* 25,000 employees moving to Dell Venue Pro
* Dell to push customers to switch as well
* Dell and RIM now rivals in smartphone market
The money-saving switch affects the roughly 25,000 Dell employees who carry a company-issued BlackBerry. Dell employs around 100,000 people worldwide.
Dell is also launching an effort to convince its business customers to switch to the company’s smartphone.
News of the company’s plans was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, and confirmed by Dell spokesman David Frink.
Frink said the switch will begin soon, but said it will take some time to complete.
RIM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dell's BlackBerry users will be shifted over to use the new Dell Venue Pro, which runs on Microsoft's MSFT.O new Windows Phone 7 software and operates on the network of T-Mobile USA, the U.S. arm of Deutsche Telekom AG DTEGn.DE.
Dell’s decision to move its employees off BlackBerry may come as little surprise, given its aspirations in the mobile device market. The company has frequently talked about using handheld devices as a gateway to sell and promote a broader suite of services.
Dell formally entered the smartphone market only late last year, and launched its first device in the U.S., the Aero, earlier this year. The Aero runs on Google's GOOG.O Android software, as does Dell's new 5-inch tablet, the Streak.
RIM has long been the dominant player in the corporate smartphone market, but has seen its market share erode as companies such as Apple AAPL.O make gains.
In the third quarter, RIM’s global smartphone market share slipped more than 4 percentage points from a year-ago, according to industry tracker IDC. (Reporting by Gabriel Madway; editing by Carol Bishopric)
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