Will corporate America ever again be in the throes of a Crackberry addiction? Longtime customers—both enterprises and consumers—have already voted with their feet, abandoning Research In Motion's Blackberry smartphones in large numbers during the past year and beyond in favor of Apple's iOS devices and Google's Android-based phones.
But on January 30th RIM made what is likely a last ditch effort to revitalize its ailing brand with the launch of a long-awaited new operating system - Blackberry 10 - and as many as half a dozen new handsets. The launch was delayed almost half a year, and analysts and surveys are predicting that the new tech won't be enough to excite enterprise IT departments or consumers into sticking with, returning to, or trying out Blackberry for the first time.
Here, we take a look at RIM's odds for and efforts made toward growing its customer base with Blackberry 10. Why did companies leave Blackberry, to begin with, and what does RIM need to do to win back market share? No matter the outcome, time is running out for RIM. We'll likely have answers about the future of the company and its devices within the next year.
The numbers don’t look good.
RIM wants current corporate subscribers to its Blackberry Enterprise Server software services to upgrade to Blackberry 10, but the company actually lost subscribers—a million of them!—for the first time in the most recent financial quarter. Device sales have declined each year-over-year quarter for the last six quarters.
Right now, the company’s U.S. market share is less than 7%, according to research firm Gartner, and its analysts have been recommending to clients that they not upgrade to Blackberry Enterprise Server 10 until it is proven-—though many of those clients have already left RIM for good. What’s worse--a fourth-quarter 2012 survey from iPass found that of mobile workers who plan to upgrade their smartphones in the next year, only 5% plan to choose a Blackberry, even though Blackberry 10 is close at hand (it is possible that these surveyed consumers weren’t aware of that).
Most industry-watchers agree that in order for Blackberry 10 to be well-received in an enterprise environment, it has to receive a seal of approval from those consumers who get to use their chosen devices for work (the Bring Your Own Device crowd), but some high profile corporate IT departments have ditched Blackberry quite vocally in recent months, which isn’t helping the Blackberry PR effort.
Oil industry stalwart Halliburton—about as corporate as they comes—switched its 4,500 Blackberry-toting employees to iPhone. U.S. government agencies, from the National Transportation Safety Board to the department of Homeland Security (nearly 18,000 employees) to the Pentagon, have put in procurement requests for iPhones, and talked up their dissatisfaction with Blackberry. Here’s what the National Transportation Safety Board request said about RIM’s device: “They have been failing both at inopportune times and at an unacceptable rate ... Due to performance issues with the Blackberry devices, the NTSB desires to transition to a different device ...”
And when former Google-exec Marissa Mayer became CEO of Yahoo, one of her first orders of business was to switch the company’s employee’s off of Blackberrys. In fact, her opinion of Blackberry is so low that she said, “We are literally moving the company from Blackberrys to smartphones,” and offered her employees a choice of virtually any other device operating system.
Rachel RosmarinRachel Rosmarin's technology reporting experience goes back a decade to the dawn of Wi-Fi, smartphones and the Mp3. She has an in-depth knowledge of consumer electronics and has cultivated her love of useful new toys and innovative social software at publications including Tom’s Guide, Forbes, Business 2.0, Sound & Vision and Mobile Magazine. She holds degrees in Journalism and Science In Human Culture from Northwestern University and is based in Los Angeles.
See here for all of Rachel's Tom's IT Pro articles.
Check Out These Mobile IT Videos