New Asia-Pacific head drives RIM's expansion

Company hopes to extend BlackBerry's market lead and appoints a regional executive to expand the business.

Research in Motion, better known as the maker of the popular BlackBerry handset, wants a bigger piece of the Asia-Pacific market.

Norm Lo, RIM's newly-appointed vice-president for the Asia-Pacific, told ZDNet Asia that his mandate is to expand RIM's regional presence and "drive BlackBerry mindshare and market penetration across the Asia-Pacific". Lo, who joined RIM in 2000, was previously in charge of two business units focused on the North America market.

Top on his list is to expand the number of carrier partners. "We're planning on potentially doubling the number of carriers that we are working with in the Asia-Pacific this year," Lo said.

RIM, which currently has 15 carrier partners in eight countries in the region, will extend its alliances with another 10 carriers in the Asia-Pacific this year, Lo said.

"Everything in Asia-Pacific is wide open," Lo added. "We're talking to basically everybody. There isn't one country that we are not currently involved in a business discussion."

Describing RIM's Asia-Pacific presence over the past three years as merely "scratching the surface", Lo added that RIM's growth potential is strong and the firm will continue to work closely with its carrier partners to boost its product and service offerings.

According to Lo, business growth in the Asia-Pacific will "commensurate with" the 20 percent quarter-to-quarter growth recorded for RIM's worldwide subscriptions. The company announced last month that its worldwide subscriber base had hit over 3 million.

Lo added that RIM will continue to target the corporate and government accounts with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, while targeting the BlackBerry Internet Service--push e-mail on BlackBerry handsets without the need for back-end setup--at the SMB and prosumer segments through its telco partners.

Acknowledging the growing competition in the wireless e-mail and data space, Lo said: "People realize it's a real market and they can make money out of it."

He maintained that BlackBerry's appeal will ensure that RIM holds onto its "dominant leadership" position. According to research firm Gartner, the vendor emerged as the worldwide leading seller of PDAs in the first quarter of 2005, growing 75.6 percent over the same period last year.

In the Asia-Pacific, RIM has offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia, and employs about 50 staff.