Wednesday, March 5, 2008

IPhone In Tough With BlackBerry For Corporate Smartphone Market

TORONTO -(Dow Jones)- Brian Goldberg was updating the calendar on his BlackBerry smartphone Monday when he accidentally duplicated several hundred calendar entries.

"I screwed up," he said.

Instead of going through the painstaking process of deleting the duplicated entries, Goldberg, president of Pulse Microsystems Ltd., a Toronto software firm, used the "wipe handheld" function, erasing all content from the device. Then he reopened the device, typed in a special password and, presto, all deleted content was restored right down to the device's ringtone and font-size settings.

If Apple Inc. (AAPL) wants its iPhone to take on Research In Motion Ltd.'s ( RIMM) BlackBerry in the corporate smartphone market, it's going to have match that level of functionality and security. According to media reports, Apple could announce new features for the iPhone as early as Thursday that target the corporate market, BlackBerry's traditional fiefdom.

Analysts speculate that Apple could make the iPhone compatible with Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows Exchange server and add new business-software applications. Despite the dearth of details, the specter of increased competition from Apple weighed on RIM's shares Wednesday. On Nasdaq, RIM's stock closed down 2.8%, or $2.93, to $101.70. Apple ended down 13 cents to $124.40.

The iPhone has been a resounding success by any measure. Apple has sold 4 million of the devices and captured 28% of the U.S. smartphone market, according to Canalys, a U.K.-based technology-market-research firm. RIM has a 41% share, according to Canalys, but it dominates the corporate market. According to ChangeWave, a Rockville, Md. investment-research firm, RIM has a 73% share of the corporate market, while Apple has a 5% share.

To attract corporate users, Apple will, at a minimum, need to match the security that RIM provides BlackBerry subscribers, Gartner's Ken Dulaney told Dow Jones. That means Apple needs to add a function similar to RIM's "wipe handheld" that can erase content from the iPhone in case the device is lost, he said. Apple also needs to improve the password protection on the device, requiring users to periodically change their password, he said. RIM and Windows Movile-enabled smartphones offer both of these security features, he said.

To compete effectively with BlackBerry, Apple will also need to add over-the- air synchronization, analysts said. BlackBerry users can change the contact list or calendar on their devices and the changes will be reflected automatically on the user's desktop. This feature isn't available to iPhone users.

Another key difference that works in RIM's favor is the keyboard. IPhone users must type emails on the iPhone's touch screen, while BlackBerry users type emails on a Qwerty keyboard. While the touch screen has won many converts in the consumer market, corporate users use email frequently and prefer the Qwerty- keyboard experience, said Bonny Joy, analyst at Strategic Analysis, a technology research firm based in Newton, Mass.

RIM's edge extends beyond design and functionality. Its network of carrier relationships is much larger than Apple's, which is only sold by AT&T Corp. (T) in the U.S. This gives RIM a far larger addressable market and offers corporate users flexibility to change carriers if they choose. "If you're going to go after enterprises, you're going to have to be available under multiple carriers, " Gold said.

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-Stuart Weinberg, Dow Jones Newswires; 416-306-2026;

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