Strong ROI Drives Blackberry/Treo Adoption

August, 2006

The use of handheld wireless devices, such as the BlackBerry and Treo, continues to grow at a brisk pace in all industry sectors. The popularity of this technology is driven by its flexibility, performance, reasonable price, positive economic return, and an intangible that can best be described as its “coolness.”

This Research Byte is a summary of our full report on this subject, entitled, Adoption and Economic Characteristics of Handheld Email Devices.

Devices Are Moving Toward Commoditization
Without a doubt, the two most popular series of handheld wireless devices are the Research in Motion BlackBerry and Palm Inc.’s Treo series. These, plus several other devices from other vendors, are rapidly becoming an important tool for mobile workers.

The current BlackBerry 7130 series, supported by such networks as Cingular’s EDGE and Sprint’s Power Vision, offers both higher speeds than previous series and laptop compatibility. The BlackBerry becomes even more flexible in organizations that run BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which allows tight integration between the handheld device and enterprise systems and data behind the corporate firewall.

The Treo 700 series comes in two flavors:

  • Treo 700p runs on Palm OS and is compatible with Verizon, Sprint, and other GSM/GPRS networks.
  • Treo 700w runs on Windows Mobile 5.0 OS.

The Treo 700w is fully compatible with Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, which permits handheld users to manage their email over existing organizational networks.

Competitors offer devices that provide additional features or lower prices. For example, the Motorola Q smart phone, available through Verizon, is much slimmer with its RAZR phone profile. The availability of such a variety of handhelds is affecting the prices that suppliers can charge. Illustrating this point, Cingular recently announced that BlackBerry 7130c series devices will be priced to compete head-to-head with the Motorola Q phone.

Handheld devices are moving toward commodity status as the hardware grows more alike and a single operating system provides a more standard application platform. It is not yet clear whether RIM’s BlackBerry operating system, which only runs on RIM’s devices, or Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS, which runs on devices of multiple vendors, will prevail as the most accepted platform for corporate users. Vendors will eventually differentiate their products less by hardware, and more by software features that can be added onto key operating system environments.

The availability of competing wideband networks for handhelds further enhances their worth. Verizon’s BroadbandAccess EV-DO network and Sprint Nextel’s Power Vision mobile broadband network both offer download speeds in the range of 400 to 700 Kbps. Devices supported include the Treo 700w, BlackBerry 7130e, and others. In addition, both the Treo and BlackBerry can function as wireless modems for laptops, enabling them to communicate over these broadband networks.

Handheld Wireless Adoption is Widespread
Our study investigated the level of acceptance of wireless email devices and their economic performance. As Figure 1 shows, 71% of all the organizations participating in our study have the devices in place. An additional 8% are in the implementation stage. Even more significant is that 55% of companies already using the devices plan to increase their usage.

Handheld Fig1 - Strong ROI Drives Blackberry/Treo Adoption

The full version of this report breaks down these adoption rates by size of organization (small, medium, and large).  Additionally the full report provides the percentage of firms that report positive, negative, and breakeven ROI for handheld email devices and and the percentage of firms that report total cost of ownership (TCO) as less than, the same as, or greater than budget. Finally, we identify areas of concern when deploying handheld wireless devices and suggest principles to keep in mind to ensure maximum benefits and minimize security risks in their use. 

July 2006

This Research Byte is a summary of our full report, Adoption and Economic Characteristics of Handheld Email Devices, which may be found on our website at