With all kinds of internal and external problems mounting, Research In Motion (RIM) is looking to shore up loyalty among one of its core user groups: federal workers.
RIM, the maker of Blackberry smartphones, has been operating buses on Washington’s commuter “slug” routes — established pickup spots where motorists can pick up passengers to qualify for the speedy high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes. At these marketing events, BlackBerry lets riders play with new smartphones and ask them to urge their own information technology managers to upgrade. The campaign ends Friday.
The Pentagon is a key drop-off point. It is BlackBerry’s top customer with 250,000 subscriptions. Between the U.S. and Canada, BlackBerry has one million government users. A survey conducted in January found that 77 percent of Capitol Hill staffers use the device, but that number is down from 93 percent in 2009. Enthusiasm for the device is dwindling among federal executives as well.
RIM hopes new hardware and software will end a tailspin that has seen stock fall more than 80 percent over two years as the company struggles to compete in an Apple- and Android-dominated world.
The company’s software has one clear difference: All Blackberry emails are routed through an internal data center for security and reliability. That presents a single point of failure, as evidenced by the October 2011 “core switch failure” that took the worldwide network down for three days. But it also means peace of mind for backroom IT managers fearful of hackers, holes, and moles in the world at large.
Other Blackberry strengths are hardware keyboards, battery life, instant messaging, and efficiency in use of crowded cellular networks. But RIM’s OS just isn’t written for touch screens, so touch support reportedly feels “grafted on.”
—Sources: Nextgov.com, Fox News, Reuters, National Journal