Time for the BlackBerry Bush ban?

As the iconic BlackBerry goes from strength to strength in subscriber numbers, so do the threats to the device and the business model.Would you want to be the head of RIM right now?

As the iconic BlackBerry goes from strength to strength in subscriber numbers, so do the threats to the device and the business model.

Would you want to be the head of RIM right now? In recent months you've had a massive outage, a stock options review and restated years of financials.

It's not got much better in recent weeks either, with snitching accusations coming out of Europe. Last month the French government was up in arms about the BlackBerry, advising parliamentarians to steer clear of the devices and claiming the US government could spy on MPs' e-mails because RIM's servers are all kept in North America.

And now there's been some unpleasant BlackBerry-focused spyware discovered. The BlackBerry, a victim of its own popularity, is seemingly besieged on all security fronts.

Leaving aside the question of how seriously you should take these threats for a moment -- although I would suggest most CIOs have more to fear from users leaving the expensive devices in the back of taxis than from hackers and should have some mobile device management plan in place -- the emergence of security worries could be turned into a positive for the Canadian company.

Microsoft has lead the way on this type of volte-face thinking. It produced an operating system that was leakier than the Pasha Bulker, practically laid out the welcome mat for malware writers and then went on to produce OneCare, a security service that it claims will protect users from the flaws and holes it left all over its software.

RIM says there's no spying risk and regularly preaches the security of its platform. Still, that sort of rhetoric never stopped Microsoft selling security software -- perhaps RIM might want to boost its bottom line a little further with a new Whitehouse-blocking subscription service?

And talking of bottom lines, in its recent earnings announcement, RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie mentioned the iPhone (who hasn't?). After all, journalists short of an article or two have been happily labelling Steve Jobs' latest product the downfall of every device and manufacturer they can persuade to make a comment about the Apple handset.

So presumably Balsillie is having night sweats about the whole business? No, he says, Apple has given the company a leg-up. He told analysts last week: "I've said before [Apple] did us a great favour because they drove attention to the converged appliance space. The attention to it has quite frankly been overwhelmingly positive for our business."

Maybe, maybe not. Those that want an iPhone, I'd wager, are for the most part not necessarily BlackBerry buyers and vice versa -- Balsillie's right not to fear the Apple device. That's not to say all's well in BlackBerry world. I've still yet to hear RIM is truly capitalising on applications other than e-mail -- necessary for the company's long term future -- and I'd also be very interested to find out quite how RIM's foray into the 'prosumer' market with the Pearl is going. I can't say as I've seen many on pub tables of late.


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