In the past few years or so, the world has witnessed the birth of China as the power house of the 21st century. The country’s power lies in its numbers, be it its population, its demand for products and services, or the sheer size of its exports.
North American markets are flooded by products “Made in China.” North American over-the-counter marketplaces are swarmed by China-based companies trying to gain access to public listings. And, perhaps more than others, Canadians are fully aware of Chinese mining and exploration companies trying to buy as many properties rich in mineral deposits or fossil fuel as possible.
So what’s next in line for The Big Red? Well, apparently it is the sport of trampling the competition and making sure a domestic product makes it first to the circuit. Who is being trampled? The answer is Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM/TSX; RIMM/NASDAQ), an Ontario, Canada-based company, and its wireless email device Blackberry. And, who is doing the trampling? State-controlled China Unicom Ltd., with its version of Blackberry called–get this- -Redberry!!!
Ever since Research In Motion’s Blackberry hit the market some seven years ago, the company was laying out the groundwork for launching the device in China. In 1991, only a few short months after Blackberry was launched in North America, the company made the first application to sell the device in China.
The journey may finally come to an end in May, after a deal is signed with China’s largest mobile carrier, China Mobile. Initially, the deal with China Mobile would be available only to existing Blackberry owners. By the end of the year, the device should be made available to everyone.
But, the potentially world’s largest wireless market is not giving in to foreigners that easily. We mentioned China Unicom Ltd. and its wireless email product called Redberry. The company obviously had no problem borrowing the famous Blackberry name. And, it certainly has no problem flying without the net. You see, China Unicom did not even bother to patent Redberry, and much less trademark its name with Chinese authorities.
Unfortunately for Research In Motion, the process of getting Blackberries to Chinese consumers is not only very much needed for the company to grow, but it is also lengthy and complicated. There are issues concerning encryption standards, as well as structuring a platform for technology and profit sharing.
And while Research In Motion is getting buried under the massive amount of paper delivered by what must be the world’s largest bureaucracy, the “patent-less, registration-less, and scruples-less” China Unicom is rushing to haul away all the benefits, as well as profits, away from the Canadian icon that wanted to do it the right way.