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Will BlackBerry give Android, iPhone a run for their money?

With all of the buzz around marketing on the iPhone and Android-enabled devices, there seems to be a sleeping giant left behind in the dust.

Research In Motion?s BlackBerry has quietly become the leader in smartphone market share in North America even though the first incarnation of its much-anticipated Storm was nothing to write home about. Will the touchscreen BlackBerry Storm 2 help RIM gain coveted smartphone marketshare and therefore woo marketers to the platform?

?From my research, to really be successful in the smartphone arena, to be a real market leader, you have to play in both markets, consumer and enterprise,? said Milton Ellis, Aliso Viejo, CA-based senior consultant and vice president of technology, media, entertainment and telecom at Harris Interactive.

?People use smartphones for both pleasure and business, so manufacturers have to have phones with features and form factors that appeal to both markets, and this holds true from teens to adults," he said.

By taking both sides of the market ? consumer and enterprise ? a smartphone won?t have any trouble wooing marketers to its platform.

BlackBerry as an ad platform
RIM has received criticism for the BlackBerry?s mobile Internet surfing experience, which some users claim takes too long to load mobile Web sites.

Whether or not that is the case, mobile ad networks are seeing a significant amount of ad impressions and interactions coming from BlackBerry users.

?We?re seeing a lot of campaigns and a lot of advertisers in that space, a lot of high-paying ad campaigns coming from BlackBerry advertisers,? said Krish Arvapally, cofounder/chief technology officer of Mojiva, New York. ?Essentially it?s the target market BlackBerry users represent, which is more premium, versus the other platforms such as Samsung or Motorola.

?We see a lot of advertisers that promote their product or BlackBerry apps on the BlackBerry phones with mobile advertising,? he said.

Tracking the distribution of smartphone traffic within its network for September 2009, Mojiva found that RIM came in fourth in the U.S. with a little more than 11 percent. It trailed Samsung, Motorola and Apple.

Worldwide, the iPhone was first with 14.42 percent, while BlackBerry came in fifth with 4.31 percent.

Mojiva estimates that more than 10 percent of all mobile phones in the U.S. are BlackBerry devices, although approximately 40 percent of its revenue is coming from BlackBerry devices.

That is because, like the iPhone, it represents an affluent, lucrative target demographic.

Like any smartphone, BlackBerry has its strengths and weaknesses.

?On the pro side, BlackBerry?s target market is premium users, and there are a lot of things you can do with apps designed for BlackBerry, such as enrich productivity,? Mr. Arvapally said. ?On the con side, there?s not the critical mass with the general consumer compared to the iPhone.

?There are a lot more apps on the iPhone than the BlalckBerry, but that?s probably changing with App World,? he said. ?We?re starting to see an uptick in the promotion that BlackBerry is doing in mobile?we?re seeing good uptake there.?

So, while RIM still has a ways to go in wooing consumers, enterprise users are still a very desirable demographic for advertisers.

As for the Quattro Wireless ad network, the BlackBerry family of smartphones is second in terms of overall volume of ads served.

Lynn Tornabene, New York-based chief marketing officer of Quattro Wireless, said that the BlackBerry knows more about a user than a PC ever will and the more integration of data and applications, the more compelling the interaction can be.

?With its high proportion of business users and overall high-end demographic, the BlackBerry audience is very desirable and targeted by advertisers,? Ms. Tornabene said. ?Its appeal to key Quattro segments like auto, electronics, travel and consumer goods yields a higher CPM for reaching the BlackBerry audience.

?We believe that the new enhanced browsers coming from RIM will make it an even more compelling platform for users and advertisers alike,? she said.

According to comScore, in the first quarter of this year RIM made up 42 percent of the 29 million smartphone users in the U.S., compared to 24 percent for Microsoft?s Windows Mobile and 20 percent for Apple.

The lesson? BlackBerry users represent a pretty hefty pool of consumers for advertisers to target.

Mainstream madness
BlackBerry devices, although traditionally thought of as enterprise or business devices, are moving much more into the mainstream for consumers' personal use.

Marcus Startzel, senior vice president of sales at Millennial Media, Baltimore, said the ad network sees large demand from advertisers who want to reach BlackBerry users.

?In fact, three BlackBerry devices, the Curve, the Pearl and the Storm, are in our top 10 devices for September,? Mr. Startzel said. ?The Curve is just behind the iPhone as the top phone on our network. Since advertising is directed at trying to reach the largest available audience, advertisers find RIM?s device penetration attractive.?

In June of this year when Palm Pre first hit the market, Harris Interactive did an intent-to-purchase study asking consumers if they were in the market to buy a smartphone, which one they would choose. 

?It was a neck and neck race between Apple and BlackBerry, with a little pull from the Palm Pre and other smartphones,? Mr. Ellis said.

Overall, 26 percent of those surveyed said that they were somewhat to extremely likely to buy a smartphone in the next six months, with 41 percent of respondents ages 18-34.

Of those, 50 percent said they would consider buying a BlackBerry, compared to 48 percent for iPhone. Palm was No. 3 at 16 percent, Nokia No. 4 at 14 percent and Google?s Android No. 5 at 11 percent.

Another sticking point among consumers is mobile applications. There are 85,000 available for the iPhone compared to 10,000 for Android and 2,000 for BlackBerry. Developers complain that it is more difficult to write advanced applications for BlackBerry.

However, Harris Interactive?s survey found that this may not be deal-breaker for consumers, despite the iPhone users? extreme enthusiasm for applications.

Among the criteria consumers use for selecting a smartphone, the No. 1 factor was wireless service provider at 44 percent of respondents.

The variety of applications (15 percent) and the number of applications available (12 percent) were further down the list.

In addition, respondents cited a QWERTY keyboard (24 percent) as more desirable than a touchscreen user interface (18 percent).