I'm Not Dead Yet

This is an interesting perspective on why Blackberry / RIM may not be dead yet.  After a weekend trying to futz with iPhone access to Gmail and a failed iPhone OS upgrade, I am sympathetic to the enterprise argument that modern iOS and Android smart phones may be lacking in the security and stability that corporations want.  There is still an enterprise market out there -- after all, IBM completely left most of the sexy and high-profile consumer markets but still does about  hundred billion in sales each year at a respectable 15% profit margin.


  1. eCurmudgeon:

    After a weekend trying to futz with iPhone access to Gmail and a failed iPhone OS upgrade, I am sympathetic to the enterprise argument that modern iOS and Android smart phones may be lacking in the security and stability that corporations want.

    And I'm still surprised Microsoft isn't a bigger player in the enterprise mobile space because of this. You'd think by now they'd be able to "Out-Blackberry" RIM with even better integration with Microsoft Exchange, which is the email system used by corporate America.

  2. aczarnowski:

    I lean toward ESR's analysis of RIM's prospects. While the IBM example is a good counterpoint, we're talking about distributed things people carry with them all the time. Not servers or process which lend themselves to centralization.

    Our CEO wanted an iPhone because he did and BES was gone a month later. It didn't help RIM that the guy tasked with making BES work hated it.

  3. JBurns:

    I don't think RIM's biggest threat is iOS or Android. RIM's greatest threat is Microsoft. If Microsoft can get Windows 8 right -- that is, it provides a reasonably functional mobile platform for phone and tablet with the level of control that MIS departments need (like locking app downloads, push updates, etc.) -- that hits a lot of RIM's market. The likes of Dell will push Windows mobile hard because it's their only way to complete with Apple on the Tablet market.

  4. me:

    My money is on MSFT or Apple for the enterprise market in the long run - the engineers are leaving RIM in droves (sinking ship), which curtails their ability to push product.

  5. Russ R.:

    I recently bought a bunch of RIM shares based on valuation, because I don't see either Apple's consumer oriented devices or Google's open-source Android system as serious threats to RIM's core capability in secure enterprise email.

    I'm also glad that RIM's new CEO appears to be returning the company's focus to its business clients.

    I agree that Microsoft is potentially one of the biggest threats to RIM going forward. The easy solution is a licensing agreement, letting Microsoft use the technology that RIM has already built in its Windows Mobile OS... an obvious win for both parties.

    On a side note, Apple's stunning growth in the consumer segment has come almost entirely in the developed world, and relies on consumer credit scoring that allows mobile carriers to subsidize handsets in exchange for 3-year contracts.

    In emerging markets, post-paid phone contracts are a rarity because consumer credit agencies are almost non-existent. Without a handset subsidy, how many emerging markets customers will be able to afford a $500 toy? If RIM continues to focus on the business segment, they won't face this obstacle as they grow in emerging markets. Businesses will give their employees $500 smartphones if they will improve productivity.

  6. IGotBupkis, Climate Change Denier and Proud Of It.:

    >>>> the sexy and high-profile low-margin consumer markets

    You left a key term out there, so I added it back in. Glad I could help. :^D

    Within certain limits, most business purchases are Friedman Class II, so I concur, there's possibly a niche market there.

    However, the key factor is that, if I get my computer from IBM, it still runs Windows-based software, so that, if there's a program IBM doesn't support which I still want, I can get it and use it anyway.

    The same cannot be said for Blackberries, atm -- their best hope is to transit the BOS to some more strongly controlled variant of Android which would allow BB users to still use most, if not all, of Android's wide array of apps, while still providing a strong amount of the stability and reliability of which you speak.

    I also note from aczarnowski's link above, which I concur with:

    >>>> If your company is failing, withdrawing from mass markets to focus on
    >>>> the high end may look like a smart move for a few quarters but it makes
    >>>> eventual doom more certain. The decline and fall of Sun Microsystems is
    >>>> probably the most recent major example but far from the only one.

    Actually, I would say Apple's Macintosh was the prime example of this. The company was all but completely written off by 1997, and was only saved by the iPod and its successors.

  7. IGotBupkis, Climate Change Denier and Proud Of It.:

    >>> The easy solution is a licensing agreement, letting Microsoft use the technology that RIM has already built in its Windows Mobile OS… an obvious win for both parties.

    This does not really fit with M$'s typical business strategy. I'd look instead for M$ to BUY RIM. Then they will slowly let the BB die while offering W8mobile Smart Phones as a way to keep themselves in the market that is ready to toss them by the wayside over the next 5+ years as the tablet market becomes the main user development base, leading to a takeover of the OS away from Windows over time. Given the general (and accurately directed) hatred towards M$ of a large number of techies out there, now that there is a viable alternative to Windows, you can expect a slow but steady transition away from it.

    W8 may not be the last Windows, but it will be the last successful Windows.

  8. Doug:

    @Bupkis: what REALLY saved Apple was not just the iPod, but iTunes/PC coupled with an iPod that had a USB interface, rather than the Firewire interface that previous iPods sported. Now you had a consumer device you could sell to the much larger PC world, using software that was thoroughly tested for compatibility with the iPod. Prior to iPod/PC, getting ANY mp3 player software to work with your hardware was usually a losing proposition. Further, to his credit, Steve Jobs upended the CD market with iTune Music Store, where you could finally buy single cuts rather than a complete album. When you look at Apple's sales curve, "the knee of the diode" turns up when iPod hardware and PC software merged in May, 2003. Prior to that date you could have bought Apple stock back then for about $10.

  9. Evil Red Scandi:

    Ha! If you've ever had to deal with the hellacious pile of (expensive!!!) bovine fecal matter that is Blackberry Enterprise Server you'll understand why most IT departments are happy to see it gone, hopefully never to return. Full of stupid limitations (replication failing because a user has too many folders?!?? We're talking less than 100), installation bugs that they'd rather document than fix (even years later), and about as stable as a meth-addicted rock star in the last six months before death. It's a crap product that only survived because it effectively had no competition for many years. I've dealt with plenty of iPads, iPhones, Android tablets, Android phones, and Blackberries, and I'll take Apple's mobile devices every day, every time (at least for now). Yes, Blackberry offers some better security options but most company's policies are so poorly implemented and users so undereducated about security that it really makes very little difference on a practical level.

  10. anon:

    Love my Android, and have never had a problem with my Touchdown email client. Perfectly transparent, great functionality with Exchange, including all the calendar stuff.

  11. John Moore:

    The company I work for issues iPhones to those employees who need a phone. No problems, and secure enough email.

  12. epobirs:

    Windows Phone in its current state is not suitable for enterprise adoption. There are some critical elements for secure connections missing that were in previous Windows Mobile generations.

    It isn't clear whether MS will ever add these items to WP 7.x or leave it for WP 8.x, which is expected to be a major under the hood departure from the current code base to one derived from the ARM version of Windows 8 kernel, much as iOS was a derivative of the ARM version of the Mac OS X core. It may have been decided that it is less work to get all of those desired VPN and other features as part of the package for shifting to the different kernel.

    This also feeds into the Nokia strategy of selling low-cost smartphones into market that can now only afford feature phones. Despite only supporting single core CPU and lacking some of the other high-end hardware support in the competition, WP 7.5 performs very well and can deliver a much better experience on cheap hardware than Android. This code base may continue as the smartphone for the emerging markets while WP 8.x, sharing the bulk of APIs, pushes the high end in more affluent markets.

    IGotBupkis, I've been hearing the 'last successful Windows' since the early 90s. It was nonsense each time. The PC isn't going away. Trying to do types of work on a table is an exercise in misery. The market will do what it's always done, expand to offer a greater range of choices and more challenge for those trying to cover all of the bases.

    I hear the same nonsense from those declaring the death of dedicated handheld game systems. Again, many types of games are just miserable on a touchscreen. The dedicated mobile gaming systems can offer touch and cheap downloads while continuing to offer controls not found on typical smartphones and tablets and high-end software offerings beyond what the phone and tablet markets will support.