Blackberry Users Cling Tightly
But Iain Gillott, president of wireless consultancy iGillott Research, says that becuse around 60 percent of the Blackberry devices sold are bought by companies for their employees, the users themselves may not have the final say on whether or not to ditch RIM because of the legal worries.
"All it is going to take is a CEO emailing his IT department with a news story and saying, 'What are we doing to protect our 500 salespeople?' " Gillott tells Unstrung. "They'll start looking at the Microsoft platform or whatever."
The legal tussles and FUD-slinging are still going strong between the two companies. NTP is asking for $126 million for past infringement, and the stoppage of the Blackberry service or royalties that could approach $1 billion dollars, according to Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.
Meanwhile, noting that NTP's case has weakened with the preliminary rejection of several of its patent claims by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, RIM is seeking a new trial or readjustment of the royalty rate.
The firm tells the Associated Press that its U.S. service is so critical that a court-ordered shutdown of service could threaten public safety and business productivity. But iGillott says that all of this is only a small -- if growing -- concern to the legions of devoted Blackberry fans, who pay between $75 and $100 a month for the service, are approaching middle age, and typically work as a lawyer, or in the financial sector, IT, or management.
The research firm surveyed 803 Blackberry users in North America in November 2005 and found that the loyalty level of users is "very high" with most saying that they would purchase another Blackberry, although employers tend to be ones buying the devices for the users.
"The main driver of loyalty to the Blackberry experience is the email service itself," says Gillott in the report. This, he concludes, could allow other vendors to get in on the market if they produce better devices that can run the Blackberry email software. But that would put users at risk if the email service were shut down.
Generally, RIM end-users have weathered the legal storm surrounding the Blackberry service. "The service outages Blackberry experienced in the summer had little effect on the user base," says Gillott, although he notes that it did make users aware that their Blackberry service is not infallable.
"This has made the NTP case more of a concern," he says. "But I still think its more of a wait-and-see issue than an immediate concern."
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung