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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Competition for BlackBerry

BlackBerry and Windows Mobile are in their corners ready to battle for mobile supremacy. According to Sean Ryan, research analyst for mobile enterprise devices at IDC, the world of enterprise-class converged mobile devices is changing. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) has held the championship belt for a few years, but now there are contenders worthy of dethroning the reigning champ. "There's a lot of change right now," Ryan said. "The RIM technology is great. I don't want it to seem like RIM is going the way of the buffalo, but Microsoft leverages existing technologies, architectures and connections."

IDC said Microsoft's involvement with Motorola, Palm and others such as Nokia threatens to weaken RIM's dominance in the enterprise market.

For mobile users and managers, this influx of new devices presents an interesting challenge, Ryan said. BlackBerry users will be forced to re-evaluate their deployment, while companies looking for mobile solutions will have more options to choose from, which could create some confusion.

Ryan said Windows Mobile held a 10% market share in 2005, while BlackBerry trumped that with 46%. But the market shift, IDC suggests, will see Windows Mobile take the top spot by 2010, raking in 32.3% and leaving BlackBerry with a mere 14.9%.

Ryan said that one reason Windows Mobile will become a major contender is that it can extend Windows from the core to the device.

"Microsoft has the potential to grow -- a real strength for Windows Mobile operating system being the biggest growth engine," he said.

But not all are convinced. Jack Gold, principal and founder of J. Gold Associates, a Northborough, Mass.-based research and analyst firm, said he doesn't quite see Microsoft unseating BlackBerry just yet.

On the software front, however, Nokia is still a long way from reaching BlackBerry fame, according to Gold.

"Nokia has a long way to go with upgrading and improving its Intellisync acquisition before it achieves the functionality or ease of use of the BlackBerry BES experience," he said. "And Microsoft will appeal to push users primarily in those enterprises with the most current version of Exchange, which offers direct push technology. But there are a fair number of companies, especially in SMB, that are not on the current version of Exchange, as well as a reasonably large number of Lotus Notes companies, which don't benefit from the Exchange direct push capability. That's why third parties like Good [Mobile Messaging] exist -- to work with a number of different devices from a number of different platforms."

Security could also keep BlackBerry at the top of the heap, Gold said.

"Several BlackBerry clones have previously attempted to challenge RIM's reign in the enterprise market, but this is a more formidable strike," Ryan said. "The timing is right for a more powerful attack against RIM's BlackBerry as competitive forces converge. Nokia is offering an end-to-end solution of its own, while Motorola and Palm, among others, are leveraging Microsoft's Windows Mobile 5.0 and Microsoft Exchange."

In other words, Ryan said: "It looks like [the mobile device market competition] is really heating up."


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