BlackBerry Rules Wall Street but Rivals Gain Traction


Whatever the outcome of the NTP v. Research in Motion (RIM) patent rights lawsuit, don’t expect Wall Street to give up its BlackBerrys anytime soon.

That’s a key conclusion from an online survey by Pyxis Mobile, a Waltham, Mass. provider of wireless software applications for financial services companies, including asset management firms and hedge funds. The survey was conducted online among Pyxis customers over a period of several days this month. Of the participants, 81 percent described the RIM BlackBerry service as “critical” or “vital” to their business activities. While 78 percent said they were actively considering contingency plans in case of a disruption of BlackBerry service, 75 percent said that if the dispute against RIM by NTP, the Virginia-based patent holder, were fully resolved tomorrow, then they would stop exploring BlackBerry alternatives.

According to T.L. Neff, executive vice president at Pyxis, the financial firms’ loyalty to BlackBerry is due in large part to the security and durability of the product. “It is the most reliable mobile device from a security perspective, they have by far the best battery life and are built like Mack trucks,” said Neff. Yet he noted that as the patent dispute escalated, other handheld devices gained a bigger following in finance–namely those compatible with Windows Mobile software, such as the Palm Treo, and smart phones using the Symbian operating system.

In North America, the BlackBerry remains the most popular handheld e-mail device, with over 4 million users. “Frankly, I’m a little surprised we didn’t see higher numbers than the 81 percent who view the BlackBerry as critical or vital,” said Neff.

Loyalty to BlackBerry, Neff added, also stems from the growing number of uses to which financial professionals can put it. These include execution of trades, monitoring of business performance and analysis of portfolio activity in real time, using software provided by firms such as Pyxis and Intellisync Corp. (recently acquired by Nokia). Though some analysts, such as Bob Egan of Needham, Mass. research firm TowerGroup, have advised companies to review alternatives to BlackBerry as a “prudent” contingency response to the legal outcome, Neff pointed out that any efforts to diversify will involve an exponential increase in wireless management costs, a step that many wireless application managers are loath to take.

Neff did say, however, that next to the BlackBerry, Pyxis financial services customers make Windows Mobile software on a Palm Treo the clear second choice, followed by the Symbian devices. Neff also noted that among financial services IT managers, the Palm operating system is far less popular than Windows Mobile, which integrates seamlessly with Windows enterprise operations. “We are seeing Palm OS fall off the tape, where no one among our customers is interested,” Neff said.

Pyxis’ wireless software offerings include mPortfolio Manager, which facilitates access to financial reports and market data; mHedge Manager for real-time profit and loss, portfolio strategy and market-data monitoring; and mDashboard, which facilitates executives’ access to business and company performance reports.

The software company did not release the precise number of participants in its mobile-equipment survey; the respondents were executives in the IT departments of asset management firms including chief information officers.