Will BlackBerry boldly beat off ‘killer’ iPhone in competitive business market?

28 Aug 2008

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Can the new iPhone 3G emerge as a corporate killer device or will traditional business devices like the BlackBerry and Palm remain in vogue?

Before the latest iPhone 3G device actually went to market in July, research firm Gartner gave the iPhone the thumbs-up, but expressed some concerns over security issues with the device. It also revealed that a third of Fortune 500 companies were testing the device. Venerable institutions like the Wall Street Journal are cracking away at developing news applications for the iPhone.

Despite all the iPhone hype and the question of whether or not the device could morph into a BlackBerry killer, the business smart phone world is afire with new products hitting the market.

In the coming weeks, BlackBerry will unveil the new Bold. Instead of a touchscreen interface like the iPhone, it boasts a large, half-VGA colour LCD that promises razor-sharp picture.

The Bold will also be Wi-Fi ready and operate on HSDPA (High-Speed Download Packet Access), making it zippier and more flexible for web access than its predecessors. It will also come with a two-megapixel camera with built-in flash and the ability for iTunes users to port their digital music collection over via USB.

Also due to hit the market in coming weeks is the new Treo Pro from another venerable bastion of wireless working, Palm. GPS mapping and one-touch Wi-Fi are just some of the neat features on Palm’s sleek new business smart phone, which will be sold across Europe by Vodafone and O2.

The fact of the matter is that across all of these devices, business mobile users expect push email as standard. Their hard-pressed company IT managers expect the devices to be easily managed, and in light of the recent security leaks at Government level and in top banks, want to be able to remotely secure these devices.

While Palm and BlackBerry have established their credentials in this regard, it is early days for the Apple iPhone and whether businesses feel comfortable about executives carrying sensitive data and email on the same device that they watch YouTube and listen to MP3s.

“By licensing Exchange ActiveSync and exposing its basic security policies, enterprises can provide sufficient security for iPhone during Exchange personal information manager (PIM) and email use,” says Gartner analyst, Ken Dulaney. “This will open up a huge market for the iPhone, which previously had been stymied by a lack of basic business security and application functionality.”

O2 sells the iPhone and BlackBerry in Ireland and the UK. But according to chief executive, Matthew Key, O2 doesn’t believe it will be a case of one device winning out over another but rather a case of what companies and users want. “As far as BlackBerry v iPhone is concerned, some companies will want the BlackBerry, some will want the iPhone,” he says.

Vodafone doesn’t sell the iPhone in Ireland but sells devices like the BlackBerry and Palm to the business market.

Darragh Fitzgerald Selby, corporate sales manager at Vodafone, explains that the mass business market is looking at devices that save time and boost efficiency, rather than something that is shiny and new.

“In the Irish market today, nearly every business person is carrying a device that can deliver email to them on the move. “Windows Mobile devices, such as the Palm, are viewed as the perfect standard for medium-to-large enterprises to deploy software applications.

“For many firms, because of its easy set-up, the BlackBerry is the device of choice. While for quality of voice calls, the Palm is a favourite.

“I would ask the managing director of a logistics company who thinks they must have the latest iPhone or any other gadget, if the shiny device they feel they must have can make them 20pc more productive?”

 

By John Kennedy

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com