Dell ditches RIM for WP7 phones, preps enterprise mobile push

Dell is moving its 25,000 employees from BlackBerrys to its own Windows Phone 7-based smartphone as the company prepares to offer a service that enables customers to make the same switch, Dell confirmed Friday.

Dell employees will be given the upcoming Venue Pro starting next week, according to the The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story. The company will then begin marketing a migration service to business clients within two weeks, according to the Journal.

"Dell does intend to transition employees using company-provided BlackBerrys over to Dell devices," said Jess Blackburn, a Dell spokesman, in an e-mail to the IDG News Service.

The Venue Pro comes with a 4.1-inch display and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.

The move will save Dell about 25% in mobile communication costs, primarily by eliminating the need for BlackBerry servers, Dell told the Journal.

Dell's decision to move away from RIM's smartphones to its own products doesn't come as a surprise to Leif-Olof Wallin, research vice president at Gartner.

"It would be kind of embarrassing to have your own sales staff walking around with a product from a competitor," said Wallin.

However, he isn't so sure Dell will be successful getting other companies to move from their BlackBerrys to Windows Phone 7. In general, he thinks the future for Windows Phone 7 in the enterprise looks bleak. Microsoft's new platform is very much focused on consumers, and has integration with Exchange and Office Communications Server, but not much else, he said.

An approach that is gaining momentum among enterprises is to support multiple smartphone OSes, said Wallin. Typically, companies add Apple's iPhone and Android-based smartphones, not Windows Phone 7 smartphones, to the current use of BlackBerrys, he said.

Eventually, Dell also will offer Android smartphones to its employees, according to the Journal.

(Agam Shah in New York contributed to this story.)

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