RIM's BlackBerry no longer owns the enterprise space. But can it make up for it in the consumer market?

Research In Motion found success through its BlackBerry by tapping into the business world. Enterprises found the mobile devices invaluable, allowing their executives to be more connected than ever.

And for several years, no other company served up such a business-savvy mobile device.

But times are changing.

BlackBerry still boasts top-tier encryption security and email functionality. And it still has its famed Enterprise Server. There's little doubt most IT managers still prefer RIM's product to any competitors. Even so, though, the ubiquity is fading—and fast.

The Province interviewed nine of the largest U.S. companies, from general goods makers like Kraft Foods and PepsiCo to technology titans like Microsoft and Verizon, asking them whether they use BlackBerrys exclusively.

Five or six years ago, this probably would have been a clean sweep. But today? Just two of these companies—Boeing and Exxon Mobil—declared exclusivity with RIM. The rest have allowed their Berrys to mingle with Apple's iOS, Google's Android, and Microsoft's Windows Mobile (the latter to be expected, given that Microsoft was interviewed).

This is apt to be a long-term trend. As BlackBerry buckles beneath the weight of competition from iPhones and kin, consumers—who also happen to be employees of companies—will increase their demand to use non-RIM smartphones in their working lives. And will many companies argue? Likely not, especially if the employee is simply using his own phone. Potential security problems? Certainly. Less control maintained by the employer? Definitely. But they'll do it because it's a lot cheaper and a lot simpler.

So the Waterloo-based technology giant—who has, in recent times, diminished to something of merely a semi-giant—desperately needs to break into the consumer market. And I mean really break in. Like how Apple has millions wrapped around their finger. Remember when people used to call their devices "CrackBerrys" because they were so addicted to them? Those people are iPhone users now.

Consumers went to where the apps are. To where the fluid, large touchscreens are. To where the operating system, to quote Steve Jobs, "just works." Android, while suffering from major fragmentation, has also managed to appeal to the masses. RIM? Its stock isn't the only thing that's plunged in the past couple of years. Its reputation for building reliable, quality products with industry-leading technology and innovation has all but bitten the dust.

It's a longshot, but everyone loves a good comeback story.

Especially RIM.

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Research In Motion (RIM), a global leader in wireless innovation, revolutionized the mobile industry with the introduction of the BlackBerry solution in 1999. Since then, BlackBerry products and services have continued to change the way millions of people around the world stay connected. With the launch of BlackBerry 10, we have re-designed, re-engineered and re-invented BlackBerry. Not only... more

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Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton is the managing editor of Techvibes and author of Tempest Bound. Based in Vancouver, Knowlton has been published in national publications and has also appeared on television and radio. Previously he was an editor for New Westminster weekly The Other Press and served on its board of directors. When not working, Knowlton enjoys hiking, tennis, and martial arts. more

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