Ubiquity Matters in the Mobile Phone Market

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-07-02 Print this article Print

RIM still has one major advantage in the mobile phone market that will undoubtedly appeal to the enterprise and in turn, make Apple's products just a little less bulletproof: ubiquity. Unlike the iPhone, which is only available to AT&T customers, a BlackBerry can be found on every major carrier. That means enterprise users can decide between the Bold on AT&T, the Tour on Verizon Wireless or the Curve on Sprint. Depending upon the contract their company signed with the carriers, employees should always be able to find a BlackBerry worth picking up at the local carrier's store. The same can't be said for Apple.

Although Apple might disagree, ubiquity really does matter in the mobile phone market. Users (and especially enterprise users) don't want to be locked down into a single carrier because of a phone they covet. In some areas, AT&T might provide the best service. In other areas, its coverage might be spotty, at best. Depending on where the company has offices, spotty coverage might require companies to ink deals with the best provider in each location.

Locking down the iPhone to one carrier is an issue for Apple. Granted, the iPhone is performing well. But in the enterprise, it's still lacking. Ubiquity really does matter. It makes companies agile. And it ensures that they're getting the best deals from carriers. Since the iPhone is only available on AT&T, it might be difficult for some companies to switch to the new carrier for the sake of a phone. In fact, it doesn't make much sense.

And that's precisely why RIM could enjoy similar success going forward. The company realizes that carrier-agnosticism really is the best way to do business. And it understands that in order to appeal to enterprise customers who want a full end-to-end experience, locking down the BlackBerry to a single carrier will not lead to RIM's ultimate success.

At the same time, how long will it take before Apple ditches AT&T and makes its iPhone available to multiple carriers? The company must know that enterprise users want to be able to choose their carriers.  And even some consumers who have been generally displeased with AT&T in the past are loath to switch, even though they want an iPhone. Apple is losing sales because of AT&T and it might only be a matter of time before it realizes that and brings the iPhone to other service providers.

But until then, RIM still holds the enterprise lead. It might not have the apps Apple provides, but it appeals to the enterprise customer through choice rather than software. That might not matter to consumers, but to business users who are constantly trying to find ways to reduce costs to stay competitive, it matters quite a bit.

So, perhaps RIM's last advantage over the iPhone really is ubiquity. And whether Apple wants to admit it or not, it's still a pretty big advantage.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.

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