Last month BlackBerry (as the company formerly known as RIM) revealed that it would not release BlackBerry 10 devices in Japan and would instead withdraw from the market. Now media in Korea suggest the Canadian company may exit that market too, leaving during the first half of 2013.
Korean news wire Yonhap cites anonymous “industry sources” who claim that “sluggish sales” in the country have left BlackBerry executives pondering the future of the company in Korea, where Samsung, LG and Apple dominate the local market. The competition has already proven to be too intense for a number of international mobile makers, and last year saw HTC announce the closure of its operations in July, while Motorola followed suit in December, cutting an estimated 500 jobs.
A cursory glance at Statcounter — which is by no means an exact portrayal of mobile platform market share, but does indicate trends — shows no visible mention of the BlackBerry platform. With little existing user base in Korea, BlackBerry could easily follow its example in Japan and leave Korea with little impact.
In addition to being a minority among consumers, BlackBerry is limited to a partnership with just one carrier: SK Telecom. That’s another indicator that it doesn’t have a large footprint in Korea and there are similarities with Japan, which the company said “is not a major market for BlackBerry”.
The response from BlackBerry is hardly an emphatic denial of the rumors. The company provided TNW with the following statement, which contains no mention of BlackBerry 10:
BlackBerry enjoys a constructive relationship with trusted partner, SK Telecom, and we will continue to support the carrier’s ongoing BlackBerry sales in Korea. We will continue to provide BlackBerry service and after-sales support to BlackBerry’s Korean customers, both consumers and business users.
BlackBerry did confirm that it is still in discussions with SK Telecom over the possibility of launching the Z10, its first BlackBerry 10 device, but it says that it is yet to make a decision.
With the company also pledging to “continue to support BlackBerry customers in Japan”, the statement on Korea certainly provides doubt about its commitment to the country, making speculation of an exit entirely plausible.
We’ll keep our ears and eyes open for future announcements.
Headline image via Justin Sullivan / Getty Images