Research in Motion (BlackBerry) vs. Palm

The ultimate corporate mobile showdown

Palm was the first to make a handheld computer practical, rather than a short-lived oddity. But Research in Motion, with its BlackBerry e-mail handheld, was the first to make it a necessity, as evidenced by the nickname given the device by its devoted users: "Crackberry."

RIM bored into the upper echelons of the white-collar professional market with an information service -- wireless push e-mail -- that these users found indispensable. Now, the Canadian company is working with a variety of form factors, including data-enabled smartphones, to push this success deeper and broader in the enterprise market and into the consumer market, where Palm has most of its success.

For the past year, after finally settling with patent nemesis NTP, RIM has been a revenue and profit machine, most recently for the second quarter of 2008 (ending September 1): quarterly revenues were US$1.37 billion, up 27 percent from the prior quarter (and more than double from a year ago), while net income was US$288 million compared with US$223 million for the prior period and US$140 million a year ago. A massive BlackBerry service outage earlier in 2007 apparently has had no affect on subscriber growth, revenue, profits or its reputation. But in the consumer market, RIM faces much larger rivals such as Motorola and Nokia, both of whom have acquired wireless push e-mail capabilities themselves.

By contrast, Palm's quarterly results at the end of June were US$401 million in revenue, and US$15.4 million net income. Its cutting edge image for device design took a blow with the ill-fated Foleo device, announced earlier in 2007 and confusedly explained as a "mobile companion" to a user's smartphone. It was scrapped before seeing daylight a few months later. Palm is now focused on recrafting its PalmOS around a Linux kernel, betting on the market projections that show Linux-based handhelds taking off worldwide.

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