Research In Motion, maker of the business-friendly line of BlackBerry smartphone devices, may soon have to start making even more room for competitor Apple and its iPhone, according to a Bloomberg report. Banking giant JPMorgan Chase & Co. is testing Apple devices for employees who may want to use them for e-mailing, providing an alternative to BlackBerry devices for the first time, according to two unnamed sources quoted in the article. Google Android-based devices are also reportedly under consideration.
"This phenomenon is very new, and we expect it to put increased pressure on RIM's performance," Pierre Ferragu, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, told Bloomberg, noting a survey the company did in August that found cost savings and employee preference represented the two biggest factors companies considered when making the switch. "BlackBerry isn't the only alternative to offer employees mobile e-mail."
Bloomberg also reported Swiss bank USB AG is also considering allowing employees to use the iPhone. Company spokesman Jean-Raphael Fontannaz told the magazine the decision is likely to take some time to make. "There are certainly quite a few employees that have private iPhones, and as a bank we have to ask ourselves if that could be an option for us," he said.
As the smartphone wars heat up again, Microsoft is also jumping into the fray with a bizarre PR stunt it pulled ahead of the launch of Windows Phone 7, its mobile OS. Some employees on the company headquarters' campus held a mock funeral for the iPhone and BlackBerry, complete with procession, bagpipes, dancing to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and Darth Vader on a motorcycle. Windows Phone 7 is reportedly set to launch Oct. 11.
According to a Gartner research report, however, Android-powered smartphones are the ones to watch: Android-based devices could outnumber BlackBerry smartphones and iPhones by the end of 2010, and match Symbian sooner than expected, the report projected. The worldwide mobile operating system market will be dominated by Symbian and Android, as the two OSes will account for 59.8 percent of mobile OS sales by 2014.
"The worldwide mobile OS market is dominated by four players: Symbian, Android, Research In Motion and iOS," said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner. "Launches of updated operating systems-such as Apple iOS 4, BlackBerry OS 6, Symbian 3 and Symbian 4, and Windows Phone 7-will help maintain strong growth in smartphones in 2H10 and 2011 and spur innovation. However, we believe that market share in the OS space will consolidate around a few key OS providers that have the most support from CSPs and developers and strong brand awareness with consumer and enterprise customers."
Gartner also predicted that by 2014 open-source platforms will capture more than 60 percent of the market for smartphones. Single-source platforms, such as Apple's iOS and RIM's OS, will increase in unit terms, but their growth rate will be below market average and not enough to sustain share increase. Windows Phone will be relegated to sixth place behind MeeGo in Gartner's worldwide OS ranking by 2014.