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Enterprises Abandoning BlackBerry

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

RIM faces obstacles as it introduces new BlackBerry OS, the BBX platform.

BlackBerry maker faces obstacles as it introduces new smartphone operating system, the BBX platform.

RIM customers suffered through the worst outage in BlackBerry history last week, as millions of users went without service for up to three days. While the disruption will cost RIM as much as $120 million, it'll likely accelerate a worrying trend for the mobile e-mail pioneer: the abandonment of BlackBerry for the iOS and Android by enterprises and consumers.

Industry analyst firm Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) reports that close to a third of BlackBerry users in large enterprises expect to migrate to another mobile device platform in 2012. EMA based its findings on two separate in-depth surveys of both end users and IT managers.

"At the time the end user survey was performed in early September, BlackBerry devices were reported as the dominant smartphone platform in large enterprises (those with greater than 10,000 employees) with 52% of respondents in that category reporting they primarily used a BlackBerry for business purposes," said EMA managing research director  Steve Brasen to Tom's IT Pro.  "However, when we asked the same group of respondents what device they expected to be using a year from now, only 36% reported they would continue to use the BlackBerry platform."

That, according to Brasen, indicates a 31% decline in BlackBerry adoption in just one year in RIM's primary customer demographic. The news for RIM is worse with smaller business sizes, which "reported an even larger reduction of BlackBerry use with greater than 60% reporting plans to move to other platforms in the next year," he added.

RIM traditionally excels with large enterprises. Not only are those heavily invested in RIM's smartphones, most leverage the company’s behind-the-firewall BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). This makes RIM the dominant mobile device management player as well.

EMA’s results were far more dramatic than anticipated. It strongly indicates that employees and enterprises are increasingly abandoning BlackBerry devices in favor of Android and iOS smartphones and tablets; a trend Brasen expects will accelerate thanks to the recent BlackBerry service failures.

The news isn’t all bad for RIM. But its mobile device management fortunes may rest with RIM's willingness to add support for the iPhone and Android smartphones.

 "78% of IT managers of large organization indicated they are currently supporting BlackBerry devices and expect to continue to do so over the next year even though the percentage of their workforce utilization of this platform is declining,” Brasen said. “From the responses we received, though, it is currently unclear if organizations intend to also decrease adoption of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) management platform.  In our opinion, however, this will depend entirely on whether RIM will deliver on its promise of providing cross-platform support with the BES system." 

iOS, Android Sharks Circling

As Jason Katz, founder and CEO of Paltalk, an interactive social networking and video conferencing company, pointed out to Tom's IT Pro, "In the past, everyone from the CEO to the office manager had a BlackBerry on their hip.  Blackberry has a fully functional secure enterprise server that makes business owners feel safe when it comes to receiving and sending important data." However, "slowly but surely," Katz added, "those BlackBerry handsets are being replaced with iPhones and Droids as the dependability of email has increased on these platforms. Even the iPad is gaining ground. Apple's Tim Cook said recently that 'more than 80 percent' of Fortune 100 companies are testing out the iPad."

RIM was slow to respond to the introduction of the iPhone by Apple in 2007 and the Android platform by Google shortly thereafter. And when it did, it was with lackluster products such as the BlackBerry Storm, the unfinished BlackBerry PlayBook tablet and an aging, increasingly dated, operating system.

"The enhanced screen size and touch-screen Webcentric devices of both the iPhone and Android have successfully appealed to consumers.  Blackberry doesn't have that on their phones, except for their Storm which does not have a user friendly interface," noted Katz. "In addition, there are over 200,000 apps in the Android Market, over 350,000 apps in the Apple App Store and only 30,000 in Blackberry World making Blackberry far less attractive.  Lastly, Blackberry's browser is much slower than its competitors."

The iPhone has become the most popular individual smartphone today with sales of the new iPhone 4s topping 4 million in its first weekend alone.  And Android is now the most popular platform overall.  RIM dropped from a 25.7% to a 21.7% share in just three months over the summer, according to ComScore. That's compared to an increase to 41.8% and 27% shares for Google and Apple, respectively.

Together, the iOS and Android, have put the squeeze on BlackBerry. It is a grip that's only gotten tighter and is starting to affect RIM’s bread and butter enterprise business

Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Low user satisfaction on the part of consumer and business has thrown BlackBerry owners into the arms of  Apple and Google, according to EMA.  A mere 16% of EMA respondents said they were completely satisfied with their BlackBerry. That's less than half the 44% of iPhoners who answered the same.

RIM continues to attempt to plug holes to keep its leaky ship afloat. Yesterday, RIM's co-CEO Mike Lazaridis unveiled the next-generation BlackBerry operating system, called BBX, at the company's DevCon conference.

BBX combines the traditional BlackBerry OS and RIM's new QNX platform. QNX made its debut earlier this year in RIM's PlayBook tablet. A beta of BBX, which is supposed to be a significant jump forward for RIM—including better web browsing, Cloud integration, a new user interface and the ability to run native, HTML5, Android and Adobe Flash and AIR applications, etc.—is due later this fall.

Katz thinks "the deployment and ability to run Android applications on RIM is the last best hope for RIM to reverse the decline of its platform."

In the meantime, should RIM continue to stumble, there are plenty of companies ready to take over for BES as mobile device managers in the enterprise, just as the iPhone and Android smartphones models have already done for millions of workers.

“For example, Good Technologies, Kaseya, and McAfee all currently offer automated security and/or systems management platforms for ensuring device security and reliability, including features for lock & wipe, device tracking, provisioning, and email and messaging management ,” cited Brasen. “Many other management vendors are also emerging with mobile device support solutions.  In particular, most vendors that currently offer client lifecycle management platforms are also extending their solutions to support mobile devices.”

James Alan MillerJames Alan MillerJames Alan Miller is Managing Editor of Tom's IT Pro. He is a veteran technology journalist with over seventeen years of experience creating and developing magazine and online content. Founding editor of numerous business and enterprise computing sites at the network, James headed up the After Hours section at PC Magazine, as well as hardware and software sections of various Windows publications.