Business iPhones increase on employee pleas

By Chelsea Emery – Analysis

NEW YORK (BestGrowthStock) – BlackBerry smartphones are firmly attached to the belt loops of most business travelers, but there are signs Apple’s trendy iPhone is making inroads into board rooms and offices.

Drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L: ) has begun iPhone trials with some senior executives and British bank Standard Chartered has given its corporate BlackBerry users the option of switching to the iPhone, a move that could result in thousands of bankers switching to the Apple device for business on the go.

“We get a lot of requests for support in the United States and Asia Pacific for the iPhone,” said Michael Reid AstraZeneca’s mobility architect, who helps oversee company business communications. “In terms of consuming my time, that’s one of the most dominant requests.”

The demands became particularly fervent in late December, after many employees received iPhones as holiday gifts.

“We had a pretty mad scramble,” said Reid.

BlackBerry remains dominant. Technology experts cite the handheld’s tight security features and the ease of coordinating its “rock-solid” applications, such as mail and calendars.

BlackBerry shipments outpaced those of iPhone by 20 percent in the first quarter of this year, according to researcher iSupply Corp.

“We’re not currently considering switching to iPhones primarily because BlackBerry provides us a great deal more control and management of the individual devices with a centralized server,” John Tipton, the head of information technology for data firm Morningstar Inc (MORN.O: ), said in an email. “That said, we know we’re going to see more and more iPhones.”

A Research in Motion spokeswoman said the company could not comment, citing the “quiet period” before its earnings release, but cited previously released statistics showing the company has shipped more than 90 million BlackBerry smartphones and its subscriber base rose 65 percent in fiscal 2010, according to the company.

An Apple spokeswoman noted comments by Apple’s Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer in January that more than 70 percent of Fortune 100 companies are either deploying or piloting the iPhone. Some 50 million iPhones have been sold, according to the company.

BLACKBERRY DOMINANCE

Company tech specialists insist the iPhone will never supplant BlackBerry entirely.

“BlackBerry is still a very big, dominant device in financial services and within most of the professions we cater to,” said James Powell, chief technology officer for information and news provider Thomson Reuters Corp (TRI.TO: ). “I think you’d be crazy to talk about replacing all BlackBerrys.”

Users also praise the device’s “intense” security, which protects data from falling into the wrong hands, and they cite the ease of coordinating Outlook emails and calendars with workplace desk computers.

But the iPhone’s thousands of applications, plus phone service, make it quite popular for users who do not want to carry more than one device.

“The applications have changed the game,” said Mitchel Friedman, senior vice president for RCS Real Estate Advisors.

RCS’s tech specialist has already integrated one iPhone after an executive’s request and Friedman expected more to follow.

“It’s easier to have one standard system, but in our microcosm, the iPhone is starting to creep in,” said Friedman.

WHITE HOT

Thomson Reuters, along with AstraZeneca, is testing iPhones for possible corporate use after employees said they did not want to carry two devices and examining rules that might be needed to control or direct their use.

Ken Dulaney, an analyst for research firm Gartner, said he is getting five calls a week from companies looking for advice on integrating the iPhone into their networks. That is up from one call every two weeks, about 18 months ago, he said. He added that the calls are pouring in because company employees are begging to integrate their new Apple smartphones.

Interest is “white hot,” said Dulaney.

“If the IT shops had their way, they would just have BlackBerry, but they don’t have the power any more. The end user has the power,” he added.

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(Reporting by Chelsea Emery; editing by Andre Grenon)

Business iPhones increase on employee pleas