The Asia Pacific leg of the BlackBerry 10 Jam World Tour was held last week in Bangkok, Thailand at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center. RIM's two-event attracted more than 1,200 developers, many of whom flew in from the region. I had the opportunity to speak with executives tasked with driving development of the BlackBerry 10 ecosystem, as well as top executives from the area.
These are some of the announcements that RIM made during the event:
- Asia has the company's fastest growing base.
- More than a billion messages are sent using BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) every day, with Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand leading the way.
- The BlackBerry Dev Alpha C test device with physical keyboard is available. Units are limited, and applicants who are interested in getting a device will be subjected to stringent criteria.
- There is a new beta release for all development tools for the BlackBerry 10 platform.
- The Gold SDK date has been fixed as December 11, 2012.
Asia Pacific focus
"We are attracting the biggest customers in every Asian market," says Alec Saunders, Vice President of Developer Relations and Ecosystem Development at RIM, who added that BlackBerry 10 is the most open mobile platform out there "bar none."
Throwing a spotlight on the Asia Pacific, it was noted that India has the third largest Facebook base of users in the world, while China has the largest Internet mobile base. Singapore has the world's highest smartphone penetration at 74 percent and a 150 percent mobile penetration.
Around the globe or in the Asia Pacific, the foundation for the BlackBerry App World appears to be in place. The BlackBerry app store is offered in 24 languages, is available in 165 countries, and with carrier billing supported in more than 50 countries. According to a list I obtained, RIM has signed up Baidu, Weibo, QQ, Air Asia, Malaysia Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, and PVR Cinemas and Hindustan Times in India.
Clearly, the company is focused on more than the English-speaking markets. To underscore the point, Vivek Bhardwaj, Head of Software Portfolio at RIM, demonstrated the ease by which the auto-complete feature on the virtual keyboard switches between languages. He successfully typed out a greeting in Thai before switching back to English for the rest of the sentence.
Availability of BlackBerry 10 devices in Asia
Attendees repeatedly asked about the availability of BlackBerry 10 devices in Asia, but executives were tight-lipped and kept to the January 30, 2013 launch date. There will be regional events throughout the world on January 30, explained Hastings Singh, managing director of South Asia at RIM; the actual launch dates will vary by market. This is subject to local certification of devices, though he says RIM is focused is getting them into as many markets as possible.
In response to questions about the affordability and pricing strategy behind the BlackBerry 10 smartphones, Singh told attendees that the range will be from high-end to affordable, implying multiple models similar to Windows Phone 8X and Windows Phone 8S by HTC. He also stated that "Indonesia is a very important market for us."
I got the sense that the final distribution strategy for BlackBerry 10 devices is still not completely sewed up and is subject to tweaks based on availability of units. Separately, an executive did offer that the region is "well represented" in terms of device availability come early next year.
In my next post, I'll report on some of the sentiments from local developers.
Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.