25,000 Dell employees ditch RIM's BlackBerry

Dell has announced plans to move 25,000 of its employees over from RIM’s BlackBerry to its own line of smartphones, and will also create a service to help business clients make a similar move.

Dell’s chief financial officer Brian Gladden told the Wall Street Journal that it will be offering  its workforce the upcoming Dell Venue Pro smartphone to replace the BlackBerry, suggesting that they will be flogging the old handset on eBay. Or perhaps employees will earn some much needed “wonga” and maintain green reputations by turning to Envirofone.

 “Clearly in this decision we are competing with RIM, because we’re kicking them out,” Gladden said. “We actually had a conversation last night around creating a site on eBay where we can actually sell these BlackBerry devices” that employees return, Mr. Gladden said.

The aggressive stance that Dell is taking, as it too attempts to move into a crowded smartphone market, will see the company save around 25 percent in mobile communications costs by eliminating the need for BlackBerry servers.

Furthermore Dell, which is in talks with T-Mobile about buying voice minutes and monthly data in bulk rather than on an individual employee basis, will start to market a service to help business clients move away from RIM’s handset.

The handsets given to employees will at first feature Windows Phone 7 software, before eventually using Google’s Android, and is hoping that other companies will follow suit as they make inroads into the business market.

Gladden noted that he is willing to sell other manufacturers handsets as part of a wireless package as setting up networks and managing assets offer higher margins than devices, which continue to get cheaper and cheaper. “I’m not sure I care as much about the devices as the services,” said Gladden. “There’s a services opportunity that we think is even bigger.”

He added that while not everyone will see 25 percent savings by following suit, small and medium sized businesses could cut a lot of cost by getting rid of BlackBerry servers.

This announcement, which poor old RIM apparently was not aware of, comes at a bad time for the BlackBerry makers as Bloomberg reports Bank of America and Citigroup are similarly considering ditching the handset for the iPhone.

The two US bank giants are testing software for the iPhone in order to make the handset secure enough for company messages.

According to Roger Entner, head of telecom research at Nielsen Co., this spells big trouble for RIM.

“People are delighted with their iPhones and Android phones and they want to use them for work. The result is RIM now has real competition for corporate customers.”

Bank of America, with 284,000 employees , and Citigroup, with 258,000, are also testing Android smartphones, though it is expected that the banks will widen choice for employees rather than all-out replace the BlackBerry.