Mike al Mefleh is the director of product management in the Middle East for Research In Motion (RIM), the maker of the BlackBerry. He talks about the recent threat to ban the device and how RIM's new tablet is trying to compete against the iPad.
Your company averted a BlackBerry ban in the Emirates last year. How have you convinced consumers your smartphone is still worth using?
I'm not sure we have faced much of that because the BlackBerry is in a "pull" situation where lot of customers use it. We do address their concerns, and we're in constant dialogue with them.
But there has been anxiety about the news that small business owners may not have secure lines unless they own at least 20 BlackBerrys. Does that concern you?
I mean, it could be for some customers. But we talk with them and explain, it seems to be settling down.
Your apps store for mobile phones was launched two years ago in the US, but you have only started testing here. What took so long?
Basically, we just have to do the due diligence. We have to test it and ensure it's working within the intended quality, environment of the infrastructure and the networks here.
When will the apps store be ready for everyone in the Middle East?
We have actually launched it in some other countries. It's up and running in Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan as we speak. [In the UAE,] it's in what we call a "soft launch" to go through the whole nine yards of testing.
Your tablet, the PlayBook, just came out in the US last month. Apple has already released two models in the market and other companies have also rolled out models. Are you late to the game?
Not necessarily. I mean, when we want to do something, we want to make sure we do it right. It's a matter of not just bringing a tablet to the market. So we do research and talk to the customers and make sure we meet their needs. The PlayBook has its own flavour.