A survey of existing BlackBerry users finds that most people remain loyal to the company's products, but are also intrigued by the range of alternatives coming to market.
Most customers of Research In Motion Inc.s BlackBerry wireless e-mail system and handhelds are satisfied with the companys products, but many also remain interested in alternatives from mobile carriers and other device makers, according to a new research report.
Austin, Texas-based iGillottResearch Inc. said Tuesday that its latest survey of roughly 800 BlackBerry customers in the United States and Canada found that most RIM users are likely to buy another device from the company in the future, but the report indicated that many people are also willing to consider so-called smart phones with e-mail capabilities and other handhelds as they make investments in mobile technologies.
iGillotts study, based on interviews conducted with BlackBerry users starting in Nov. 2005, found that 23 percent of RIMs customers were totally satisfied with their devices, while another 47 percent said they were somewhat satisfied.
By comparison, only 7 percent of those interviewed reported that they were totally dissatisfied with their BlackBerry, and roughly 14 percent indicated that they were somewhat dissatisfied. Approximately 9 percent of respondents said they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with the vendors products.
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RIM representatives didnt immediately respond to inquiries regarding the research.
And while most of the people surveyed said they would buy another RIM handheld, Iain Gillott, president of iGillottResearch, said that now perhaps more than ever, corporate IT decision makers are looking at alternative devices and services that offer more sophisticated management capabilities and an increasing range of multimedia features.
"Theres clearly plenty of room for competition in the mobile e-mail market despite peoples loyalty to BlackBerry," said Gillott. "For many of the other device vendors its a matter of getting their products better publicized, similar to the challenge faced by rivals to Apples iPod in the digital music space."
Among the other devices most familiar to those BlackBerry customers surveyed was Palm Inc.s Treo handheld, which offers many of the same features as RIMs PDAs. Other gadgets being assessed by survey respondents include more diminutive handsets offered by phone makers such as Nokia Corp., and e-mail services from carriers including Cingular and Verizon Wireless.
While the study did not focus on RIMs ongoing patent litigation with NTP Inc., which has threatened to shut down the BlackBerry service, Gillott said the legal case is encouraging businesses to look into viable alternatives.
Even if RIM settles with NTP, as the analyst believes the company is planning to do, he said that many of the enterprise users among the BlackBerrys 3.5 million subscribers will look at alternatives to guard against future problems with the service, and to diversify their mobile e-mail infrastructures.
"A lot of IT guys are nervous about losing service, even if the NTP issue blows over, so theyre looking at alternatives and learning about the other products and services on the market to protect themselves," said Gillott.
"This is also leading people to understand the benefits of other offerings, so, I would guess that some businesses will look to tryout other technologies."
Beyond the NTP suit and some of RIMs previous system outages, the analyst said that there are additional factors driving interest in other mobile e-mail systems.
Among the shortcomings of the BlackBerry service highlighted by those surveyed was its need for more sophisticated device management tools for corporate IT administrators who oversee large deployments of handhelds.
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Another common refrain from respondents was their desire for devices that offer additional multimedia features, such as the ability to take pictures or view video clips.
While those functions have largely been added to lure consumers into buying new handsets, Gillott said that businesses are also increasingly interested in those types of tools.
"Blackberry has evolved its management tools, but most IT shops have their own ways of doing things. They dont want to treat mobile differently than a desktop or laptop, and that will drive people to alternatives, as different management styles will drive people to different services," Gillott said.
"With multimedia, we typically think of consumers, but there are a lot of businesses who would love for their workers to have cameras, or to have the ability to download video, as there are some great new communications opportunities with those features as well."
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