When cell phones took off - really took off - it was in part because the wireless carriers were giving away the handsets. After all, once that contract is signed and the customer starts yakking away, there's a year of guaranteed revenue - which beats a one-time sale for the device. Sure, one might argue that they're now "stuck" in a contract but, if the company can keep the customer happy, he or she might stick around.
We've come full circle. This time around it's Research in Motion - along with Verizon Wireless - that's tossing out the "we'll just give the phones away again" grenade in the smartphone war.
From today through March 31, Verizon Wireless is reportedly having a buy-one-get-one-free promotion on all Blackberrys - yes, even the new touch screen Storm. Of course, you'll need a two-year contract on each of those devices. And what good is a Blackberry without a data plan of some sort - you know, the per month premium plan that allows you to send and receive e-mail and try out all of those Blackberry apps?
Assuming the reports are true - they seem to be pretty solid and I haven't heard about any denials from Verizon or RIM - I would say it's a smart time for RIM to make this sort of move. Apple, which has hinted for some time that its sights are set on RIM, has seen some slowed growth in iPhone sales but saw iPods (possibly iPod Touch devices) sell at a better than expected rate for the quarter.
So, with this promotion, there's a chance for RIM to 1) inflate some numbers for the quarter by moving double the units, 2) offer a way for novice smartphone users to jump into new waters without breaking the bank, and 3) lure users into the Blackberry platform before Apple offers something new (or drops the price) for the iPhone, Motorola launches new Android phones or Palm unveils the Pre.
I like good old fashioned wars like these. It usually leads to be better products, better service and better prices - all for the sake of keeping you in that monthly service plan.