Five Reasons RIM BlackBerry Will Continue to Dominate Corporate Customers

Last Updated Apr 28, 2010 2:11 PM EDT

RIM's (RIM) new operating system for its Blackberry phones met largely with "Who cares?" reactions. After all, the company was barely catching up in terms of user-experience to a better place where competitors Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) have been for some time. Bu smart marketing means doing what works for your particular market -- not what pundits like. RIM's strategy lets it look at what competitors do and then bring winning features into its products in time to keep corporate users happy. Here are five reasons why RIM's strategy is smart.

1) The Traditional Consumer Market Is Secondary

Many who cover the mobile industry assume it's all about consumers. Yet there are multiple market segments for handset vendors, including consumers, corporate executives, small- and medium-sized businesses, and those who need ruggedized devices with two-way radios. Has RIM included consumer features in BlackBerry OS 6.0? Sure. Nevertheless, RIM is the antithesis of Apple. Instead of focusing on consumers and then adding enticements for business users, RIM first and foremost wants to please the enterprise customer. If the company can attract consumers, that's great. But more important is to remember that corporate users are also consumers.

What RIM did was to add just enough features to keep prevent corporate-user defections. You can point to the company's dropping share of the North American smartphone market, but I think the active factor there is that the market is growing rapidly beyond RIM's customer focus.

2) RIM's Timing Is Perfect

From one point of view, RIM has been terribly late in addressing its consumer feature lag. However, I think the company has been smart in its timing. Referring back to the previous point for a moment, RIM needed to add features that consumers would want. It waited until Android handset sales started to surge. That was proof of broader and growing market acceptance, and so RIM followed in a timely manner. Furthermore, RIM is releasing product in Q3 -- soon enough that it will help to stall some iPhone 4.0 sales, and before major corporate-focused competitor Microsoft (MSFT) sees Windows Phone 7 handsets on the market. Well played.

3) RIM Expands Its Corporate Target Market

Any company has to keep aware of market demographics, and that's what RIM is trying to do with the BlackBerry. Look at the company's video below and notice the sequence of scenes.

First up is a young professional, maybe in her 20s, buying a business suit. Second, we see a man in his early to mid 30s in an office. Last is the student who seems to be in a high school. Clearly the company hopes to expand to a younger demographic, though using the Black Eyed Peas song "Boom Boom Pow" with the lyric, "I'm so three-thousand-and-eight; you're so two-thousand-and-late," was probably not the best choice, as RIM is the one that is late. But, still, an important addition, recognizing that the important people in companies are not always older managers at the top.

4) Big New Feature for the Enterprise

Although not specifically part of the OS, an important additional point for RIM's traditional market is the addition of the company's mobile voice system. As Larry Dignan at our sister site ZDNet puts it:
In a nutshell, MVS does for the corporate PBX what BlackBerry Enterprise Server does for email. PBX stands for Private Branch eXchange, which is an in-house telephone switching system that interconnects telephone extensions to each other as well as to the outside network. RIM's latest MVS 5.0 plugs into Cisco IP-based PBX systems and now allows third parties to develop applications for it.
In short, a BlackBerry now bridges mobile communications and normal corporate phone networks, so you keep calls, integrate communications, and save time.

5) New BlackBerrys Will Be an Invitation to the Upgrade

All of the above will turn RIM's new handsets and operating system into an upgrade magnet for large corporate customers. New interfaces, combined with enhanced integration of mobile and corporate communications, will make it a natural choice and likely boost unit sales. Headway might help push off Microsoft, which will have the old Windows Mobile on one hand and a Windows Phone 7 not yet out on the other. I doubt that RIM will gain market share, simply because the potential market is growing beyond the corporate segment target. But it's a smart strategic choice for the company's niche.
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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.