots in the UK were not organized via sms, nor twitter, or facebook, but by BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) . If you were say, “a riot organized via blackberry,” you might assume it was a riot of the bankers, it happened in Argentina in 2001 , but that’s not what was happening. It was the poor, the underclass, who was using blackberry. It’s not just the UK. While the riots were happening I was in Medellín, Colombia, to give a talk on lean startups. There as well, the blackberry is the phone of choice for the urban masses. With BBM you avoid sms charges, get a nice smart messenger phone, and it’s cheap. Turns out in Colombia you have some money you get an Android, and if you’re well to do, you get an iPhone. What happened is a while ago RIM decided to move in to the pre-paid segment. You can now get a blackberry for cheap with a flat rate data plan. Because people don’t use blackberries for streaming video or music they don’t tax the network as much. The blackberry is becoming the new sidekick. A tight, messaging focused phone on a budget. The funny thing is, everybody’s been thinking, because RIM’s getting crushed on the high end, they’re going to go out of business. But perhaps what will happen is that they’ll replace the feature phone. Fighting with Nokia for bottom three billion. I suspect that the RIM executives had a meeting with their advertisers which was something like the Mad Men pitch to Admiral Television about them focusing on the African American market. After a decade of being the tool of choice for the upwardly mobile and a symbol of globalization, it’ll be a tough transition to tool of the masses. That said, perhaps there is a good long term market for RIM to replace feature phones with messaging phones.

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    The Blackberry Shift: From the executives to the urban poor

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