Dell plans to replace its employees' BlackBerry smartphones with Windows 7-running Dell smartphones, a move it says will save it 25 percent. RIM has its doubts.
Dell, a relative newcomer to the exploding smartphone market, will be
replacing employees' Research In Motion BlackBerry handsets with new Dell
smartphones. Just as Microsoft's Bill and Melinda Gates don't let Apple
, Dell is looking to keep RIM out of its workplace.
Dell plans to transition its 25,000 employees from BlackBerry devices to its
new line of smartphones, and to begin marketing a service to help other
businesses do the same, a Dell spokesperson confirmed to eWEEK.com.
A latecomer to the smartphone market, Dell currently offers the
Android-running Aero, as well as the 5-inch, Android-running Streak-which
it considers a tablet
-but during the coming holiday season will launch the
Windows 7-running Venue Pro, which it will offer to employees in exchange for
the RIM handsets.
According to the Wall Street
, employees who currently carry BlackBerry handsets can receive a Venue
with voice and data plans; other employees will also receive Dell
phones, but without data plans, and will instead rely on WiFi to check e-mail.
Dell began working on the plans several months ago, after employees
increasingly began asking for high-end devices and the company considered how
to accommodate them cost-efficiently. In making the move, which would
additionally eliminate the need for RIM's BlackBerry servers-which go hand-in-hand,
as it were, with the smartphones-Dell, which also has a strong server business,
expects to save 25 percent in mobile communications costs, the Journal
reported. Dell has reportedly also been in talks with Microsoft-which likewise
would be thrilled to see fleets of enterprise workers switch from BlackBerry OS
to Windows 7-as well as T-Mobile, which may offer bulk, businesswide minutes,
instead of individual employee plans.
"Clearly in this decision we are competing with RIM, because we're kicking
them out," Dell CFO Brian Gladden told the Journal.
Over the last few years, RIM has worked to compete with companies such Apple
and Android handset makers for consumer affections. But with its fast push e-mail
and trusted security, its bread and butter has long been the enterprise market.
Increasingly, however, Apple and the like are making in-roads into the
enterprise, as smartphone users blur the line between their home and work
Mark Guibert, RIM's senior vice president of corporate marketing, said he
doesn't see the Dell move as a threat, and further doubts Dell can offer
businesses much of a savings.
"We find it highly unlikely that they will actually save any money with
this move, and far more likely they were looking for a little free publicity,"
Guibert told eWEEK. "Consider all the hard and soft costs of purchasing,
deploying and supporting new devices with new software inside a company. Plus,
consider the fact that BlackBerry smartphones are far more efficient with
respect to data usage, which means that their monthly service charges will also
Additionally, Guibert added, "anyone concerned about software costs can
download BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express for free. In fact, in addition to
supporting Microsoft Exchange, RIM is introducing a version for IBM
Lotus Domino customers on Friday."
From an enterprise services perspective, having Microsoft on its side bodes
well for Dell, said analyst Roger Kay, with Endpoint Technologies. They will be
"'dog-fooding' it, as they unfortunately call it in the industry,"
said Kay, of the process of using one's own product. "I'm sure Dell's CIO
will be standing up in conferences talking about how well it works for them."
However, he adds, RIM's secure back end is its particular strength-as was
recently highlighted in the news when governments in the Middle East
over their inability to intercept e-mail messages.
"My iPhone, for example, just talks to an e-mail server," Kay told
eWEEK, adding that Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 is considered a "hybrid,"
in that it's built to appeal to both consumers and enterprise users.
"The consumer angle makes it less of a no-nonsense device than the
BlackBerry is," he said. When it comes to security, "RIM has the high