Dell’s BlackBerry Switch Is One More Thorn in RIM’s Side

Dell plans to relieve its employees of their company-provided Research In Motion BlackBerry smartphones in favor of Dell’s own devices, company spokesperson Jess Blackburn told the E-Commerce Times.

Many of its 25,000 employees could begin receiving Dell’s Venue Pro, which runs Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7, as early as next week, and they eventually may have the option of using phones that run on Google’s Android software, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Dell reportedly expects to save about 25 percent in mobile communications costs because of the switch, primarily by eliminating the need for BlackBerry servers, the Journal reported.

The company also reportedly plans to soon offer a service that will help other business clients make a similar switch.

For Dell, having thousands of users making the transition in its own nest will be a great way to demonstrate how the new service works.

“This move makes sense for Dell,” Allen Nogee, principal analyst for wireless technology at In-Stat, told the E-Commerce Times. “Plus, this is a good test group for Dell’s new phone.”

Blow to BlackBerry or Press for Dell?

RIM dismissed the news as an attempt on Dell’s part to promote its new smartphone line rather than a move to takes savings.

“We find it highly unlikely that they will actually save any money with this move and far more likely they were looking for a little free publicity,” Mark Guibert, RIM’s senior vice president for corporate marketing, told the E-commerce Times.

“Consider all the hard and soft costs of purchasing, deploying and supporting new devices with new software inside a company,” he said. “Plus, consider the fact that BlackBerry smartphones are far more efficient with respect to data usage, which means that [Dell’s] monthly service charges will also likely increase.”

Just today, RIM bolstered the BlackBerry’s connectivity to business tools by adding Enterprise Server Express for IBM Lotus Domino to its application mix, Guibert pointed out.

“Anyone concerned with software costs can download BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express for free,” he said.

RIM’s Awkward Grasp on the Enterprise Market

While the exit of thousands of Dell employees from the BlackBerry user base won’t put much of a dent in RIM’s hold on the business market, it does represent one more blow to a company that has lately lost some of its mojo.

“It’s a small number of phones compared to the overall number of BlackBerrys out there, but it still hurts,” said Nogee. “BlackBerry has been struggling. All of these other smartphone companies are having an impact on BlackBerry sales.”

RIM appears to have lost its sure footing in the enterprise arena of late.

“RIM lost its focus. They were distracted by the consumer market,” said Nogee. “So now, instead of competing with Microsoft for the business market, they’re having to compete with Apple.”

The company recently seems to have awakened to the need to concentrate more of its attention on its core business market. This is especially apparent with its new tablet computer, the Playbook, which is oriented toward business users.

“They’re not over with,” said Nogee. “They still have a few tricks up their sleeves. For one, they’re going to switch to a more advanced operating system in the next few years that will run new applications as well as supporting their current base.”

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