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Dell replacing employee BlackBerrys with its own phone

All 25,000 BlackBerry-carrying staff members will get Dell's new Windows 7 Phone-based Venue Pro smartphone. Dell may roll out a service to help other companies do the same thing.

Dell will hand out its Venue Pro to its employees who currently carry BlackBerrys.
Dell will hand out its Venue Pro to its employees who currently carry BlackBerrys. Bonnie Cha/CNET

Dell is looking to market its own smartphone as an alternative to the BlackBerry and is starting the push with its own employees.

The PC maker will give its BlackBerry-carrying employees new Venue Pro smartphones in return for their existing phones. The transition is expected to save the company around 25 percent in mobile communications costs, mostly by getting rid of its BlackBerry servers, Dell's chief financial officer Brian Gladden told The Wall Street Journal.

The 25,000 employees who currently have BlackBerrys will receive Venue Pro phones with both voice and data plans; remaining employees (about 71,000) will also get Dell phones but only with voice plans.

Dell spokesman David Frink confirmed to CNET that this program will start shortly and take several months to complete.

Running Windows Phone 7, the Venue Pro will be the first phone provided internally, but Dell will eventually offer its employees Android phones as well, according to Gladden. Dell just hit the U.S. market with the launch of its first smartphone, the Android-based Aero.

"Clearly in this decision we are competing with RIM, because we're kicking them out," Gladden told the Journal.

The internal move also opens the door for a new service that will try to convince other businesses to switch off their current smartphones in favor of a Dell device. According to the Journal, the company will start marketing this service to business customers within the next couple of weeks. Dell couldn't provide CNET with any details on this new service, but a company spokeswoman said that "obviously we believe over time we can demonstrate the value and benefits of Dell smartphones to our commercial customers."

The move is part of Dell's overall strategy to carve off a bigger slice of the business smartphone market, particularly against Research In Motion. Dell is also eyeing the new service as a entry point to sell its customers more than just low-margin phones. The company is aiming to set up networks and manage assets as part of an overall wireless package, Gladden told the Journal.

"I'm not sure I care as much about the devices as the services," Gladden said in his Journal interview. "There's a services opportunity that we think is even bigger."