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Commentary: Planting BlackBerry in Europe

Research In Motion plans to bring voice capability to its BlackBerry e-mail pager, but the reality of a successful data-voice hybrid device will be elusive.

    By Peter Richardson, Nigel Deighton and Robert Egan, Gartner analysts

    Despite Research In Motion's plan to bring voice capability to its BlackBerry e-mail pager, Gartner believes the reality of a successful data-voice hybrid device will be elusive.

    And this data-voice convergence issue won't change any time soon. With today's technology, the combination of voice and PDA functions always leads to a compromise.

    The potential problems facing RIM's voice-capable e-mail pager in Europe vary. First, the Palm V-sized pager to which RIM plans to add voice capability is unfashionably large for users to attach to their waists, leaving the less desirable briefcase or pocket as places to store it. RIM has a smaller pager, but it would not have been a suitable device either, because it looks too much like a pager, and Gartner believes paging has fallen out of fashion in Europe.

    In addition, the device doesn't have a speaker and thus can be used only with a plug-in headphone, something that all users may not accept. Gartner believes that phone-savvy Europeans will have little patience for fishing around for the ringing device in their jacket pockets or briefcases and then plugging in the headset to take the call.

    Although Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM will have some success selling into the corporate market in Europe, Gartner believes adoption by consumers and widespread appeal will be difficult to achieve. For the European consumer, a device must be fashionable and fun--otherwise, it doesn't sell. In Gartner's opinion, Ericsson was late to recognize the importance of fashion, and this was one of the primary causes of its handset business woes. What's more, Europe represents cultural and language challenges that have tripped up many North American companies. RIM must account for such factors in its international strategy.

    See news story:
    RIM to give BlackBerry a voice
    However, RIM's contract to supply BT Cellnet has enabled RIM to develop a GPRS-compatible terminal. GPRS is the new, "always-on" packet-bearer service of GSM networks, and GSM is the world's most successful digital cellular standard. By working with BT Cellnet, RIM has opened the door to a global market.

    In summary, Gartner believes that a voice-enabled BlackBerry GPRS e-mail pager represents a device moving away from its original purpose. RIM's hybrid has a chance in the corporate market, but only if its voice quality equals that of established GSM phones from companies such as Nokia and Motorola. If RIM is to penetrate the consumer market, it must package its newly found GPRS knowledge into exciting and fashionable devices.

    (For related commentary on BlackBerry, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

    Entire contents, Copyright ? 2001 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.