BlackBerry Battles For Hearts and Minds of D.C. Elite

by InvestorPlace Staff | June 10, 2012 1:47 pm

[1]Barack Obama’s love for his BlackBerry phone has been well documented in photographs and news stories[2], and history may very well know him as the BlackBerry President[3]. Unfortunately for the phone’s maker, Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM[4]), the BlackBerry itself may also be history.

At a time where Research in Motion’s finances have been hurting[5], BlackBerry phones have been losing market share among one of its core constituencies: the power brokers in Washington[6].

As it stands, BlackBerry still has a strong grip in D.C. Of the estimated 10,600 smartphones distributed to House staffers, 9,000 are BlackBerrys, 1,500 are Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL[7]) iPhones, and 100 are Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG[8]) Android devices.

However, the numbers are shifting away from BlackBerry. In January 2012, only 57% of federal executives used BlackBerrys, down from 76% in August 2009. There has even been a decline among Congressional staffers. In August 2009, 93% of them had BlackBerrys, but by January 2012, that number had decreased to 77%.

Not even Obama has been immune to the lure of other devices. The president has been spotted using an iPhone and iPad in addition to his trusty BlackBerry.

Still, Obama and other political elites provide a valuable, if unofficial, endorsement for the device. One advertising expert estimated in 2009 that Obama’s public use of a BlackBerry was worth $25 million.

The problem Research in Motion faces now, more so than the pushback from pundits worried about smartphone distraction and message security when smartphones first hit Washington years ago, is competition. Androids and iPhones have been cutting into BlackBerrys’ market share in all markets, D.C. included.

Perhaps realizing its chances of reaching the hearts and minds of average American consumers is an uphill battle, Research in Motion is doubling down on its core strength in Washington. Research in Motion senior vice president Scott Totzke said, ““The federal government is a very important market to us and will continue to be.”

— Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPlace Money & Politics Editor

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

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