Survey: BlackBerry cutoff would make some users bolt

By , IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

More than one-third of current BlackBerry users would quickly switch to another device if an injunction shut down the service, according to an In-Stat survey conducted last week.

Given a choice of five responses, 36 percent of the users said they would switch as soon as possible to another device for mobile e-mail, according to Bill Hughes, an analyst for In-Stat, in Scottsdale, Arizona. However, 13 percent said they would expect such a shutdown to be resolved soon and would wait a while to drop the Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM) device. Only 7 percent said they would stick with the BlackBerry for as long as it took RIM to resolve the issue, Hughes said. The remainder were undecided.

The multiple-choice responses came from 76 current BlackBerry users. The response chosen most often, by 43 percent of participants, was that their employers would make decisions about the BlackBerry for them.

RIM is embroiled in a legal battle with NTP Inc. over alleged infringement of U.S. patents on mobile wireless e-mail technology. NTP is seeking an injunction against RIM that would stop the Waterloo, Ontario, company from selling its popular BlackBerry devices and operating its push e-mail service in the U.S. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by RIM concerning whether U.S. law applies across international borders, removing a possible avenue for RIM to put the case to rest.

Any injunction would affect only U.S. users, and the wording sought by NTP would allow for a 30-day grace period for RIM customers to switch to another service, an attorney for NTP said on Monday. In addition, RIM is preparing a workaround that would let it keep operating legally in case of an injunction. However, an impending shutdown would affect thousands of users and a lucrative business, and industry analysts believe both companies have strong incentives to settle the case before a shutdown would take place.

In-Stat launched the e-mail survey last Thursday and concluded it on Monday, seeking responses from U.S. mobile device users among its Technology Adoption Panel (TAP) of more than 10,000 individual IT users in North America. The researchers received responses from 562 mobile device users, of whom 76 were current BlackBerry users and 24 were former users, Hughes said.

Awareness of the possible threat to BlackBerry service is high, according to the survey. About half of the 562 respondents were aware of the issue, including those who had never used a BlackBerry, Hughes said.

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