BlackBerry Going to Japan via NTT DoCoMo -- Don't Get Excited (DCM, RIMM)

Includes: BB, DCM
by: Steven Towns
Research in Motion Ltd (RIMM) shareholders may be licking their lips at the prospect of 51 million potential new customers from this autumn at NTT DoCoMo (NYSE:DCM), the leading wireless service provider in Japan. I don't want to ruin the moment but don't get excited over this because I don't think corporate Japan (their marketing target) will embrace the BlackBerry and especially since the device they introduce might not even have Japanese writing capability. To be blunt, it's a stupid idea to introduce such a device.

Introducing a BlackBerry without Japanese writing capability is the easiest way to guarantee failure. It doesn't matter if the device can read Japanese. And the foreign corporate population can't be big enough to justify a Japan roll-out in itself. I just don't see Japanese businessmen carrying around both their regular cell phone so they can text message in Japanese and take pictures and also a BlackBerry.

A Reuters article carried the following statements from UBS analysts Robert Dennison and Maynard Um, who apparently speculated last month that RIM would likely launch in Japan (I think they predicted in '07) with an 8707 3G handset.

"Our checks indicate the device will be similar to the 8700 in terms of processor and memory specifications, with added benefit of simultaneous voice and data functionality," they wrote. That means a customer could receive e-mail while on a voice call.

"The 8707 will have Japanese language read support although it may not initially support Japanese write capabilities."

Well, I at least give RIM some credit for its global expansion and for not overlooking Asia. RIM already offers a device in South Korea and announced last month it will be launching in China as too. I'd like to know if these devices offer writing capability in the host languages.

In a Reuters interview co-chief executive Jim Balsillie declined to provide RIM's subscriber expectations for Japan, but said some guidance will be provided when its next financial results are released on June 29. BlackBerries to be sold in Japan will operate on both W-CDMA and GSM/GPRS networks and will be usable around the world for voice and data communications, the company said. (Source: Reuters)

Research in Motion Ltd (RIMM) 1-yr chart:

NTT DoCoMo (DCM) 1-yr chart: