Bankers will give up their BlackBerries in 2011
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
The future is here — it has just not yet gone corporate. About a third of U.S. mobile subscribers now own smartphones, with about half of those powered by Google’s Android and Apple’s operating system. Yet they haven’t made many inroads into banks and other large enterprises. Economic logic suggests technical improvements — and a healthy dose of envy — will change all that in the coming year.
The spread of new ideas and technologies typically follows what’s called the S, or logistics, curve. According to this theory, a small number of people try things out early, a few are very late, and most tend to cluster around the middle. The amount of time it takes an invention to catch on varies — and not all do. But the basic shape is the same.
Two of the simpler explanations for the S-curve pattern are improvements and simply a form of keeping up with the Joneses. Research In Motion’s stronghold in the business handsets market with its BlackBerry device appears threatened by both.
New gadgets often have flaws — and as these are ironed out, the device becomes more useful and popular. Security concerns have held back the adoption by large enterprises of Apple and Android-powered devices in the past. Companies generally have more to lose than consumers from technological risks.
But improvements to the security features of these consumer-popular handsets are being made, and the devices becoming safer to use. To wit, Citigroup, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley are now considering letting their bankers use iPhones and Android-powered devices instead of their ubiquitous BlackBerries. Moreover, the iPad — which runs on the same operating system as the iPhone — is proving popular among corporations, and appears to be acting as a Trojan horse. Companies that adopt the iPad often figure they might as well let employees use iPhones.
The second explanation for the S-curve means this logjam is likely to break at some point, followed by mass corporate adoption. After all, there are few things that inspire consumption more than envy — and if there’s one law that’s worth noting, it’s that financial professionals are not usually on the poorer end of that kind of trade.