HSBC may ditch BlackBerry for iPhone: report

The world's largest bank is considering switching to the iPhone from the BlackBerry, according to an Australian report, a move that would be a huge blow to Waterloo, Ont.-based Research In Motion.

HSBC Holdings PLC, the world's largest bank, is considering ditching the BlackBerry in favour of the iPhone, according to an Australian report, a move that would be a huge blow to Waterloo, Ont.-based Research In Motion Ltd.

Brenton Hush, chief information officer for HSBC in Australia and New Zealand, on Tuesday said the bank was looking at rolling out Apple Inc.'s iPhone across its worldwide workforce of 300,000.

"We are actually reviewing iPhones from a HSBC Group perspective ... and when I say that, I mean globally," he told ZDNet Australia.

"A decision on a piece of hardware like that would potentially be deployed, conservatively, to 200,000 people," he said. "You know, it's a big decision, especially when you have an existing fleet out there.

"But it's definitely something we are considering from a HSBC Group perspective," he said. "We always explore the potential application of new technologies and this is no different."

Apple's first iPhone, released last year, was a huge hit with regular consumers but it was not seen as a serious business competitor to the BlackBerry because it lacked support for corporate e-mail. Apple addressed that concern and made the 3G iPhone, released in July, compatible with Microsoft Exchange servers, thus making the device a serious contender to the BlackBerry for business users.

RIM co-chief executive officer Jim Balsillie has repeatedly said the iPhone is good for his company's business as the device raises the profile of all "smartphones," or phones that also have e-mail and internet capabilities. RIM recently launched the BlackBerry Bold, which has faster internet connectivity than previous models but has a comparatively small screen compared to the iPhone. The company is rumoured to be looking at launching a new BlackBerry, called "Thunder," this year that will have a large touch-screen to directly compete with the iPhone.

RIM shares were down $1.04 to $135.26 in Wednesday morning trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The company's shares took a big hit when the 3G iPhone was released on July 11, dropping to less than $105, but they have since recovered.