Leader: BlackBerry love

And why that love won't guarantee top spot forever...

And why that love won't guarantee top spot forever...

At a recent conference organised by a silicon.com sister company, it became apparent just how loved the BlackBerry has become. Attendees didn't talk about generic mobile email and rarely mentioned a dozen other hardware or software names in this space.

Instead, panel after panel, they all kept on saying how much they love their BlackBerrys. It's a wonder that RIM, the maker of the device and its related server software, should ever do any advertising again.

This publication has spoken before about 'Hoover brands'. We are referring to things such as the BlackBerry or iPod, Xerox or biro - products so successful they become synonymous with a whole category.

But do such associations hold when sales dip? How many of us refer to a Dyson vacuum cleaner as a Hoover?

The point is that right now not only does RIM have a good product in the form of the BlackBerry but it has mindshare, especially among executives who sign off corporate rollouts rather than techies who are likely to be more knowledgeable about other options.

This week, like most others, will see BlackBerry alternatives make some progress. Software options such as GoodLink, Smartner and Visto sit on top of various mobile devices and provide BlackBerry-style email connectivity. A user may not always know it - as this software can power an operator's service, as was the case with Vodafone and Visto recently - but these offerings are growing in usage.

Yesterday we wrote about Marks and Spencer going for an all-Microsoft mobile messaging environment, connecting Exchange servers to smart phones (from Qtek) running a Microsoft operating system.

This is only a relatively small trial, for now, but we'd wager it's a cheaper set-up compared to BlackBerry Enterprise Server and BlackBerry devices.

Other rollouts we have covered show blue chip organisations considering a mix of end user devices, as was the case with British Airways.

RIM, with BlackBerry, has one hell of a lead right now and we admire an approach that puts simplicity front and centre. But mobilising a workforce is too big an opportunity for others in the industry to approach as anything other than a top priority.

Our less than surprising prediction: RIM's lead will diminish.

And here's hoping that just means more choices for enterprises looking to buy.