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BlackBerry ban may be good for business

by Eric Benderoff

The United Arab Emirates is banning the BlackBerry. The move could give Research in Motion a marketing boost. Also in today's App Industry news: Will Ferrell stars in Wired's new iPad app.

Could BlackBerry ban help RIM?

The good news for BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIMM) is that it has excellent security. The bad news: it's too good for secretive regimes that like to spy on their citizens.

The United Arab Emirates will ban the use of the BlackBerry data service within its borders in October, and other Middle Eastern nations may follow suit. The U.A.E. is banning the device because the email encryption used by RIM is too good and apparently cannot be broken by the U.A.E.

Other smartphones, such as Android phones, the iPhone and Windows mobile phones, are not impacted by this ban.

While this is a serious issue, it is also a marketing gift that comes at a time when RIM needs all the help it can get as it battles Android and Apple (AAPL) for market share. RIM's share is still solid -- it remains the top-selling business smartphone on the market -- but it's leadership has eroded in the last year as consumers, road warriors and large enterprises have all started to look toward other products that offer more user appeal (and a better selection of apps).

RIM will fight back with a new product introduction on Tuesday, but the fact that it can tote a superior software advantage -- at least with email security -- is a message the company needs to tactfully figure out how to broadcast.

The news that RIM's email encryption is top-notch also comes when the Wall Street Journal is scaring computer users everywhere -- that would be all of us -- by reporting on how deeply ingrained a lack of privacy (and therefore personal security) has permeated the web. The WSJ series, What They Know, is an eye-opener even for the most jaded computer user.

iPad success could hurt others

The financial impact of the iPad goes well beyond Apple, and we're not talking about improving the bottom line. Of course, Apple's latest touch-screen wonder continues to sell exceedingly well, with 3.3 million units sold in the most recent quarter. But it's the impact on the broader market that is the basis of this Reuters report, published in Monday's New York Times.

Essentially, the success of the iPad could mean big trouble for others in the computer field, particularly PC makers and suppliers. Robert Cyran, the author, framed his views by noting that Apple may "sell 25 million of the electronic tablets next year, based on the trajectory of past consumer hits." The impact?

  • PC sales, particularly those of netbooks, will suffer. Cyran points to an NPD study showing netbook sales were already down 19 percent in June from the year ago period.

  • Microsoft (MSFT) could suffer "if PC cannibalization occurs, it won’t be pretty. The company’s Windows division has astonishingly high margins: it accounts for roughly a quarter of sales but half of operating profit. A small revenue decline would disproportionately drag down earnings."

  • Chip makers like Intel and AMD. The iPad uses a mobile-phone chip, after all.

  • He also notes that smartphone sales could suffer as well, as big companies may opt to outfit a sales team with a smart tablet over a smartphone.

  • iPad as theater

    Here's another industry the iPad may impact: film.

    Wired magazine, which set the early standard for magazine reading apps on the iPad with its July issue, is putting original films on its iPad app for August.

    There are four films, and they feature actor Will Ferrell. He will "spoof once-anticipated inventions for the 21st century, like ray guns and jet packs. The films are tied to the August cover subject, 'The Future That Never Happened'," according to MediaWeek. A sample of the videos will be available on Wired's site, but the actual videos are iPad only.

    The issue is now available for $3.99.