As Corporate Loyalty to BlackBerry Wanes, Good News for iPhone, Android


A move by Bank of America (BAC) and Citigroup (C) to test the iPhone and Android phones as potential alternatives for employees is putting the squeeze on Research In Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry, which until now has dominated the corporate world. According to a Bloomberg report, the two banking giants are currently in the throws of testing the devices and, should they give them a green light, it could mean a freedom of choice to more than half a million workers between them.

Bank of America is reportedly in advance stages of testing, which can run between four to six weeks, and would undergo a pilot program before a company wide rollout, Bloomberg notes.

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For Research In Motion, the reported actions of Bank of America and Citigroup are just the latest sign that it is losing its grip on corporate customers. The popular handset maker is facing a conundrum in which its standard practice of driving sales by signing up large corporate accounts is threatened by the same employees who ultimately are given the BlackBerry to use by their companies.

These employees, who are tried of carrying both a company issued BlackBerry and a personal smart phone, are pushing their employers to allow their personal devices onto the corporate network. For companies that are comfortable with the level of security on employee-owned smart phones, this switch could be a big money saver.

Motorola (MOT), a BlackBerry rival with its Android-based smart phones, plans to continue its consumer-focused marketing, even though it recently debuted its Droid Pro, a device that's aimed at corporate users with higher security features, said Sanjay Jha, Motorola's co-CEO, in a recent interview with DailyFinance. Motorola, for example, doesn't plan to form a special sales team to specifically go after corporate customers with its new phone.

Former Customers Turned Rivals

RivalResearch in Motion is also losing corporate customers who are turning into rivals. Dell (DELL), for example, plans to swap out its company issued Blackberry and provide those 25,000 employees with its newly released Aero smart phone.

On the banking front, Research in Motion may face further erosion, according to Bloomberg. JPMorgan Chase (JPM) is also considering allowing its employees to use the Apple (AAPL) iPhone and Google (GOOG) Android smart phones, while Swiss banking giant UBS is weighing whether to allow its employees to use iPhones for messaging.Then there's Standard Chartered Bank that plans to dole out 15,000 iPhones to its workers before the end of the year.

In the September quarter, comScore recently reported that Research In Motion's market share among smart phone platforms fell to 37.3% from 40.1% in the previous quarter. Apple was flat during that same time frame while Google's Android jumped to 21.4% in the September quarter from 14.9% in the previous quarter.

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