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BlackBerry buzz in Indonesia

Research In Motion saw a frenzy of interest normally reserved for Apple's latest gadgets.

But it was the BlackBerry bold that led 3,000 Indonesians to line up out front of the Pacific Palace Mall for a 50-percent discount on RIM's latest handset. Only 1-in-3 customers managed to get the deal. This is the first time RIM has launched a global handset in an overseas market. So what's the big deal about the new BlackBerry?

The 9790 is a lower-cost version of the 9800 on sale in North America and meant specifically for the emerging markets, although it is expected to go on sale here at some point in the future. Despite the cheaper price -- the equivalent to $500 off-contract, it also includes a near field communications chip. NFC is the foundation for replacing your debit and credit cards.

Apple's iPhone doesn't have one. But Google's Android operating system supports the contactless payment technology in a series of new handsets from HTC and others. You just wave your BlackBerry at the cash register to make payments or transfer cash between you and another smartphone user. Investment bank Jefferies and Company put out a report earlier this year saying it believes Apple is working on its own NFC technology in which retailers would get the terminal adapters for free in exchange for a piece of the transaction action -- much like its relationship with the music industry through iTunes.

Meantime, Wall Street sees RIM's future increasingly tied to the emerging markets. Globally, only 11 percent of the smartphone sales over the summer were BlackBerrys - the percentage shrinks to 9 percent in the core U.S. market. However, in emerging markets like Africa, RIM shipments were up 741 percent and in Asia it's the biggest device behind Nokia.

In India -- with the world's fastest growing middle class - RIM is in third place with 15 percent of the market. Apple doesn't even crack the list because the 3G wireless technology necessary to make an iPhone a viable device remains spotty. Samsung's focus on android based devices early in its entrance has it in the second place spot with 21-percent market share behind Nokia.

The majority of Nokia's 46-percent piece of the cellphone pie, however, is in dumbphones -- low-end, low-margin devices aimed at creating brand awareness and loyalty. Nokia recently decided to scrap its Symbian technology in favour of Microsoft's Windows Mobile-7 operating system -- a gamble as far as Wall Street is concerned.

RIM's strategy in India is to go lower-priced but avoid Nokia's discount trap. The 9790 is priced at just north of the equivelent of $500 US. The Curve 9380 and 9350 will both retail for about $400 US when they hit the stores in that country in December.

The Curve 9350 may be seen as a bit of a gamble for the BlackBerry maker in India. This is the first CDMA-based BlackBerry 7 smartphone from Waterloo -- and it's being launched in a country which has seen stagnant growth in that country. But CDMA is pervasive, and it's cheap -- two key factors in RIM's strategy in the region.

Meantime, back to the Black Friday for Indonesia? There are more than 3-million BlackBerry users in that country -- eclipsing the iPhone and Android. RIM opened its first BlackBerry store in Jakarta earlier this month -- with plans for 12 more in 2012.

The majority of analysts polled by Bloomberg - 49 percent - have a 'hold' rating on RIM stock. But 1-in-3 analysts have a 'sell' recommendation on the former tech star. The latest ratings come from GMP with a 'hold' and an $18 target price. MKM Partners is neutral on RIM stock but more bullish: predicting the shares will trade closer to $20 in a year. RBC Capital Markets is the most bullish of those on the street. While it doesn't advise clients to add to their positions, it does predict the stock could hit $23 in a year.


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