Blackberry’s corporate dominance wanes, but RIM stands firm despite the pressure

Since Research in Motion’s inception of the Blackberry product line, corporate dominance has kept the company high on the ladder of mobile device popularity. Corporate communications have become synonymous with RIM’s devices—if an employee got a phone for business, it was obviously a Blackberry. But this black and white situation has been greyed by emerging competitors such as the iPhone and Android units.

It is arguable that one of the reasons Blackberrys became a corporate staple was because there were few other options for businesses, though RIM would adamantly counter that the devices’ superior email system, among other features, were determining factors. Either way, corporations have a lot more choices now, and RIM is feeling it. Quoth The Globe and Mail:

Shares in Research In Motion slipped more than 3 per cent on Friday morning as investors fretted the BlackBerry smart phone’s stranglehold on corporate communications was being eroded by rival devices.

Bank of America and Citigroup have joined a growing throng of financial institutions eyeing alternatives to the BlackBerry for corporate e-mail.

The banks are testing software designed to make Apple’s iPhone secure enough for company messages, Bloomberg said, citing three people familiar with the plan.

A source at Bank of America confirmed the details of the report. A Citi spokeswoman declined to comment.

As the Globe accurately points out, “BlackBerry smart phones have long been the device of choice for bankers, politicians and executives who need secure access to e-mail and the Internet when outside the office.” But RIM is under pressure to innovate as Android units and iPhones develop new features on shorter cycles than RIM has traditionally functioned in.

In a recent survey, Bernstein Research found that more than 80 per cent of U.S. businesses allow employees to use non-BlackBerry alternatives for corporate functions such as email.

Other companies eyeing Blackberry alternatives include JPMorgan Chase & Co and UBS, as well as British bank Standard Chartered.

But all this is irrelevant in RIM’s perspective, as the company still retains strong faith in the future success of its Blackberry products, affirming such by pointing to sustained growth and historically stable subscription rates. 

“We believe the opportunities for both corporate-issued and employee-purchased smart phones are growing and that RIM provides the best overall platform for CIOs (chief information officers) to address both scenarios without compromising security or manageability,” RIM’s senior vice-president for enterprise and platform marketing, Jeff McDowell, told the Globe.

A boost to RIM’s corporate ammo may be the forthcoming PlayBook, the world’s first enterprise-savvy tablet that is expected to launch early next year.