Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/09/17/yahoo_free_smartphones/

Yahoo! ditches! BlackBerry! for! 'smart! fun!' phones!

RIM's platform not smart enough to give away

By Neil McAllister

Posted in Mobile, 17th September 2012 19:36 GMT

Updated Apparently, new Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer doesn't think BlackBerrys count as smartphones: she has launched a program to give a free smartphone to every employee, but handsets from Research in Motion (RIM) didn't make the cut.

"Ideally, we'd like our employees to have devices similar to our users, so we can think and work as the majority of our users do," the former Googler said in a memo leaked to Business Insider.

To that end, Mayer has kicked off a program called "Yahoo! Smart Phones, Smart Fun," through which every full-time and part-time employee of the web firm will be given a smartphone of their choosing from a short list of available devices.

Staffers can choose an Android, iOS, or Windows Phone handset – but according to Mayer's memo, they can forget about BlackBerry.

"As of today, Yahoo is moving off of blackberries as our corporate phones and on to smartphones in 22 countries," Mayer wrote – implying that RIM handsets were a little too "dumb" for her tastes.

The mobiles on offer include Apple's recently launched iPhone 5, the HTC One X, the HTC EVO 4G LTE, and Nokia's make-or-break Lumia 920 running Windows Phone 8.

According to the memo, Yahoo! will "provide monthly plans for the data and phone," which suggests that staffers will at least be billed for their service at a discounted rate, if the company does not pay for it outright.

Yahoo! currently has around 12,500 employees, so fully subsidizing phone and data service for its entire staff would probably set it back something like $15m per year – small potatoes for a company that brings in billions in revenue.

Clearly, Mayer sees employee freebies as one way to retain staff after a series of tough quarters for the struggling web firm. In August, she gave the go-ahead to start offering free food to staff at Yahoo!'s Sunnyvale and New York offices, in a move that echoed a longstanding program at Google's Mountain View campus.

As for why BlackBerry handsets were left out of Yahoo!'s free smartphone program, however, Mayer's memo includes a fairly damning observation: RIM's platform just isn't used as much by business customers as it once was.

"A few weeks ago, we said that we would look into smartphone penetration rates globally and take those rates into account when deciding on corporate phones," Mayer wrote.

Yahoo!'s conclusions were merely the latest knock for struggling RIM, which has been forced to defend itself against investor allegations that it is in a "death spiral," having been outpaced by both Apple and Google's Android OS.

RIM is readying a new line of devices based on its forthcoming BlackBerry 10 OS, but manufacturing delays have pushed the launch of the new platform into 2013. That'll be too late for Mayer, who is eager to put Yahoo!'s free smartphone program into action.

"We're getting started right away and taking orders starting now," she wrote. ®

Update

A Research in Motion rep responded to El Reg's request for comment with the following statement:

BlackBerry provides a compelling and powerful mobile experience to more than 78 million people of action around the world – more than 6 million of whom are regular Yahoo! users. With BlackBerry 10, we are setting a new standard for what's possible and look forward to sharing that with Yahoo!. In the meantime, we will continue to serve the thousands of Yahoo! employees who use BlackBerry every day.