Despite firmware update, Storm seen as business smartphone

One IT manager hedges on recommending Storm, uses 'business card trick' for better operation

Although the BlackBerry Storm needed a firmware upgrade just two weeks after going on sale, business users are still expected to warm up to the touch-screen handheld.

Despite the early problems, business users will still find value in the Storm, said Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney. Large businesses are already familiar with centralized BlackBerry security and management, Dulaney said, adding that various bugs will be worked out with the new device.

A firmware update was available to Storm customers last Friday, two weeks after the smart phone went on sale by Verizon Wireless. Verizon and Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, provided no details on the number of downloads. Users had complained about several problems, including lagging performance, especially when switching the Storm from landscape to portrait views by using its internal accelerometer.

Since the Storm is sold exclusively by Verizon Wireless, Dulaney said a large company that already has a contract with Verizon will find the Storm a suitable alternative for users who want an Apple iPhone.

"It's a BlackBerry," Dulaney said. "RIM will fix it. And if you have to use Verizon, and people are pushing for an iPhone, then you have a choice" by recommending they use the Storm. By comparison, the touch screens on phones from LG and Samsung are "poor," Dulaney said.

Verizon officials had high expectations for enterprise sales of the Storm prior to its release. They noted the high penetration of BlackBerries among business users, the Storm's new touch screen and its capability for use in many countries around the globe.

Verizon spokeswoman Brenda Raney said that upgrades, including the one last Friday, "aren't an issue for enterprise users who tend to let their IT departments manage the devices. In the IT world, upgrades are standard procedure so they simply consider it part of the process."

Dulaney said the release of the Storm followed quickly by an update is a situation that users should start to expect for all kinds of devices.

"We are in the age of over-the-air software updates," he said. "So products are released sometimes with bugs and a commitment to fix them. Many users value the vendor on how well they keep them up to date, rather than how many bugs are in the product to start with."

Simon Pang, an IT manager at URS, an engineering firm with an office in Boston, purchased the Storm on the first day it was on store shelves. He said last week's firmware update had been a "huge improvement" in the Storm's performance. "After upgrading to the .75 OS, I am loving it," he said in an e-mail.

Prior to last week's update, Pang rated the Storm overall a "5" out of a possible "10," but raised his rating to a "7" after the upgrade. He said he expects possibly two more firmware updates to fix everything.

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