BlackBerry Loses to Apple Again

BlackBerry RIM
BlackBerry RIM

Things are getting so bad for BlackBerry farmer Research In Motion (RIMM) that even some of the stodgiest companies on the planet are trading in their BlackBerry smartphones for shiny new iPhones.

Halliburton (HAL) is the latest enterprise customer to text its breakup to RIM. You don't get any more old-school than Halliburton, the fuddy-duddy oil-field services giant that critics associate with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, Dick Cheney, and its no-bid contract work in Iraq.

Well, Halliburton is replacing its 4,500 company-issued BlackBerry phones with Apple's (AAPL) iconic iPhone over the next two years.

Yes, RIM. Even Halliburton is moving on.

Employees Are Consumers, Too

RIM clearly saw the threat to its business model when Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, and Google's (GOOG) open-source Android platform followed shortly thereafter.

However, the folks toting around iPhones and Droids were largely private consumers. The email-centric BlackBerry with its top-notch security features was the format favored by IT departments that had better things to do than worry about corporate executives playing Angry Birds or streaming YouTube clips.

So it was OK if teens and stay-at-home parents went iPhone or Android. RIM could always count on its enterprise customers, who order new phones by the box-full -- or so it thought.

That may have been true for a time, but no more. The allure of FaceTime video chats, Apple's much larger App Store universe, and the recent novelty of the Siri digital assistant are making BlackBerry owners envious.

RIM's trying to catch up. Its newest phones are sleek, and its developer platform is improving, but it's too late. The masses have moved on. The BlackBerry may be practical, but it's no longer desirable.

Things Are Going to Get Worse

If RIM thinks things are bad now, the future is going to get even hairier.

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Microsoft (MSFT) -- a company that corporate IT departments know and trust -- is investing billions in getting its new mobile platform off the ground. The world's largest software company naturally wants to gun for consumers before they anchor themselves to Apple's iOS or Google's Android, but it knows that the low-lying fruit rests with Microsoft-friendly enterprise customers, where it can talk IT tastemakers into swapping their BlackBerrys for new Nokia (NOK) wireless devices running Windows Phone.

RIM closed out its most recent quarter with a record 75 million active BlackBerry users. Does this seem like a company that needs to worry about losing Halliburton's 4,500 accounts? You better believe it. Analysts see RIM posting declining revenue this fiscal year and an even sharper slide on the bottom line.

In other words, the pros see RIM as peaking, and that's something that its stock did several quarters ago.

Every defection counts, even if it's a polarizing military and oil-field services contractor.

Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Google, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft, Apple, and Google, as well as creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and Apple.