What makes them powerful: They don't call it "CrackBerry" for nothing. Research In Motion's signature BlackBerry devices remain must-have accessories across the enterprise segment, a lifeline to the office desktop for millions of executives in all walks of industry--checking, receiving and sending email via wireless handset are not only compulsory behaviors for BlackBerry (ab)users, but they continue to underscore the critical value of mobile data in a way most other applications have so far failed to do. In early September, research firm IDC reported that BlackBerry devices presently account for nearly 54 percent of overall U.S. smartphone sales, but co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie are now transitioning RIM into the next phase of its existence: With Apple's iPhone actively courting the enterprise demographic with the addition of Microsoft Exchange-based email and related business tools, RIM is fighting back by repositioning the BlackBerry portfolio for the consumer market, a move heralded by a series of new content and services partnerships that illustrate the true scope of the firm's vision for smartphone dominance.
So far, Lazaridis and Balsillie are making far greater inroads into the consumer space than their opponents are making into the enterprise. BlackBerry users may now watch their favorite shows via MobiTV, purchase their favorite songs from mobile music store Puretracks and post comments and photos to social networking sites including Facebook and MySpace. During his keynote appearance at September's CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment conference in San Francisco, Balsillie also announced an agreement with digital video recording solutions provider TiVo to introduce BlackBerry-customized TiVo services as well as a deal with concert ticketing provider TicketMaster. "We're now seeing a convergence of the four screens--your cell phone, your home phone, your home Internet and your home content," Balsillie said during his CTIA presentation, making it clear that RIM plans to establish a beachhead at the nexus point of that convergence. Perhaps RIM's goal isn't simply capturing the consumer market, but creating a mobile platform so universal and so fully integrated that distinctions like "consumer" and "enterprise" become irrelevant.