RIM Targeting Consumers with Storm? Perhaps Not

It seems common thought on BlackBerry blogs and forums that Research In Motion's (RIM) newest baby, the BlackBerry Storm 9530, is their big splash into the consumer market. Sure, they've made attempts before with the BlackBerry Pearl and the BlackBerry Curve, but neither seemed like such a blatant appeal to the non-enterprise user.

Maybe it's because the phone appears so similar to the iPhone, Apple's powerhouse that is said to be stealing RIM's business. However, after thinking about this a bit more, I'm not so sure that the consumer is atop RIM's thinking on the Storm.

Word of the touchscreen BlackBerry broke in May, just after RIM officially announced the Bold at its WES conference. The mood was jovial down in Orlando to begin with, and this only added to it. Better yet, Boy Genius Report, the outlet which carried the scoop, also informed us that this would be an exclusive on Verizon, America's largest CDMA carrier.

This marked a change of direction for RIM, which had previously catered new device to the far more widely-used GSM market first. So not only would it compete with the iPhone on two levels: touch screen and similarity in design and the ability operate on the network of AT&T's biggest rival.

My first thought at the time, and I'm sure it was the first thought of most, was that the Thunder - then the working name - would jettison RIM into the consumer market. They'd been trying to attain a better ratio of enterprise users to consumers, as evidenced by the aforementioned Curve and Pearl.

To an extent, they'd succeeded, too. I've heard quotes of 60 percent enterprise, 40 percent consumers for RIM devices now—though I've also heard two-thirds, one-third as well. Either way, it is clear that RIM's strength remains in enterprise.

In an earlier article, I noted that the iPhone and the BlackBerry can peacefully coexist. RIM handles enterprise better than anyone in the business, and Apple delivers what consumers crave. They've both spilled over a bit, but not enough to cause any real damage to the main strength of the other. This, of course, was before the Storm rumors started swirling.

So now that we know that the device will be released in November, should we change our assessment of the battle?

Upon much consideration, I don't think so.

The Storm might appeal to consumers, but I think there's a big draw with business users. In fact, I think that might have been one the main reasons RIM designed the Storm in the first place.

Many large companies only allow certain devices to run on their enterprise network. I have a friend who works for a consulting company which only allows their employees to use Windows Mobile and BlackBerry devices.

The iPhone is right out. Yet, plenty of people who work for the company want an iPhone. In a month or so, RIM will deliver a potential remedy.

No, the Storm won't be the iPhone. Nothing will.

However, it does present a viable alternative to business users who can't turn to Apple's device. It will still have consumer appeal, especially to loyal Verizon users, but RIM will certainly play up to the business crowd with this one, as it always does.

The only question remaining is of whether the Storm will live up to the hype.