RIM (Research in Motion) will launch its popular BlackBerry service in China, the company officially announced yesterday.
RIM will partner with China Mobile Communications, China's largest mobile operator, to launch the service, but gave neither a date nor pricing information. China Mobile already supports a BlackBerry roaming service in China offered by overseas carriers on its GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) network.
Rival China Unicom debuted its RedBerry push email service in April. Also called Uni PushMail, the service uses software from Beijing-based Facio Software, coupled with a device manufactured by Dalian Daxian Telecom. The RedBerry service costs as little as five Chinese renminbi (about £0.35) per month, with a fee of 0.30 renminbi per message sent.
Despite its popularity abroad, the BlackBerry may have a tougher time in China. "The BlackBerry faces daunting challenges in China that it did not face in its core markets. The two critical barriers are a far less expensive alternative and a target market that demonstrably prefers pen-based input of Chinese characters over input via qwerty keyboard," said David Wolf, CEO of Wolf Group Asia, a Beijing-based technology consultancy. He predicted that it "will not be the runaway hit here that it is elsewhere".
Current BlackBerry users in China were wary of China Mobile's iteration of the service. "I'm sticking with T-Mobile," said Scott Silverman, Beijing-based regional director, Asia-Pacific, for advertising agency Godfrey Q and Partners. Silverman pays $59.95 (about £35) per month for unlimited worldwide use and roaming.
Silverman said he would be "highly sceptical" if China Mobile attempted a similar service with global roaming, but would consider a switch if the Chinese operator could offer the same thing at approximately half the T-Mobile rate.