More ominous signs for RIM, BlackBerry

Major banks now experimenting with other smartphones for corporate email

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This is not good for RIM. It also was inevitable.

From Bloomberg:

Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc. are considering whether to let employees use the Apple Inc. phone as an alternative to Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry for corporate e-mail, said three people familiar with the plans. The banks are testing software for the iPhone that’s designed to make it secure enough for company messages, said the people, who didn’t want to be named because the plans aren’t public.

“People are delighted with their iPhones and Android phones and they want to use them for work,” said Roger Entner, head of telecom research at Nielsen Co. “The result is RIM now has real competition for corporate customers.”

That's putting it mildly. Major corporations around the world are now considering allowing other smartphones into their BlackBerry-only enterprises. Yesterday I blogged about Dell replacing 25,000 BlackBerrys for its employees with Dell's own smartphones. According to Bloomberg, Bank of America has about 284,000 employees and Citigroup about 258,000 workers.

Granted, these banks are making other smartphones optional, unlike Dell, which is jettisoning the BlackBerry (and also launching a service designed to help other enterprises follow suit). But that doesn't sound so promising for RIM, either. Bloomberg:

Other research suggests BlackBerry loyalty may be fading among the bankers, lawyers and government workers who drove RIM’s initial success. About 42 percent of BlackBerry users say they want to stick with the brand when they buy a new phone, according to an August survey by Nielsen. The rate is 89 percent for iPhone owners and 71 percent for Android devices, which are made by companies including Motorola Inc. and HTC Corp.

RIM has dismissed Dell's move away from BlackBerrys as a publicity stunt. I suspect they won't say the same for the banks.

RIM was down to 54.95 in early trading on Friday, nearly 4 percent below Thursday's close of 57.11. By midafternoon it was trading at 54.49, off 2.8 percent from Thursday.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks.

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