The second largest U.S. automaker will replace BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY:US)’s smartphones with iPhones for about 3,300 workers by the end of this year, Sara Tatchio, a Ford spokeswoman, said yesterday in an interview. About 6,000 more employees will receive iPhones over the next two years, replacing flip phones, she said. Ford is hiring a mobile technology analyst whose main focus will be to oversee the “global deployment of corporate iPhones,” the company said in an online job posting.
Apple is pursuing a bigger slice of the corporate market for smartphone and tablet users and said this month it will work with International Business Machines Corp. (IBM:US) to create business software for iPhones and iPads. The pair put aside a three-decade-old rivalry in a move that helps Cupertino, California-based Apple cater to an increasingly mobile workforce. The deal also helps Armonk, New York-based IBM play catch-up to technology giants including Apple that were quicker to seize on a boom in mobile computing.
“We are going to get everyone on iPhones,” Tatchio said. “It meets the overall needs of the employees because it is able to serve both our business needs in a secure way and the needs we have in our personal lives with a single device.”
Having all employees on the same smartphone will improve security and simplify information technology management, Tatchio said. Ford is making “no extra investment” to convert to iPhones, other than the cost of replacing the devices, she said.
The switch to iPhones by Ford, which has about 181,000 employees worldwide, is a blow to BlackBerry and Chief Executive Officer John Chen, who has sought to turn around the company by prioritizing software-based services for corporations as its smartphone sales slump.
“While we can’t comment on this customer, we understand that there is diversity and choice in the market,” Adam Emery, a BlackBerry spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. “Enterprises should think twice about relying on any solution built on the foundation of a consumer technology that lacks the proven security benefits that BlackBerry has always delivered.”
Apple’s iPhone is expected to represent almost 15 percent of the smartphone market this year, while BlackBerry is predicted to have less than 1 percent, according to a forecast in May from researcher IDC.
Ford’s move away from BlackBerry contrasts with its decision to use the Waterloo, Ontario-based company’s QNX in the next-generation version of its Sync in-car technology system. The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker chose to replace Microsoft Corp.’s system with QNX, people briefed on the matter said in February.
Ford shares slipped 0.4 percent to $17.57 at the close in New York. BlackBerry dropped 4.4 percent to $9.51, while Apple fell 0.6 percent to $98.38.
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