Life after RIM in the enterprise?

30 03 2012

There has been a lot of talk about RIM today, caused mainly because the company has stated it is giving up on the consumer market and heading back to its roots, the enterprise. Couple this with the $120m loss the company has made and the hints at “sale”, and you do see why lots of people have been talking about RIM. (If you don’t know RIM – Research in Motion make the BlackBerry devices).

One of the big conversations I have been involved in today (on Twitter with @BPMredux @puleen @souvikbonnerjee and @AlbertoManuel) is just what do we think will happen in the enterprise regarding the use of mobile devices, and vendor offerings for mobile based solutions. @BPMredux asked in his blog two simple questions

“How many BPM vendors have a mobile BPM solution based on Apple, Android or Windows Mobile”


“Now how many of you are still stuck with RIM and Blackberry in your own corporate environment?”

You can join in his debate at

So in this blog post I have want to have explore at some of the main points and give some thoughts based on conversations and relationships I have with a number of IT professionals that work within the enterprise supporting their systems…


Are we seeing the BlackBerry swansong?

RIM is still a big player

For sure RIM is still a big player in the enterprise. Most people I know and speak too (within large corporations) have BlackBerry devices handed out to them as their corporate phones. There are lots of reasons why the enterprise opts for BlackBerry – security being one, durability another. Many people I speak to who have to support mobile devices within their business prefer BlackBerry, and that’s because they have better control over them, they are easier to administer, the battery life is second to none and the devices are durable (they do seem to get dropped a lot). These things mean less time is spent with the end user trying to address issues, and after all, time is money…

Apple is making in-roads in the enterprise

This all being said, the iPhone is making in-roads in the enterprise, especially within the “exec” levels of business. While the phone is undeniably a great phone, it does cause headaches for business, especially if you are already standardized on RIM. Throw into the mix that not much else in the enterprise is Apple based and the fact that you do pay over the odds for their devices, and you can see why, even with a great offering like the iPhone, Apple still isn’t king of mobile for business.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

This is something I hear a lot about and read about. However, in reality, this really hasn’t shown any traction with the enterprise, and I very much doubt it ever will. Predominantly BYOD is a media thing based on what some SMEs maybe doing – it simply isn’t a great option for the enterprise, and here is why…

The enterprise needs to support its workforce and their devices, mobile, desktop, tablet, laptop whatever. This means they have resource dedicated to help ensure IT runs smoothly. That IT needs to administer these devices, ensure business applications run as expected, ensure everything is secure as possible and support end users. (They do other things also, but no need to list out everything). If the IT department has control over its devices, it knows what they are, it can secure them better, ensure the software works as expected, manage roll outs, upgrades etc etc and help users with their devices (without having to train IT staff / mobile support staff on every handset available to a consumer). In addition, standardization allows the enterprise to strike good deals with their suppliers and all big business has preferred suppliers – that’s just life. So imagine you take all that control away from IT. What are you left with? Yeap, a mess. You simply can’t have users connecting random devices to your network. You can’t expect vendors to support all mobile platforms under the sun for bespoke software for that business. You can’t expect in house IT to help users with their particular phones OS or hardware issues, and you can’t expect everything you need to work on the device to work on every single device (have I said that one already?). All in all, BYOD is a great concept, lovely for startups and SMEs, but for the enterprise, this isn’t an option…

Software vendors and their mobile offerings

The BYOD issue does illustrate that software vendors do not support all mobile devices. Sure there are comments that solutions should be mobile web enabled, that they should run using HTML 5, but that user experience is going to be pretty poor. The reason we love our native apps is that we can do more with an app, and the experience is a lot better than anything we see on our mobile web browser. This means vendors have to support native apps, and do they really need to support so many different platforms? Ideally they want to support one, but realistically know they may need to support a few. The problem for a vendor at the moment is which to support? RIM is a must, or is it…It used to be. Apple devices, well they are a must aren’t they…well yes and no…Android? No. Symbian…erm No….Windows Phone…Well potentially……

So what do you do as a vendor? I personally would wait until the end of the year to make a decision…

Windows 8 in the enterprise

Let’s be clear, Windows 8 may not be rolled out across the enterprise as soon as it’s released, but business will be reviewing it, and scheduling in a Windows upgrade path. Some upgrade paths will be quicker than others, and some may do their normal, and wait for the version after – so upgrade when Windows 9 is available as they haven’t long been on Windows 7. The point is Windows 8/9 will be the standard OS on the enterprise desktop and on majority of their servers. With this comes the normal office based software and legacy applications that every enterprise has running on a Windows environment. However, Windows 8 is a little more than just a desktop OS. All of a sudden the enterprise can have the same OS across all devices, including mobile and tablets. Think what a nice thought that is for IT within the enterprise and vendors alike. A single OS to administer across all devices,  a single user experience to support and the ability to seamlessly tie in lots of services they already use back into the devices of choice. Office, Outlook, Lync, Office 365, Sharepoint, cloud backups, device synchronization etc. That makes life a lot easier for IT doesn’t it…

As a vendor then, supporting Windows 8 is a must. But hold on, if you support Windows 8 metro what do you support all of a sudden? Yes, tablets (including ARM based tablets), desktops, laptops, netbooks and with a few tweeks, mobiles. All of a sudden supporting Windows Phone seems an obvious choice –  a necessity. So perhaps it’s back to the usual suspects, support Windows first, then perhaps Apple…Or vice versa depending on where you are with your mobile policies and vendor software.

Let’s think about suppliers to the enterprise. Most enterprises have a strict supply chain policy, and with Windows 8, this means the enterprise can choose who supplies their hardware, including desktop and phones. Remember Fujitsu, Acer, Dell, Nokia, Samsung, HTC and others deliver Windows 8 mobile devices. These same companies will deliver Windows 8 tablets, and most of them will deliver desktops, servers, laptops and netbooks. The enterprise therefore has the flexibility it desires regarding suppliers, but the security, administrative advantages of being tied into a single ecosystem, which runs all their legacy software. Essentially, for the enterprise, Windows 8/9 is a no brainer across all devices….

Where does this all leave RIM?

Well, to be blunt, I believe in a very deep, dark hole.

Essentially if it becomes a no brainer to support Windows Phone in the enterprise and Windows 8 tablet devices, then Apple will continue to struggle in the Enterprise, but that’s not a great loss to them. RIM on the other hand, if they struggle in the enterprise then I believe we will be saying goodbye to RIM and thanks for the BlackBerry memories. Without a consumer market, Windows 8 could well be the last nail in the BlackBerry coffin. I for one am already starting to think that by mid 2013, I could be writing a blog along the lines of “bye bye RIM, thanks for the BlackBerry memories…”



6 responses

30 03 2012

First up my disclosure, I have to admit to being a BB user which our corporation supports 🙂 I am not so pessimistic about RIM’s future, even as it drops out the consumer market, I think it may ne able to defend it enterprise business. There was talk of acquistion earlier, might RIM be a target for a Samsung or LG to complement their consumer phones?

30 03 2012
Andrew Smith @onedegree

Maybe…I dont know. Lots of hearsay re Samsung wanting its own OS, could well be an option – though their model is working currently for them. Droid and to a tiny extent Windows Phone…But who knows. I do think RIM board will try and sell parts of the company…

31 03 2012
Max J. Pucher

Andrew, I think you might not consider that BYOD means that the business doesn’t support the device. The cloud does. Enterprise just has to enable the apps ans this happening big time on smartphones.

1 04 2012
Andrew Smith @onedegree

I have seen zero traction in this. The idea is a nice one, but in reality the enterprise will still end up supporting its users and the apps that run on the devices etc etc. We must remember what the enterprise has to do, in some cases legally. How will an enterprise realistically define and enforce acceptable use policies on devices they don’t own, and across such a wide spectrum of devices. Partial management is possible for certain things, but there are simply too many “holes” in the solution for the enterprise. Issues such as backups, remote wipe, application provisioning, support etc etc. This is what I am hearing and being told, and as I have said, I have seen zero traction for this….

BYOD works fine for the simple things, such as checking my emails, accessing contacts and things that typically can be delivered in “out of the box applications” like Office. But for vendor specific or even enterprise specific software and access to other enteprise resources this isnt the case.

BYOD I think is yet another thing that may only see traction with SMEs. I maybe wrong (obviously) but the practicalities and willingness of the enterprise (and my own experience and contacts) tell me, if I were a betting man, that BYOD wont see mass adoption….

1 04 2012
Alberto Manuel

Hi Andrew.

15 days ago I quit my BB relationship due poor performance of the devices ( I had a storm 1 and a storm 2) and because the contract with the operator was finished. I roll back to a Nokia with more than 5/6 years old and found that it fits my needs of mobile information access and communication due the excellent design of the equipment, meaning that the engineering principles of the device are still valid today showing that the e-series where fine pieces of electronics even for today’s standards.

The pervasiveness of smart devices brings an additional challenge to the CIO, because it’s virtually impossible to deliver apps to the myriad of operating systems available (Apple is an exception because it relies on the same platform). It’s impossible to assure that there is a single device /operating system type. This will transform again the the IT department onto managing software deployment like in the client server era. That cannot be the approach. Even for the companies that produce systems and are offering apps for running on smartphones can face a serious problem if they cannot handle the equipment substitution / phase out.

Mobile / smart phone industry moves too fast ( I believe that Apple will be remembered in the future as a company that made a mark in the market but could not keep the pace, like it happened with others) thus, I think the idea is use the equipment as a communication point and use the browser for information access. Does not matter if it’s Apple, Android, Windows , BB, whatever.

1 04 2012
Andrew Smith @onedegree

The browser is too clunky and too limiting – and in many ways it has to be due to security. I think the future will end up being native apps delivered across just a few platforms.

The Microsoft approach with Windows 8 makes that a reality, and one that is so easy to manage across any device. We have already written code here that is written once and managed across a myriad of Win8 devices (Preview addition granted). Small visual and some backend dev mods then made it work (and be synchronised) with Win Phone 7.5. This is all acheived because Windows leverages Azure cloud capabilities. It’s a very big step forward I believe without the enterprise needing to jump into bed fully with “everything in the cloud” type of ideas…..Essentially, its the best of all worlds approach – and I like that…

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