mmo2 takes Blackberry into SME market

Colour me Beautiful

Two months after RIM announced its colour Blackberry email-phone, the distributor which has sold most samples has finally taken it on board. Is this the breakthrough RIM has struggled to achieve?

Blackberry means pocket email - almost exclusively. The trouble is, it only meant pocket email to members of large corporations.

At last, however, a "personal" Blackberry is planned, aimed at the personal and SME markets, and the new colour Blackberry will be the platform that carries it. It's a tri-band phone, so will work in the US too.

The announcement by mm02 that the Blackberry 7230 was now available from the Ireland, UK and German phone network provider may be a final cast of the dice in RIM's attempt to break into non-US markets.

The Blackberry has had a loyal following in the US and Canadian markets for several years, because it was the only "two-way pager" available in the days before GSM phones arrived on the North American continent. But in Europe, where people have had SMS and GPRS for some time, portable email was not sufficient incentive to throw away their ordinary cellphone.

The new Blackberry does, at last, take phone calls, and it has a full colour screen, and it has, at last, been taken on by other network providers like T-Mobile - but sales are way behind figures achieved by rival "smartphone" designs.

Officially, O2 has claimed sales of 32,000 devices in its three territories, to 1,200 organisations. That's a very unimpressive figure, especially when you consider RIM's off-the-record admission that O2 presents a substantial majority of European sales, even though it only covered three countries. And few in the trade actually believe these 1,200 corporations are paying full price for their Blackberries, either, expressing the opinion that they are "mostly evaluation units."

"What we will be doing is bringing a package out for the SME and prosumer, from November," said O2's publicity office. "The normal Blackberry service requires you to have a special corporate server; when that new package comes out, you won't need a server."

Instead, the new SME Blackberry will handle personal POP3 emails. "Cost per month will be down quite a lot; and will be available in stores," said the company publicity department.

But before the SME Blackberry debuts, there is a rival coming - also from O2 - the Microsoft-based smartphone PDA, the XDA2. That will have Bluetooth, and will ship "within a month" said sources inside O2.

The XDA is estimated to have more than matched Blackberry sales from O2.

For the moment, O2 is beating the RIM drum: "O2 recently completed a customer trial of the BlackBerry 7230 - it recorded the highest satisfaction rating of any mobile data service, with particularly high ratings for mobile email access and SMS functionality," stated the press release. Bafflingly, it added: "More than 95% of trialists stated that they had demonstrated their BlackBerry handheld to friends or family."

For the moment, there are no plans inside O2 for the launch of a standard smartphone to rival Orange's Treo 600 or SPV models. "We see the XDA2 as our entry in that market," confirmed the publicity department.

The new BlackBerry 7230TM for enterprise customers is now available in the UK and Germany. Pricing as follows:

UK £239, network charge from £28/month [minimum contract 12 months] Germany €249, network charge from €30/month [minimum contract 12 months] Ireland To be confirmed.

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