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Smartphone wars in the City

The release of RIM's Blackberry Playbook OS 2.0 last week fired a warning shot to Apple that the enterprise tablet war is wide open. Ironically, having dominated the smartphone market in the enterprise space, RIM is now defending the territory it once pioneered.

Following last year's well publicised global blackout, RIM also has to work even harder to convince corporates that the Blackberry should still be the mobile communication device of choice. Halliburton's recent decision to supply its 4,500 employees with iPhones instead of Blackberries is another example of the business community having the confidence to move away from RIM.

Even pre-blackout the exodus had begun amongst financial services organisations, with Credit Suisse allowing Apple / Android products onto its internal networks. One third of its 25,000 employees now use personal smartphones for work. Following this, Barclays Capital and Standard Chartered have also embraced Blackberry alternatives in the office, which should be of great concern to RIM.

Most banking professionals carry two devices, their corporate Blackberry and their iPhone or Android-based device, representing both business and consumer attributes and behaviours. Consumers 'buy into' Apple because, quite frankly, the hardware is beautiful, it delivers a very engaging consumer experience, has a slicker interface and a broad selection of useful mobile applications. Equally, Google's innovations are also piling on the pressure for RIM, by delivering equally excellent, if not better, software for mobile devices.

By comparison, Blackberry has always had a very strong appeal amongst the business community because of its security, and its robust email and messenger capabilities. However, the user Interface is looking very dated when compared to the competitors, and users now want to have all the functionality of their personal device on their business device (why wouldn't they?).

RIM has long had to compete against Apple and Google technology in terms of usability, but the dramatic nature of the recent service outage has undermined the key differentiator that they have historically enjoyed, and also highlighted some fundamental shortcomings of their devices, such as performance and usability.

If the concerns of financial institutions (security and performance) can be addressed by the more user-friendly and intuitive smartphones on the market, then the device of choice that revolutionised remote working in the banking sector could be in for one mighty battle on what has previously been regarded as its secure 'home' turf. 



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