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Last week, we mentioned that RIM may or may not be releasing a tablet device in the near future. We suggested that BlackBerry may need to find a niche for whom the new device would be best suited, much the way the iPad has appealed to geeks and gamers. A commenter reminded us that BlackBerries already have an audience: suits, lackeys and IT managers. Yet, according to a new study, even that niche is waning.

Use It, Want It or Love It?

Researchers at Crowd Science surveyed 2,423 online visitors between August 25-September 7, 2010 and found that companies that force employees to use BlackBerries “may be indirectly hurting the brand by fomenting low user loyalty.” The study focused on smartphone brand loyalty and discovered that just because you have to have a BlackBerry doesn’t mean you have to like it.

BlackBerries were much more likely to be the brand chosen by companies for their employees. One-third of BlackBerry owners indicated that they use their phones mostly or only for business purposes, compared with just 20% of all smartphone users.

Here’s a quick breakdown of satisfaction and loyalty:

  • 35% of survey respondents whose smartphone choices were dictated by their company said they were “very satisfied” with their brand, compared with about 60% of users who exercised at least some choice in their smartphone purchases.
  • 45% of all BlackBerry users said they were “very satisfied” with their phones -- compared with 71% of iPhone users and 70% of Android users.
  • 30% of all BlackBerry users would buy another BlackBerry for their next phone, while 70% of iPhone and Android users would stick with their current brands.

Bad for BlackBerry, Good for Security?

While these results indicate that BlackBerry users may long for another phone, perhaps this is just what companies want. After all, keeping it so that employees use their company-commission Blackberries for business purposes only isn’t such a bad thing. Security-wise, we wouldn’t be surprised if it was orchestrated by IT in an effort to keep company data as secure as they can.

Regardless, BlackBerry seems to have an image problem, similar to that suffered by Windows users. RIM could take a cue from Microsoft and just keep doing what they are doing. As long as you’ve got corporate buy-in, who cares about customer loyalty anyway?