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Motorola turns up the heat on RIM

Motorola takes on RIM with a new business-friendly Google Android smartphone on Sprint Nextel's network.

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse and Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha show off two new devices as part of their renewed partnership in New York City. Bonnie Cha/CNET

NEW YORK CITY--Sprint Nextel's renewed partnership with handset maker Motorola could be yet another blow to BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, as the company struggles to remain relevant among a flood of new products from competitors.

Today, Motorola announced the new Photon 4G, a high-end smartphone sporting the latest and greatest Google Android software and packed with a slew of new security features that could make it an attractive BlackBerry killer for Sprint customers.

"Our enterprise customers definitely have more choices now," said David Owens, a product development executive at Sprint. "Motorola and really all the Android players are putting pressure on RIM. But the Photon 4G in particular has a lot of great enterprise security features like remote wipe and VPN support that business customers will really like."

RIM made a name for itself over the past decade doing mobile e-mail better than anyone else. CIOs and IT departments trusted the reliability and security of the BlackBerry devices and the BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

But RIM has not kept up with its competitors in terms of new devices and features. And as a result, the company's market share has plummeted over the past several quarters. A recent survey by ComScore had the company slip to third place in terms of smartphones behind Apple and Google Android.

And even though the company says that it's on the comeback trail with several new handsets in the works, the company isn't moving quickly enough.

According to a report from Reuters today, analysts at Citigroup downgraded the company's stock, stating they were concerned that RIM hasn't certified its new handset models with any major carriers yet nor has the company begun mass production of new handsets. Reuters also reported that another financial firm, Susquehanna Financial, believes that RIM's new BlackBerry Bold 9900/9300 based on OS7 could be further delayed until September.

A lack of new and interesting handsets has sent many consumers looking elsewhere.

And Motorola has been positioning itself as the company to fill the void, satisfying consumers' needs to have a cool, fully functioning Android smartphone complete with thousands of apps and other Web-enabled functions such as search and navigation. But it's also added extra layers of enterprise security and access to business applications that also make it an appealing device to use for business.

"Sixty percent of what ends up in the enterprise is bought by a consumer," Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha said in an interview after the press conference here today. "So it's really the consumer that takes these phones into work with them. We see this consumerization trend continuing, and we're ready to capitalize on it."

Specifically, Motorola has added security features like remote wipe and VPN support. It's also added other features that make its devices easy to use for people who want a phone for work and play.

For example, the Photon 4G is also a world phone with support for CDMA and GSM technologies. This means it can still appeal to the frequent work traveler. Like the Motorola Atrix developed for AT&T, the Photon 4G also can connect into an accessory dock so that you can open, view, edit, and send Microsoft Office documents using a Web app through a browser.

In addition to all its "work" features, the Photon 4G also sports a dual-core processor, an 8-megapixel camera with dual LED flash, a front-facing VGA camera, and a 4.3 inch touch screen. And it runs the latest generation of Google Android software. The phone can also be used as a 3G/4G hot spot and can connect up to eight devices using Wi-Fi.

Sprint in particular has a large customer base of corporate customers. And until now Motorola hasn't played a major role in the company's device portfolio. In fact, the Photon 4G is the first Google Android device that Motorola has offered on Sprint.

But now that Motorola's biggest carrier partner, Verizon Wireless, has begun selling the Apple iPhone, it's also branching out with new partnerships.

As a result, Motorola's move into Sprint with a business-friendly device like the Motorola Photon 4G could increase the pressure on RIM.

"RIM is really taking it from all corners right now," said Ross Rubin, an analyst with NPD Group. "All the Android phones are really competing with RIM. But Motorola, in particular, is well-positioned with its security features to compete more aggressively with BlackBerry in the enterprise."