Will the Palm Pre Overtake RIM's BlackBerry in the Enterprise?

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-05-29

Will the Palm Pre Overtake RIM's BlackBerry in the Enterprise?

The cell phone industry is an interesting space.  Competition is fierce.  A handful of companies dominate the market.  And as more cell phones hit store shelves, customers are requiring a slew of features, including touch-screens, cameras, camcorders, an App store, and much more.

At the same time, competition dictates that phones will only enjoy the spotlight for a short amount of time before a competitor sweeps in to take the glory.

And for the next few weeks, it's the Palm Pre that will supplant all others to take the spotlight in the mobile phone industry.  Scheduled to hit store shelves June 6, the device is Palm's last chance to save itself from irrelevance.

The Pre is certain to appeal to Sprint customers who have wanted a "next-gen" cell phone.  But can it entice the enterprise?

Right now, Research In Motion, the company behind the BlackBerry, is easily commanding the enterprise space.  Apple is making inroads, but so far, it's RIM that has solidified its position as the leader. 

It's a valuable position to hold.  In the last quarter alone, RIM enjoyed over $3 billion in revenue and a $518 million profit, thanks to its predominantly professional customer base.  The enterprise is a lucrative space that every major company in the cell phone industry wants to dominate.

And Palm is no different.

So let's take a look at its Pre to see how well it stacks up against the BlackBerry.


In the enterprise, carrier availability matters.  Some big companies use multiple carriers.  Smaller firms find the best deal with a particular carrier and stick with it.
And that's the biggest issue facing the Palm Pre.  Sure, it's a neat device that will surely appeal to some, but when it's released, it will only be available to Sprint customers.  According to reports, Sprint currently has 50 million subscribers

That's certainly nothing to scoff at and since its Nextel acquisition, the company is servicing a slew of companies.  But consider the fact that the BlackBerry is available on every major carrier, including Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint, and it quickly becomes clear that Palm is at a significant disadvantage.

As it stands, companies can find a BlackBerry on any major carrier.  If a particular firm is a Verizon Wireless customer, employees can have a BlackBerry.  But if they want a Pre, they won't be able to do it.  Palm simply can't match RIM.  Being carrier-agnostic is important when a company wants to be a major force in the industry.  And right now, Palm can't achieve that with the Pre.

Comparing the Features


The Palm Pre is loaded with features.  It sports a touch-screen to enhance its ability to provide an intuitive experience.  It has a pull-out QWERTY keyboard to make it easier to type out documents.  Much like the iPhone, the screen will change from portrait to landscape mode, depending on the orientation of the device.

Its ambient light sensor adjusts the display's brightness based on the light around it.  Its proximity sensor disables the keypad when the phone is held close to the user's face. And most importantly, the Pre's software is designed specifically for users who want to multitask.  Icons can be launched from the app screen or an application bar at the bottom of the display.

Even better, users can switch between applications by bringing up "cards" of the applications and flipping through them with the familiar "swipe" motion.  The Pre is a full-featured product.

Since there are a variety of BlackBerry devices on the market, it's difficult to compare one product to the Pre.  But it might be safe to say that the BlackBerry Storm is the Pre's closest competitor.  That device ditches the QWERTY keyboard in favor of a virtual keyboard.  The Storm has a touch-screen.  And it boasts a light sensor to adjust the display's brightness.  It also has an App store (a conspicuous omission in the Pre), as well as tethered modem capability and a high-res 480-by-360 display.  Plus, the Storm retails for $199-the same price as the Pre.

Which device has better features?  It seems like a dead heat.

Enterprise awareness

In the end, all these factors only matter so much to the enterprise.  RIM might offer more availability than the Pre.  And the Pre might have some nice features.  But which company is providing the product that would appeal most to the enterprise? Yep, you guessed it: RIM.

RIM delivers the best enterprise experience in the mobile industry.  Period.  With BlackBerry Enterprise Software, instant messaging built into each RIM product, and push e-mail, calendar and contacts, the BlackBerry is simply more powerful and more appealing to the business world.  And since companies can run applications from the BlackBerry App World on their BlackBerry devices, RIM is in good shape when we compare its enterprise appeal to the Pre.

The Pre doesn't have a standard app store, so users will be forced to access Web apps to expand its functionality.  It does have webOS, which allows users to sign in to Gmail, Facebook, and Exchange out of the box, helping them integrate contacts into a single list.  But it's the company's leaked release that provides the most evidence of Palm's snubbing of the enterprise.

According to Palm's Pre business launch guide, which found its way to the Web earlier this week, if business users require certain applications or "specific product features," they should opt for the Treo Pro instead of the Pre.

Take that for what it's worth, but I think we might have to believe Palm on this one: The Pre isn't ready for the enterprise.

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