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RIM CEO Thorsten Heins speaks during the annual general meeting of shareholders in Waterloo on July 10, 2012. (Mike Cassese/Reuters)
RIM CEO Thorsten Heins speaks during the annual general meeting of shareholders in Waterloo on July 10, 2012. (Mike Cassese/Reuters)

RIM’s market share no longer among top five global smartphone makers Add to ...

Research In Motion Ltd. has fallen out of IDC’s ranking of the top five global smartphone makers by market share for the first time.

The lower ranking underscores the Waterloo, Ont-based company’s shrinking scale as it lays off 5,000 staff and consults investment banks on radical alternatives to its current strategy, and prepares to release a new line of BlackBerrys in early 2013.

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IDC, a global research firm, reports that RIM has gradually ceded market share over the past five years to Samsung Electronics and Apple Inc., the two firms now on top of the pile, as well as upstart device makers such as the Chinese firm ZTE Corp.

From nearly 10 per cent of global market share in 2007, RIM grew its share to 15.6 per cent in 2008 and reached a height of 19.9 per cent of the global smartphone market in 2009.

But even as RIM grew the total number of devices it was selling in the rapidly expanding smartphone space, its overall share of the market began shrinking as Apple’s iPhone spread globally and various handset makers seized on Google Inc.’s Android software to power their growth.

In 2010, RIM had slipped down to 16 per cent of the global market, and its slide continued as it hit 10.3 per cent of the total smartphone market in 2011. In the first quarter of 2012, the last quarter in which RIM was in the top five, the firm’s share had slipped all the way to 6.7 per cent.

“RIM is in uncharted territory now,” says Kevin Restivo, an analyst with IDC, noting that since the firm started tracking the statistics in 2004, RIM has always been in the top five. “Its newfound standing in the world is a direct result of intense competition and share losses to the likes of Apple, Samsung and other Android-powered phone sellers. RIM needs new products in market soon if it’s to staunch the bleeding.”

Over the same period, Samsung grew its share of the smartphone space from 1.8 per cent in 2007 to 32.6 per cent in the most recently measured quarter. Apple, as it continued to launch the iPhone in more countries and enjoy success in developed economies, was at 16.9 per cent.

RIM, of course, is still seeing growth, especially in many emerging markets in Africa and Latin America, as well as countries throughout the Middle East. But especially in the United States, one of the world’s most valuable smartphone markets, RIM’s market share has collapsed. RIM has also not cracked the huge potential in China, remaining on the outside even as Apple attracts huge lineups in Beijing and Shanghai.

RIM’s growth, quite simply, has been rapidly outpaced over the years by rivals that, especially with RIM’s current restructuring, dwarf the Canadian firm in size. While RIM is currently cutting its workforce of about 16,500 by 5,000, Samsung, a company that makes everything from smartphones to fridges and TVs, continues to employs around 220,000 people around the world. RIM’s CEO, Thorsten Heins, has vowed to turn around the company, but has delayed until early 2013 a crucial new batch of devices – called BlackBerry 10 – that form the core of RIM’s comeback strategy because he felt they were not yet perfected.

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