Fast Company

UAE's BlackBerry Services and Porn Ban a Boon to Steve's iPhone

RIM iPhone UAE

The UAE's government has requested that RIM bar local consumers from accessing porn sites on their BlackBerrys. It's not a blanket ban, though, instead consisting of a list or sites that the government disapproves of for some reason. RIM's agreed to implement the bar on some 3,000 sites, at the behest of the communications industry, but has asked for the rest of the year to actually make the block work as requested.

Meanwhile it's emerged that the upcoming lock-down on certain BlackBerry services inside the UAE, which is coming into force because the government has concerns that the foreign-hosted servers that make the systems work will allow exposure of "national security"-level secrets, will also affect visitors to the area. This is causing something of a sensation on the Internet given the huge business market share BlackBerry enjoys, and the amount of international business the UAE attracts--to say nothing of Dubai's ambitions to be a major world business hub. From October, BlackBerry owners visiting the UAE will find themselves without access to the Web, messaging, and--most disastrous, given it's practically the BlackBerry's raison d'être--email.

This is all good news for Steve Jobs and his wonder iPhone. The iPhone has been making inroads into the business scene, given an extra-special boost recently by the very business-friendly iPad, and eroding the market share of once-dominant RIM. Apple's already shown it's not afraid to bend to potentially uncomfortable (from a Western point of view) requests from governments in order to acquire new businesses, and it's plausible it would acquiesce to UAE concerns about security worries. Jobs has also frequently stated his objections to porno uses of his iPhone and iPad platforms (in direct conflict with how many users and sex industry companies want to use the phone, but what the heck) so any requests to ban access to porn via iPhone would probably fall on listening ears.

RIM's main, impossible option--impossible because of the expense, and concerns about user trust violation--would be to locate special UAE government-friendly BlackBerry servers in the region, but Apple doesn't necessarily have to do this, and yet it can deliver a similar level of real-time email service to its clients. The iPhone 4's also undeniably a chic-er phone than the typical utilitarian BlackBerry, which may even attract UAE clients.

The Android army of phones is also likely to benefit too, but really we're seeing this as a big tick in Apple's future-business box, and a black smudge in RIM's, as these two phone giants battle for the business user's mindshare. Will RIM's supposedly swanky new Torch 9800 phone help it reverse its losing trend, and eclipse the bad news coming from the Arabian Gulf?

To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

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