Enterprises Should Not Yet Turn Their Backs on BlackBerry

Gary Barton
Gary Barton

Summary Bullets:

  • BlackBerry’s travails mean that enterprises should consider preparing a migration strategy to other platforms.
  • BlackBerry’s enterprise solutions such as BES 10 and BB IM remain compelling solutions with a future.

What to do with a problem like BlackBerry?  With losses of $965 million (USD) for Q2 2013, revenues down 49% year-over-year and an announcement that 45% of its workforce will be laid off, it seems like the end is nigh for the Canadian firm.  The obvious conclusion is therefore for ICT managers of companies utilising BlackBerry hardware (handsets or servers) to begin working out their migration path to Android, iOS or Windows Mobile.  Similarly, when considering BYOD solutions, there seems no need to make long-term plans for BlackBerry devices.  Certainly, the dominance of Android and iOS-based devices means that these two operating systems should be at the forefront of mobile application design and mobile security policies.  BlackBerry’s future in the mobile device market does indeed seem bleak.

However, Blackberry’s corporate mobility solutions, particularly BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES), are a different matter altogether and enterprises should look at BES separately from BlackBerry smartphones.  In the UK, providers such as Vodafone, O2, Everything Everywhere (EE) and Kcom have all invested in BES 10.  BlackBerry also reports that a large number of UK enterprises have opted for BES-based solutions, including 34 of the FTSE 100 companies.  This should not be a surprise, as BES 10 remains a convincing mobile device management/BYOD solution including compatibility with Android and iOS devices.  BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is also a compelling messaging solution, although the launch of an Android and iOS-compatible version has been put on pause whilst various bugs are resolved.  Meanwhile, BlackBerry Enterprise IM will work with mobile corporate messaging services such as Microsoft Lync and IBM Sametime.

So what are the conclusions?  Well, enterprises should expect a degree of resistance to rollouts of BlackBerry smartphones to corporate users.  The evidence suggests that employees are often not prepared to consider using two mobile devices (i.e., work and home) and consumer choice has clearly shifted decisively away from BlackBerry.  Enterprises should also be aware of backward compatibility issues with BlackBerry 10 devices and versions of BES earlier than BES 10.  However, there is also evidence that BlackBerry’s QWERTY keyboard is still popular amongst a significant percentage of senior level staff at various large enterprises/MNCs.  This creates the reality that most companies must be prepared to support BlackBerry devices for at least the medium term.  Deploying BlackBerry without the handsets also remains an option well worth considering.  BlackBerry’s uncertain future merits a conversation with providers, but enterprises should also be aware that BlackBerry’s enterprise mobility solutions are considered the jewels in the crown, and whoever ends up acquiring the company will see this technology as the primary reason for the acquisition.

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