President Obama checks messages on his favorite device, the BlackBerry.
Washington "can't quit" love affair with BlackBerry; Dr. Nono Pearson hopes to pony up some cash for RIM loving

Canadian smartphone-maker Research in Motion, Ltd. (TSE:RIM) is facing a dire decline in the consumer market, falling to just over  4 percent market share of recent sales and around 12 percent of the overall deployed smartphone market by some estimates.  But there's still a place where the love affair consumers once had with RIM burns strong.

I. RIM's Last Stronghold

That place is Washington D.C.

While the world is abandoning BlackBerry, the U.S. government can't quite cut the cord.  They remain enamored with the classic RIM design.  While most modern smartphone fill their face-space with vast touch screens, much of RIM's lineup sticks to it tried and true physical keyboard -- which many say is the best in the industry.  Paired with a smaller display, the setup is perfect for hammering out fast emails.  And RIM's services make sure your emails, instant messages, and SMS messages are securely encrypted -- a must at a time of heightening cyber-tensions between Beijing and The Hill.

A piece in The Washington Post chronicles how pervasive BlackBerries remain in the federal government.  The "vast majority" of the 12,000 government issued smartphones from the General Services Administration -- the independent government agency tasked with supporting various federal agencies and politicians (sort of like an "IT department" for The Hill) -- are Blackberries, according to the report.

The GSA's chief information officer, Casey Coleman, states, "We appreciate RIM’s focus on security, which is paramount for government use."

Only a handful of Android smartphones or Apple, Inc. (AAPL) iPhones have been allowed, according to the GSA.  The GSA cites the low cost of ownership of Blackberries as another purchase driver -- in an era where everyone is complaining about government waste, amazingly the government acknowledges that buying its employees pricey iPhones would be wasteful.

Support for the iconic smartphone reaches high in the capital.  President Barack Obama (D) is a devote BlackBerry user, and most of his staff are converts as well.

II. iPhone is Horning Its Way Into D.C. Circles

But times may be changing in Washington D.C.

The report states that Congress has relaxed rules banning use of "other" smartphones from Congress sessions.  Many Senators and Representatives -- and their aides -- are inadvertently spearheading the effort to drive the BlackBerry out of Washington by bringing rival smartphones to the Capitol's halls.  Reportedly, the iPhone is the favorite pick of those in Congress who eschew the traditional BlackBerry.

Even Casey Coleman acknowledges that the love of BlackBerry could eventually die out.  He states, "[The GSA places] priority on adoption, where appropriate, of innovative new technologies."

But such change will likely come at more of a creeping pace than a frantic dash.  In the meantime, some users are finding it hard to love their BlackBerries.  Paul Silder, a 44-year-old Department of Homeland Security employee gripes, "I want a bigger screen. I only really use it for work, but it would be nice to surf the Web more easily."

Many agencies maintain their own internal phone support and policies and don't use the GSA's services.  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the State Department, U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs today all make heavy use of the iPhone.  And Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have been offering free promotion to Apple's tablet, the iPad, which they say is the perfect education device.  RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook is not even mentioned in the conversation.

iPhone Washington
The iPhone is picking up steam in D.C. [Image Source: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images]

As a sign of just how much some government employees want to leave RIM, some agencies have offered a clever ultimatum -- keep the BlackBerry, or buy an alternate device yourself.  Christina Cox, a Washington events planner is among those who paid for an iPhone out of her own pockets.  She loves the phone, which is on America's largest network, Verizon Wireless -- a joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc. (LON:VOD).

She comments, "Everyone used to have a BlackBerry in town, but I need more than just e-mail."

RIM, for its part, is trying with bolder touchscreen designs such as the leaked "London" design, which will launch later this year, endowed with LTE and the new BlackBerry 10 operating system.  But the progress may be for naught.  First, some feel it is too little too late. Secondly, many feel that what users love most about BlackBerry is also what they hate most about it -- the bulky, yet efficient physical keyboard.  A touch-screen BlackBerry just doesn't have the same appeal to some, who revel in poking fun at their iPhone-using friends' autocorrect woes -- increasingly a source of embarrassment in the capital.

With RIM a potential sales candidate, the U.S. federal government is expected to play a key role in deciding who is and isn't eligible to purchase it, should it go on the auction block.  Many believe that as RIM devices vanish from the consumer market, Washington D.C. will remain RIM's last major business.

Scott Totzke, a RIM senior vice president, isn't ready to concede that scenario yet, but he acknowledges the vital role of the U.S. capital city, stating, "The federal government is a very important market to us and will continue to be. It is our core strength."

III. Rapper Aims to Buy RIM

On a more humorous note corporate-country rap artists (no, you did not misread that) Dr. Nono C. Pearson has created much amusement with a bid to buy RIM.

According to the rapper's plan, explained in press releases carried by MSNBC and the Wall Street Journal, the artist's company United Vision Marketing Firm (UVMF) will offer an initial public offering (IPO) to raise $1.5B USD.  As part of the bizarre plan, Dr. Pearson will give away 1 million shares of pre-IPO UVMF to a rap artist...for the best verse of what the UVMF family describes as "Corporate Hip Hop". The content of the verse is expected to be about making legitimate corporate moves with a street swag delivery.

Dr. Nono Pearson
Dr. Nono Pearson wants to buy RIM -- he claims the offer is no bull. [Image Source: UVMF]

The rapper is reportedly trying to get 50-Cent on board.

He already has notorious cocaine dealer Real Freeway Ricky Ross (not to be confused with the ex-corrections officer turned "gangster" rapper Rick Ross) on his "board".  Mr. Ross made an estimated $600M USD in the 1980s and early 1990s, before being arrested in 1996 for trying to purchase 100 kg of cocaine from an undercover federal officer.  Mr. Ross was released in 2009 after a reduced sentence of 13 years for good behavior and is rumored to have retained much of his fortune.

Now the ex-convict hopes to go from selling crack to helping Dr. Pearson sell "crackberries".

Freeway Ricky Ross
Ex-cocaine kingpin "Freeway" Ricky Ross (center) wants to help Dr. Pearson buy RIM.
[Image Source: Kings of Swag]

Dr. Pearson also gave charitable donations of UVMF pre-IPO shares to Howard University (a traditionally "black" university) and Harvard University (a university attended by many prominent African American scholars, including W.E.B. DuBois).

The company's plan is to use the acquired RIM assets to release a $100 educational tablet for disadvantaged youth called the Pearson Education Tablet (PET).  The supposed tablet would fight child obesity, while promoting literacy and entrepreneurship.  His company's about us page promises "Our team players are experinced (sic)... we are not out to exploit you to make a quick buck."

The rapper-turned-hopeful-mogul comments, "Getting this deal done is very personal to me. I was once an at risk youth, diagnosed with ADHD and a high school dropout. I finally woke up and realized that my teachers cared enough about me to tell me where I was going wrong and how to correct my actions. Because they spoke to the King in me, my life has changed dramatically. I am far from perfect but I feel that I am now in a better position to help teachers by being a positive role model for students. The students can never say that I don't know what they are going through. Plus it doesn't hurt to be a Pearson when attempting to help reform education. I guess you can say it's in the DNA."

The rapper, who claims to have "the copyrights to prove that he is the owner of what he calls 'Corporate Hip Hop'", writes on RIM:

The team at UVMF feels the move is perfect timing on how to better leverage itself against other device makers. The deal will help the development of UVMF'S $1.6 Billion proposed Pearson Education Tablet (PET), take UVMF public and develop a new brand imaging campaign for Black Berry Products using UVMF's entertainment ties.

The group is also collecting donations, which they claim will be used to buy 1 million children PET devices.  So far they have raised $5 USD -- 0 percent of their goal, according to the site.

However, unlikely it's highly entertaining to imagine a union of the colorful UVMF with the ill-fated RIM.

Sources: Washington Post, UVMF/Dr. Nono Pearson [via MSNBC PR]

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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