iPhone Poised to Trump BlackBerry Among SMBs

Employee demand for the iPhone, plus the device's support for EAS, put Apple in position to grab some of RIM's share of the smartphone market

Apple's iPhone will soon be more enterprise-ready than it's ever been, thanks to this summer's iPhone 2.0 software update, which will provide a number of business-friendly email features. (See Paul Thurrott's "iPhone, Welcome to the Enterprise" and Paul Robichaux's "iPhone Gets EAS, and Other Recent Exchange Server News" for more information about the iPhone 2.0 announcements.) There are signs that Research In Motion (RIM) is taking the iPhone seriously as a competitor to the RIM BlackBerry, as reported in yesterday's New York Times in "BlackBerry’s Quest: Fend Off the iPhone".

If the iPhone is in position to grab some of the BlackBerry's share of the business smartphone market, it's the small-to-midsized business (SMB) segment that will probably be most receptive to the iPhone's allure. RIM BlackBerry is in "in a heap of trouble," says Paul Robichaux, Windows IT Pro senior contributing editor and messaging expert. "Apple is indeed trying hard to attract enterprise users—thus their licensing of Exchange ActiveSync (EAS). They may not steal many seats from organizations that have already bought BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) software, but I guarantee they'll pick up lots of RIM's clients in small and mid-market organizations."

The Times article takes a subtle dig at business smartphone users, referring to them as "e-mail-obsessed professionals." But, as Robichaux notes, Apple seems to recognize that it's precisely those sorts of mobile business users that could give the iPhone a significant piece of the smartphone market. He expects to see a wave of SMB users bringing iPhones into the enterprise once Apple makes the EAS implementation of iPhone available. "In lots of organizations, people can buy their own mobile devices (or get a department/workgroup manager to buy them)," Robichaux says. "The iPhone is so much more usable and functional than any of RIM's current devices that I don't think there will be much demand for them once the iPhones get working push email."

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