DALLAS BUSINESS JOURNAL: MAKING THE SWITCH

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‘CRACKBERRY’ ADDICTION IS ON THE WANE AS MOBILE MARKET WARS HEAT UP

For a microcosm of the troubles that Research in Motion Ltd. is having keeping customers, look no further than Amish Gupta.

The chief operating officer of Plano-based Real Estate Tax Consultants, a 20-employee property tax consultancy, Gupta had used BlackBerry smartphones since he got out of business school in 2007.

At least until July of this year. That’s when he switched to an iPhone 4S.

“The biggest concern I had is that I’m not a technology guy,” he said. “To me, it’s a hassle to learn a new interface. I didn’t want to deal with transferring contacts and email. (But) it was simple and easy. That was really nice.”

In untold numbers worldwide, many people over the last five years have followed the path that Gupta went down. RIM, a Canadian company with its United States base in Irving, has seen its market share slide dramatically over the past few years, with its lunch money getting picked off principally by two rivals, Apple and Samsung Electronics (whose U.S. mobile phone arm is based in Richardson). A RIM spokeswoman said the company does not break out employment numbers at the Irving facility, which does work in research and development and a variety of “corporate support functions.”

As recently as 2008, RIM’s share of sales to end users in the smartphone market was 50.7 percent, according to market researcher Gartner. By the first quarter of this year, it had fallen to 5.4 percent, Gartner data show.

“More than hardware features, BlackBerry suffers from a lack of compelling software applications and multimedia content, due to lack of support from the developer community,” said Jennifer Kent, research analyst at the Dallas-based market research firm Parks Associates. “While RIM offers some great business and productivity apps, the consumer market for smartphones is much larger than the enterprise market, and thus most application developers focus on the iPhone first, then the leading Android handsets before spending the time and resources to develop compelling content for BlackBerry. This means consumers can do less with their phones.”

In response, a RIM spokeswoman said via email that the company has seen an increase of 220 percent in BlackBerry applications, to 89,000, compared with a year ago. She also pointed to a July blog by a RIM executive, Alec Saunders, who said that in the past year, RIM’s application vendor base has grown 157 percent.

APPS MATTER

Indeed for Gupta, a big factor in ditching RIM for Apple was the ability to use Internet and software applications. The bottom line, in his view: the iPhone allows for quick and easy surfing of the Web and application use, whereas the BlackBerry does not.

The BlackBerry did have its pluses, including the speed with which emails are delivered, simplicity of use and a keyboard. But Gupta has found most of those benefits also exist in the iPhone 4S. He concedes that typing on his new phone “requires some getting used to.”

But while more RIM customers have arguably gone the Amish Gupta route and switched, there are some hardcore BlackBerry users out there.

Landon Smith is among them. Smith, founder and managing partner of Dallas-based Riveron Consulting, has been using BlackBerrys since 2006. “I’m completely addicted to it,” he said. “I haven’t been able to convert at all to the iPhone.”

For Smith, the BlackBerry Pearl 9100 is just right. It’s small and fist in a pocket, making it easy to carry around both at work and at home.

But the device gives him access to his list of contacts, calendar, texting and phone.

Smith concedes that he will likely switch to an iPhone at some point. But with Research in Motion’s well-documented troubles front of mind, he’s bought three or four back-up BlackBerrys and batteries.

“I’m stored up for winter,” he said.