Apple Poaching RIM People for Enterprise iPhone, iPad Sales

Apple is luring talent from Research In Motion's enterprise sales team to sell the iPhone and iPad to more corporate accounts. Analysts discuss the impact of this on RIM.

Apple has lured at least five members of rival Research In Motion's enterprise sales team to sell the iPhone and iPad to more corporate accounts.

Until just a few years ago, RIM BlackBerry commanded over half of the U.S. smartphone market, challenged mainly by Microsoft Windows Mobile.

Apple's iPhone burst out of the gate on AT&T in 2007, with Google's Android platform launching far more slowly on the T-Mobile G1 in 2008.

Apple's iOS, along with Google's Android operating system, has spent the better part of 2010 pecking away at RIM's and Microsoft's shares of the smartphone market.

Now Apple is snapping up RIM employees. According to the Wall Street Journal, which cited LinkedIn profiles, some five members of RIM's enterprise-sales team have left the company to join Apple.

This includes Geoff Perfect, who led strategic sales at RIM for nearly five years before joining Apple in 2009 as head of enterprise iPhone sales.

Joe Bartlett, Steve Marshall and Peter Decker, all sale-oriented experts, all left RIM in January 2010 and eventually landed at Apple. RIM Strategic Account Manager Paul Alvarez left RIM in June.

Bartlett sells iPhones and iPads to companies in New England. Marshall and Decker are listed as iPhone sales reps for the Greater New York City area, according to LinkedIn. Alvarez now works in enterprise iPad and iPhone sales in Canada.

These men are all propelling iOS-based devices in the corporate sector, which is normally reticent to increase consumer products.

However, the consumerization of consumer electronics and the Internet is leading many companies to loosen the reins over devices employees use, according to research from mobile management software provider Good Technology.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs knocked RIM on his company's fourth-quarter earnings call last month, noting that it's "going to be a challenge for them to create a competitive platform."

RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie fired back at the Web 2.0 Summit two weeks ago, challenging Apple's model of a closed platform for development and rampant application development.

Still, Balsillie's claims pale next to the evidence of RIM's crippled market share, Apple and Android's surge, and RIM's loss of salespeople to Apple.

Industry analyst Rob Enderle said there is likely little RIM can do to staunch the bleeding of market share and employees at this point.

"The corporate market is RIM's market, and Apple has been closing on the company steadily while RIM has shown little ability to really fight back. RIM either needs to significantly up their game or plan to cede this market to Apple, Google and even Microsoft." he said.

Industry analyst Jack Gold disagreed.

"I don't know if this means that much. Good salespeople are highly mobile, often jumping to other companies when the sense is there is an upside potential for making new sales," Gold told eWEEK.

"This is clearly an indication that Apple is serious. But it doesn't mean that all of the RIM installed base will just go away."