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Report: Good nabs some RIM customers

Handheld-software maker Good Technology is gaining some ground on rival Research In Motion by winning RIM subscribers over to its service, a research note says.

Handheld-software maker Good Technology is gaining some ground on rival Research In Motion by winning RIM subscribers over to its service, according to a research note from investment firm SG Cowen.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Good's software, GoodLink, competes with RIM's BlackBerry products, offering similar e-mail synchronization between a handheld device and a PC. GoodLink can be run on Good's G100 devices--which became widely available in December through a deal with Cingular Wireless--and can also replace RIM software on popular BlackBerry 950 and 957 devices.

"While we believe Good subscriber numbers are still at an emerging stage, there is increasing evidence of market acceptance, and Good is likely to be a growing threat for RIM pricing and subscriber growth," SG Cowen analyst Robert Stone wrote in a research note released Thursday.

Good is a privately held company. Stone does not own shares in RIM, but SG Cowen has done investment banking business for Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM.

RIM did not immediately return calls for comment on Stone's note.

RIM had 463,000 BlackBerry subscribers as of Nov. 30, 2002, according to company figures, and expects to add another 60,000 to 70,000 subscribers in the current quarter. Good Technology would not give out subscriber numbers but counts 450 companies as customers, compared with RIM's 8,500 corporate customers.

Stone added that Good is not likely to pose a serious immediate threat to RIM, but with more product introductions this year, Good's longer-term threat could grow. Good's software and service is currently available only through Cingular's Mobitex wireless data network. Good has been trying to expand the reach of its software through partnerships. Recent deals have involved PalmSource and Microsoft, for its Pocket PC OS.

Good is also working to announce in the first half of this year that its software will be compatible with 2.5G networks from new cellular carrier partners, according to Andrea Cook Fleming, vice president of marketing at Good.

The first Palm OS-based devices using GoodLink will be available in the first half as well, and Pocket PC-based devices with GoodLink will be available in the second half, Cook Fleming said.

While Good has developed a hardware device, the company aims to be strictly a software and services company with hardware customers and partners.

Stone's research note is likely to be fodder for a legal battle RIM is waging against Good for patent infringement, unfair competition, false advertising, trademark infringement and trademark dilution.

RIM has been very protective of its patents, also suing handheld maker Handspring for infringing on a keyboard patent. Handspring later managed to settle the case by licensing RIM's keyboard patents. Other media reports said RIM and Handspring were working to make Handspring products compatible with RIM's software.

During Handspring's second-quarter fiscal 2003 earnings call Thursday, Chief Operating Officer Ed Colligan clarified the Handspring and RIM relationship.

"We talked with a wide range of solution providers...my comments were very speculative and they were related to: Sure there is an interest with working with RIM and there is an interest on both sides, but we have nothing definitive to announce and we have no working relationship today," Colligan said.

At the end of last year, a jury decided that RIM infringed on patents and ordered it to pay $23 million to holding company NTP. RIM is appealing the decision and said Tuesday that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is re-examining five of the patents owned by NTP.