BlackBerry maker Research in Motion has announced its first touch-screen smartphone: a 3G device called Storm, which will launch in November 2008 across the US and Europe. The phone is aimed at the consumer sector, but Datamonitor believes that it holds particular appeal for the small and medium enterprise market and will boost Research in Motion’s market share in this area.
Research in Motion (RIM) recently announced its first touch-screen smartphone, the Storm, in a bid to rival Apple’s iPhone in the consumer market. Whether the Storm will be successful in luring customers away from the wildly popular iPhone remains to be seen; however, Datamonitor believes that the Storm is particularly well positioned to capture users at small and medium enterprises (SMEs), both in the US and Europe, and is thus likely to increase RIM’s share in the SME market.
The BlackBerry Storm is a 3G smartphone that features multimedia functions, with a tactile touch screen that works much like a miniaturized QWERTY keyboard. Verizon will be the sole carrier of the Storm in the US when the device launches next month, while Vodafone will market it in Europe. Vodafone is expected to offer the Storm for free with a two-year contract of $61 a month or more, while Verizon has not yet disclosed its pricing. Last summer, Vodafone prompted the development of the Storm by persuading RIM to conceptualize a touch-screen phone for the consumer market.
The Storm has much competition in the consumer space, where RIM hopes it will make an impact, but Datamonitor believes it is uniquely positioned in the SME market. Apple has primarily presented the iPhone as a communications and multimedia device for consumers, rather than as a smartphone for businesses. The Storm, on the other hand, has the inherent advantage of being a BlackBerry, the most ubiquitous smartphone among business users. RIM already makes consumer versions of the BlackBerry, such as its Pearl and Curve models; however, the majority of US and European business users of all sizes associate the BlackBerry brand with business-ready smartphones, unlike the consumer-oriented iPhone. Datamonitor believes the BlackBerry brand equates to business-level security and functionality in the minds of most professional users. The Storm is also RIM’s first touch-screen device, which gives SME workers looking to adopt popular touch-screen technology a business-facing alternative to the iPhone.
Employees at SMEs, which Datamonitor defines as enterprises with 5,000 employees or fewer, are the most likely business consumers of smartphones due to the large numbers of prosumers (consumers who use their personal device for work) in this segment. SMEs are more likely to grant their employees a mobile phone allowance than provide them with a device, unlike larger enterprises that may have a bigger mobile communications budget.
The Storm includes features that will be recognizable to business users: it creates a familiar clicking sound when the screen is touched with adequate pressure, and includes cut-and-paste functionality, which is not yet available on the iPhone. However, the Storm does not have WiFi, while the iPhone and other touch-screen smartphones do. Otherwise, the Storm has all the expected consumer smartphone features, including an MP3 player, GPS and a 3.2-megapixel camera.
Apple has sold an estimated six million 3G iPhones since it launched the device in June 2008. Its popularity spurred the ‘iPhone effect’ that led to many prosumers who previously did not consider investing in a work device realizing the value that smartphones can offer. While Datamonitor believes the Storm will boost RIM’s SME market share, it does not project RIM’s share of the touch-screen smartphone market to overtake that of Apple. The Storm also faces competition from other rival touch-screen smartphones, such as T-Mobile’s Google Android G1, Nokia’s 5800, Samsung’s Omnia, HTC’s Touch Diamond and Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X1.
Nevertheless, the Storm retains the advantage of its BlackBerry branding, which positions it as a professional tool from the perspective of potential buyers. As a result, for business users looking for a single touch-screen device for all their communications and multimedia needs, the Storm presents a uniquely attractive proposition.