Last year, right around the iPhone’s release, people were wondering aloud whether the iPhone would kill the BlackBerry. This notion I never understood.
As originally constituted, the iPhone was a pure consumer phone. One of my good friends, who works for Accenture, said that his division wouldn’t even consider the iPhone because of its poor security standards. “You can’t even wipe it remotely,” he complained…before adding many other security concerns, most of which I didn’t understand.
So the delineation was made. BlackBerry for business and iPhone for consumer.
However, in recent months we’ve seen both companies infringe on the other’s territory. With BlackBerry, it has been the releases of the Pearl and Curve. Both devices existed prior to the iPhone, but only for GSM networks—AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S.
But Research In Motion (RIM) upped the ante by releasing the Pearl on CDMA networks, which cover Verizon, Sprint, Alltel, and U.S. Cellular, among others. They’re also ready to release the Curve on CDMA networks, further spreading their most consumer-focused devices.
We’ve also seen the iPhone seep into the business market. Earlier this year, Apple announced Exchange support for the iPhone. This has lead to many people talking about the iPhone and BlackBerry like it’s a two-horse race. This is a fundamental error, in my opinion.
Yes, the iPhone is going to cut into some of RIM’s business in the corporate world, and yes, the BlackBerrys Pearl and Curve (and the rumored 9000 series) are going to keep some gadget-minded people from switching to the iPhone. But each company’s core audience will likely remain unchanged, facilitating a symbiotic relationship in the smartphone realm.
At BlackBerry’s core are business users. Businesses big and small have come to love the BlackBerry because of how simply it delivers services. Their push email is the best in the business, and there are hundreds of applications which can aid in collaboration.
Also, have you noticed the lack of a camera on most BlackBerry models? That’s because many businesses don’t want cameras on their employees’ phones, or for security reasons cannot have cameras in their phones. Businesses who choose BlackBerry for this reason certainly wouldn’t choose the consumer-friendly iPhone.
In addition, as long as the BlackBerry (above left) remains atop the corporate world, I think we’re going to see something of a self-perpetuating cycle. Corporations choose the BlackBerry because it is tops, which in turn keeps it tops, which will convince businesses to make the same decision in the future.
At the iPhone’s core are Apple diehards and other gadget buffs. They will continue to choose the iPhone (above right) because, well, it’s just a lot cooler than the BlackBerry. It has plenty of features that the BlackBerry does not, like a touch-screen, a familiar media player with far greater internal storage capacity, and a large screen, which is optimal for watching mobile videos. It also has the best mobile browsing experience in the business, while many people’s No. 1 complaint about the BlackBerry is the horrible Internet experience.
Because they each have solid core audiences, the BlackBerry and the iPhone can and will continue to thrive together in the mobile world. Clearly, RIM is not sweating this, as they reported a stellar fourth quarter. Apple doesn’t seem worried either, as they’re rumored to have ordered 10 million iPhones, presumably of the 3G ilk. And they’re both right.
So rather than simply saying this is a two-horse race, it might be more accurate to say it’s a series of races, with each company coming out ahead for different ones.