Citigroup and Bank of America defecting from BlackBerry?

It’s not a great start to the weekend for the folks at RIM. Things didn’t start well this morning, what with losing Dell’s 25,000 employee users to the Windows Phone 7 Venue Pro. And now news is breaking that Bank of America and Citigroup corporate employees may also be jumping ship and heading for the iPhone.

The primary reason both companies have remained with BlackBerry has been the smartphone’s security and convenient e-mail features, and skeptism about how the iPhone compared. But with increasingly comparable security settings and full support of Microsoft Exchange, the Apple product is becoming a worthy adversary.

And these aren’t just reported mumblings about the switch, the banking groups are in full on testing mode with the iPhone (and rumored to also be looking at Android). Bloomberg News references a few of the companies’ employees who say they are looking at software for iPhone and Android that keeps all messaging secure, and that the move isn’t to replace BlackBerry but to allow more options.

So just how many users would that cause RIM to lose? It does depend how many actually prefer the iPhone (and some will definitely favor the BlackBerry’s physical keyboard), but together the companies employ 542,000 people.

RIM continues to protest its success in the industry, but it’s had a few setbacks. It’s been argued where its US market presence stands, but it globally has been knocked into fifth by Apple’s claim on the fourth highest selling seat. It’s also been consistently harped on for its lack of apps – about 90,000 less than the Android Market, and 150,000 less than the App Store.

RIM has traditionally been the go-to phone for the corporate world, and in its infancy, the iPhone was marketed for the casual consumer. But it seems like Apple is tapping that market, and doing so successfully with heightened encryption capabilities. “People are delighted with the iPhones and Android phones and they want to use them for work. The result is RIM now has real competition for corporate customers,” said head of telecom research at Nielsen Co, Roger Entner.

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