Closings, delays and early dismissals

BlackBerry maker leaving consumer market, focusing on business

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TORONTO — Struggling BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. said Thursday that it plans to return its focus to its corporate customers after failing to compete with flashier,
consumer-oriented phones such as Apple’s iPhone and models that run Google’s Android software.

The Canadian company said it was undergoing a comprehensive strategic review. Heins said he was open to selling the company, but “it is not the main direction we are pursuing right now.”

The company has long dominated the corporate smartphone market. Its BlackBerrys are known for their security and reliability as email devices.

RIM has sought to expand its appeal to consumers, but it has had trouble because the phones aren’t perceived to be as sexy as its chief competitors.

Apple sold 37 million iPhones in the last three months of 2011 — more than what RIM shipped in the past three quarters combined. RIM shipped 11.1 million BlackBerrys in the latest quarter, which ended March 3.

RIM also bombed in its efforts to produce a tablet computer to compete with Apple’s iPad. Among other things, the PlayBook received negative reviews because it launched without an email program and the popular messaging service BlackBerry Messenger. In December, the tablets that originally cost $500 were selling for $200, below the cost of making them.

RIM has been counting on improvements with its forthcoming BlackBerry 10 system, but that has faced multiple delays. BlackBerrys also lag iPhones or Android phones when it comes to running third-party applications. Touch-screen models that lack physical keyboards have largely flopped.

For that reason, BlackBerrys are even losing ground in the business world, as employees demand iPhones or Android devices over BlackBerrys.

RIM said it will focus its consumer efforts on targeted offerings that tap the company’s strengths. That includes devices that employees will want to buy on their own and bring to the corporate environment. The company was exploring partnerships and other opportunities for consumer products that aren’t deemed central. Those products could include software and features that are then incorporated into RIM’s own offerings.

Source: Rob Gillies, Associated Press