Is this the most expensive mobile phone ever?

names changed to protect the not so innocent

I’m not talking about the excesses of Vertu‘s range

I’m taking about this:

The ever so humble Blackberry 8800, but I can buy that for less than £320 I hear you cry, oh course you can…….. however

I’ve been discussing a problem one of my customers has this afternoon, one of his management team needs email and calendar on the move, now that bits easy but the problem my customer faces is much much bigger the problem is quite simple, Blackberry envy.

One of his senior managers , fresh back from a conference with other senior managers from other companies has had his ear bent all week about how great the Blackberry 8800 is and he NEEEEEDS one, in best 3 year old tradition he NEEEEEDS one and nothing else will do.

Now this customer has a pretty mature and well managed infrastructure, has Exchange 2003 SP2 and is actually running a handful of Windows Mobile 5.0 devices with Exchange activesync which work brilliantly the problem is this:

They aren’t Blackberries…..

OK the WM devices tried so far don’t work with the chief exec’s inbuilt German Bluetooth car kit, but some (like the s710 / E650) will and there are over 40 manufacturers and OEMs so the I like / will work will overlap at some point.

The manager in question has to have Blackberry

I’ve explained the plethora of options, the OEMs the devices, the flexibility and control that you get through exchange and Windows Mobile, I’ve even offered to drive over and show the interested parties my E650 but no, no way it’s going to be BlackBerry.

I’ve even drawn their attention to the flaws in the NOC model of delivery and the trials that Blackberry users in the states had with the extended outage they suffered recently to no avail it has to be the 8800 or nothing so the Bill ……

Blackberry 8800 Pearl = £319.11
Server Hardware etc : £1,200.00
Blackberry Enterprise Server Version 4.0 for exchange = £2,500.00
Installation: £750.00
Additional Firewall Configuration: £750.00

So that brings that little shiny Blackberry 8800 in at a whopping £5,519.11

The look on the financial directors or shareholders face……. Priceless

Five and a half THOUSAND pounds for a mobile phone…… can anyone beat that?

oh …… the cost to deploy an HTC s710 with Windows Mobile and Exchange Activesync, push email and security ……. £246 less, much less on contract.

I think it’s a little more than the challenge of the work wise workstyle that threatens British Business today.

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16 Responses to Is this the most expensive mobile phone ever?

  1. Matt says:

    Alasdair, I come across this almost every day, it’s almost like you wrote this article about me! :)


  2. fanatical says:

    yeah Matt, it happens too often, the triumph of marketing over sanity :(

  3. Ash says:

    your theory is wrong as you can actually download a free version of the software from blackberry website if say only 1 user wants it and can add up to 4 CALS to it.

    however i would still go for the wm as it is a lot better from an administration point.

  4. fanatical says:

    Hi Ash – hadn’t seen that offer, it’s not bad, for those of you looking for it it’s here :
    The customer in question had had his figures from his MNO ( who will remain nameless) which is where a lot of smaller organisations will look for mobile device advice looks like they could be ripping him off.
    In any case there are a few flaws I can see with the freebie:
    Installation of unfamiliar software into a production environment no matter how ‘foolproof’ or how much remote telephone support is not advisable
    The install guide relies on a level of technical expertise a little above your typical exchange admin in a lot of cases our customers wouldn’t attempt it so they’d likely be charged for the installation.
    Hopefully the partner a customer engages would be able to help out with firewall configuration
    You still need a seperate win 2k/ 2k3 server
    So the cost drops to £2269.11 – £3019.11 …. bargain …. if you are buying a small family car ;) .
    additional CALS £75 a pop ouchee
    I haven’t mentioned the running costs – the Blackberry service appears to costs between £20 – £35 a month dependent on MNO WM6 devices cost about £3-£10 on top of your regular price plan.
    I agree with you on the WM management side, it’s easy and there in the exchange console for you, we can enhance it with mobile provisioning over the air as well which makes setup a doddle…. frankly I struggle to understand why anyone with an exchange environment wouldn’t look at this as a solution.
    as an aside I had a look at Pearl today,one that had been living with someone for month or two and frankly it looked shabby and a bit fisher price once the shine has dulled, son’t see what the fush is all about (unless Paris Hilton has one of course :) ).

  5. Rob Evans says:

    there’s one questions you haven’t asked…

    When is the ROI achieved? ….in about 4 and a bit months as blackberries increase productivity by 16%. So from month 4 onwards his employer, (your customer) is seeing a benefit on the exec having one. (assume Exec earns 100Kpa)

    So in a year your customer would see 11k extra work from his exec for 5k invested.

    does it still look expensive?

  6. Rob Evans says:

    you could also apply your argument to why companies buy MS windows machines (laptops etc) and not buy Linux.

    there is an ease of use/support element that you haven’t factored in.

    sorry..will go now.

  7. fanatical says:

    Hi Rob, I take your point about ROI but surely exactly the same argument applies for WM devices? the WM ROI on these calculations is about a week.

    I’m also always mindful that productivity and efficiency and actual financial benefit are a very tricky trinity to reconcile.

    To assume that by freeing up a nominal 16% of anyones time that you get a straight correlation in financial savings is very very dangerous I tend to steer the discussion away from strict ROI calculations when possible.

    It’s very difficult to put a precise value to the organisation on the benefits of flexible working, and IMHO WM and RIM are both just tools to deploy in a wider flexible working strategy.

    There’s much more traction to be had in displaying the benefits that making working hours much more malleable brings, than implying that every second saved in regular working hours is immediately put to productive use. Happier employees are more productive employees and empower them to control their working day and you’ll get the happiest employees around.

    Support wise I think with Exchange 2k3 SP2 and the MSFP and definately in Exchange 2k7 the support proposition has swung Microsoft’s way, it’s already there, it’s in your exchange console and AD, it’s yours and it’s as robust as your own email system, not quite the same story with Blackberry.

    Don’t get me wrong Blackberry does have it’s place, in instances where a customer does not have an established Microsoft infrastructure (although there are Notes / Domino tools for WM now) or in niche applications where the RIM devices have been accepted as messaging devices that aren’t mobile phones (say legally restrictive environments) here Blackberry is difficult to beat for now.

    In a lot, nay probably a majority of cases, and definately in the one ilustrated, WM is absolutely the logical and sensible route to go, unfortunately we can’t always rely on logic or sense in the boardrooms of Britain.

    on your second point I think the ease of use / support element actually favours the Windows environment, certainly at the desktop but I am sure that Google are working on an applicance that will do it’s best to disrupt that particular area of calm as soon as they can.

    I use Ubuntu myself on one of my laptops it’s great ( but I dual boot XP) however it remains a fact that the majority people would much rather steal Microsoft software than use the readily available free alternatives whilst this is the case i don’t see Linux making a massive dent in Microsoft’s market share.

  8. Hi Alisdair, I guess you are right and wrong. Setting up a BlackBerry infrastructure for just one person for just getting his e-mail seems a bit expensive to me. However if go beyond e-mail (and beyond just one person on a infrastructure) you are comparing apples with oranges. Exchange is basically a mail platform with some added mobile interfacing features and since recently a way to pull files from a Sharepoint site. The BlackBerry server is a piece of mobile middleware. It does not only add mobile PIM functionality to your mail platform, it also provides secure access to your intranet and other business application. You can create wireless applications based on the free MDS studio development environment and deploy them wireless, over the air to all your devices. You can even update all ROM’s of your BlackBerry handhelds, over the air, by a push of a button. So if you need control over devices that sometimes never see the office you for sure will look at BlackBerry. Don’t get me wrong, I like WM devices as much as BlackBerry devices, I even make a living doing business with both platforms for carriers and end-users, but maybe this puts things in a better perspective.

  9. fanatical says:

    Hi Thierry, not sure if we are comparing apples with oranges any more, a couple of iterations of WM ago you’d be right Blackberry stole the march on WM and Microsoft was playing catch up now the two platforms are very similar and for a great number of organisations the debate doesn’t get past the initial costing exercise. It’s often only Blackberry envy that causes any issues.

    Core functionality is pretty much identical now the key features ( bloody push :), and security ) are broadly similar, if you want to extend your WM security environment then there are plenty of third party tools to let you.

    We can deploy applications across the air and provide robust remote control and restriction for devices that never touch down, OK there’s a $30-50 one of cost for the licence but we can fund that in a few weeks worth of Blackberry rental.

    now ROM updates are a bit of a bugbear for me as I’m sure incremental upgrades have been suggested for a while however they haven’t materialised, apps and tweaks we can manage but not ( as yet )an AKU or version update

    tbh I think apps are Microsoft’s domain both off the shelf and bespoke, MDS seems like an attempt to defuse .NET and I’m not sure what it’s longevity will be, in any case we’ve had and deployed secure intranet and business app access for some time on WM (at least since WM 2003) and the more open system of WM has actually allowed some of our partners to tweak application delivery to cope with the vaguries of modern mobile data environments.

    I’d also argue that WM devices have a more energetic and enhthusiastic developer community, yes a lot of the thousands of apps are back bedroom quick tweaks or tricks but the breadth and depth of developer skill out there is impressive and I’m told that .NET is pretty accessible to anyone with some coding ability.

    Native document support on WM is much better than Blackberry although the lack of Office 2007 support in WM6 is baffling to me all in all it seems to be a more comforting environment for the end user. maybe the initial UI can be a bit daunting on a phone but 3.1 m users last quarter can’t be that daunted.

    Webready kind of changes things again, providing secure access to non intranet UNC paths means that even organisations without an intranet can provide secured access for remote workers to centralised resources.

    Features are one of the biggest problems we seem to have, at least the blurring of features with some being WM some being Exchange. This blurring can cause some confusion and needs careful management of expectation.

    Overall, except in cases that I’ve mentioned before, I still think WM wins out

  10. Michaela says:

    Similar situation here. Bought the Blackberry Pearl for 1 user but used an old PC to run Mail Connector (free download from Blackberry) which works fine for up to 4 users. Although now this same exec is slowly being swayed by WM having seen his friend’s new phone! And he’s only had the BP for 2 months! Just as well we didn’t invest in the full blown Blackberry enterprise.

  11. fanatical says:

    you can say that again Michaela, good job the PC survived that long :)

    Blackberry’s recent announcement that they are going to support BES access on WM6 is surely an acknowledgement that RIM as a lone Blackberry equipment manufacturer can’t possibily hold off or compete with the variety of devices on offer from the multitude of WM manufacturers.

    The UK mobile market is so much more mature than the states ( not sure about Canada….anyone?) in this regard as over there you can’t buy a SIM free device you have to get your carriers sponsored kit, over here we’re much more vulnerable to the vagueries of fad and fashion.

  12. Hello,

    The firewall setup is needed in both case..
    Blackberry are quite bad at opening office or pdf files as far as i tried

    I clearly a pro WM solutions, but there is some downside:
    -changing windows password break the sync. Need to change also on the WM device. Most operators in france put transparent proxy, so you need to reboot or stop/start the GSM connection to get it working. Users are bad at understanding that.
    -In France, Most sync are broken every 24 or 48 hours. Need to stop/start the GSM to get it back. Operators are blacklisting the phone as if it was a ghost connection.

    We are studying at replacing the windows account authentification to certificate but:
    -not so simple to implement
    -If the device is damaged, the user can’t simply buy a new one when roaming, it will miss the certificate.

  13. fanatical says:

    Hi Mathieu, interesting perspective, I wasn’t aware of the french operator glitches, useful to know though thanks. yes the password / sync problem is a pain in the behind, very inelegant – in WM5 it sometimes didn’t notify you that the password had changed and locked out your account – not seen it with WM6 yet – we have 45 day passwords but I may change it on Monday to see what happens.
    like anything there’s a trade off between user friendliness and security so certificates may be the way for you to go

  14. […] recently came across the blog of Alasdair Ford, a UK-based IT consultant. In it, he recounted his experience pertaining to something a lot of us are probably familiar with, but which normally does not get […]

  15. Akhilesh says:

    While a lot of the comments about the Blackberry’s features come up as pluses one big point about this siuation seems to be that this is (massive) outlay for just ONE person.
    It would seem the rest of the enterprise’s mobile email needs are being met quite satisfactorily.

    It reminds me of someone who I know (well i am forced to provide support to) who went and bought a Blackberry)cant remeber which one) earlier this year and was very disgusted when I told him no email.
    We were forced to manually forward his email to the email addy provided by his Mobile Service Provider (which has a cap on attachment).
    Took a month to force him to get an HP Device PTA

  16. alasdairford says:

    blimey and consider the security of that arrangement – email is a bad enough risk so why double it :)

    got to love those end users

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