Wednesday, December 07, 2005

One man's trouble is another's opportunity

So Blackberry is in a bit of trouble these days. Which seems to me to leave a real opportunity for a company to play in the typical Blackberry space: corporate mobile communications. And of course, I think the company that should get more involved is T-mobile and the product, Sidekick. I think that T-mobile has a chance to go after the very lucrative market that Blackberry is trying to defend.

First, from a abstract perspective the Blackberry device and the sidekick aren't *that* different. Both accomplish the same thing: get your e-mail on the road. But the marketing of each device is totally different: Blackberry is the corporate solution while the Sidekick is for kids. And each marketing campiagn is working - corporations buy up Blackberrys while teens buy up the Sidekick.

So, for T-mobile to tap into the corporate market, the first thing they are going to need to do is to change their marketing message. They need to stop pushing the device to kids and start making it an option for their working parents. I would think, though, the best place for T-mobile to focus is in the small/startup organization world. Don't be a me-too product going after the Xeroxs and GMs of the world, instead pitch yourself as the ideal platform for the little guy.

Small companies know they need to behave differently than large companies if they are to succeed. And if I were T-mobile that's the message I would be sending: if you're an old stuffy company, sure, go for a Blackberry. But if you are a fast-on-your-feet company, then your team needs Sidekicks.

One thing to consider is that a lot of professionals have no view of the Sidekick whatsoever. So T-mobile can shape the message as they see fit. This happens to me all the time, when I pull out my Sidekick at meetings. The screen-flip gets folks interested - though there's no real other official message from Sidekick, other than "this device is cool."

So, what exactly should the marketing message of the Sidekick be? How about ...

The device is standards compliant. You can hook this up to your pop e-mail account in seconds, and you all are set. No special, expensive, backened services needed.

This device is cheap. Unlimited - let me say that again - unlimited, bandwidth for $20.00/mo. Compare that to, what, $80.00/mo? Small businesses need to be thrifty and this is one more way to do so.

All the data on the phone is maintained on redundant, backed up, servers. Small companies are already struggling with their IT departments, this can just be something they don't need to worry about. And when your director of sales leaves his cell phone on a flight accidently, simply stop by any T-mobile store and get a new device. Within minutes, all your e-mail, to-do list and addresses are back again.

The Sidekick offers a ssh terminal, so your IT staff can use it to connect to and fix servers remotely. In other words, the Sidekick passes the "will geeks love it" test.

One of the most powerful apps on the Sidekick is the instant messenger application. It's the best mobile IM I've ever come across. Once you get used to the speed of IM, e-mail seems like a slow way to conduct busines. And this should be one of the Sidekick's primary marketing messages: e-mail is fine for a big company, but for a small agile company, nothing beats IM. Of course e-mail plays an important role in communication, but for that quick question between the director of sales and the director of marketing, IM is much more appropriate.

The technology - both the hardware and software - is there. All T-mobile needs to do is to start telling a new story. And my guess is that it is a story the market wants to hear.


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