February 27, 2014 12:00 am JST

The last paradise?

SADACHIKA WATANABE, Nikkei staff writer

JAKARTA -- As international smartphone leaders Samsung and Apple are trying to defend their market shares, BlackBerry is preparing to stage a global comeback from its bastion in Indonesia.

     Its latest product, code-named BlackBerry Jakarta, is currently in development and slated to debut in the Southeast Asian nation.

     "We will always roll out the first wave in Indonesia," said Ardo Fadhola, product-strategy manager at the local subsidiary of the Canadian smartphone pioneer. In December the company announced a production partnership with Hon Hai Precision Industry of Taiwan, which will soon build a plant in Indonesia. Joining Canada and Mexico as development and production bases for BlackBerry, Indonesia will produce and sell emerging-economy models for under $200 in Asia.

     BlackBerry's world market share has dwindled from its peak of nearly 20% to about 1%, but it holds nearly half of the market in Indonesia. Smartphones are widely used there for texting services, and the company's original email service remains popular. The most populous Southeast Asian nation, home to 247 million people, Indonesia will be the main arena for a BlackBerry reset.

Battle lines drawn

But the company is not alone.

     "We are all prepared for a comeback," said Oki Gunawan, an executive of Sony's Indonesian smartphone arm. Last year the company more than doubled its sales force to 400, as it sees substantial room for growth in the nation. Smartphones have a market-penetration rate there of just 20%.

     When Gunawan joined the company in 2007, Sony-Ericsson devices held the second-largest market share. But with the rise of BlackBerry and devices from Samsung Electronics, Sony dropped to fourth in 2012. Its Xperia Z, introduced in March 2013, represents an opportunity for a resurgence. Sony's global strategy of concentrating its content and visual technologies on smartphones has paid off, with the company returning to second place in Indonesia.

     Sony is poised to sell off its personal computer operations and pin its hopes for growth on smartphones. It already supplies custom-made devices to regional industry leader China Mobile. "In addition to the massive markets in the U.S. and China, we expect much from emerging economies," said Sony President Kazuo Hirai.