Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Article: What does RIM Need to Do to Stay Relevant in the Enterprise?

It's no secret that RIM is in trouble on Wall Street as it loses out in the consumer market to Android vendors and Apple. But what about RIM's core competency, the enterprise? We've been covering the rapid adoption of Android and especially iOS in the enterprise, and the availability of device management alternatives to the BlackBerry Enterprise Manager. Is RIM in danger of losing business customers as well as consumers? We think so, but have a few ideas on what RIM can do to keep its competitive edge.

First of all, let's be clear: most of the Android and iOS adoption in the enterprise is coming from user-owned devices. At the moment, RIM seems to be holding onto its existing enterprise customers. So why are we worried? Two things:

1) User-owned devices could start to cut into corporate owned devices. Business customers may start ditching their BlackBerrys in favor of carrying only one non-RIM phone as more organizations begin to allow user-owned devices.

2) As enterprises start supporting Android and iOS devices using device management solutions such as Good, Mobile Iron and Zenprise, they may start to realize they don't need BES any more.

3) As we pointed out when the European Commission decided against using BlackBerrys, enterprises are increasingly relying on more than just e-mail for communication and collaboration - and the lack of developer support for BlackBerry could be a stumbling block in the future.
So what are they to do?

Switch to Android

Dan Frommer recently suggested that RIM switch to Android. There was already a rumor that RIM's tablet will be Android powered, though that seems unlikely (others suggest it will be QNX powered).

Certainly that would be difficult, but it would give BlackBerry users a greater selection of software. As Frommer points out, the BlackBerry OS isn't RIM's core competency - its secure e-mail service is. If RIM offered a device with modern hardware, an Android operating system and its own e-mail service, all tied to a BES, then it could secure its position in the enterprise.

Altimeter Group analyst Ray Wang disagrees. "There is so much value in the BBOS today," he says. "The issue is they need to rearchitect the platform to be more object oriented and developer productivity focused."
"My 12 year old cousin can build a fairly complex iPhone app in 3 weeks," Wang says. "The same app would require him 2 months to build on the RIM platform." To this end, RIM is re-tooling its app store, but it seems a lot like the Torch: too little, too late.

Deeply Integrate with Enterprise Software

If the future of the enterprise is in apps, then RIM could do more to engage enterprise software vendors and integrate their software more deeply in the BES. RIM is already doing this with SAP, but as Wang points out, development for BlackBerrys can be difficult.

"Relevance in the enterprise is not really in question at this point for RIM as they are still the dominant platform in this area right now," says Seregon CEO Julian White, "Where the other platforms have a slight advantage, and therefore RIM has a great opportunity to improve upon, is in the development tools they offer to build B2B, B2C, and B2E applications."

Seregon markets mobile enterprise application development platforms and will launch a new mobile application framework DragonRAD this year at BlackBerry DevCon.

A big issue for enterprises creating mobile apps is how to handle custom installations, according Rhomobile CEO Adam Blum. "Almost no enterprise is using an out of the box schema," he says.

Rhomobile attempts to solve this with its mobile application framework Rhodes (which we covered previously here), which supports changing schemes. According to Blum, spent quite a lot of money developing its own schema framework for its mobile app. RhoLogic was able to use Rhodes to quickly and cheaply build a SugarCRM mobile client.

RhoMobile or Seregon could make interesting acquisition targets for RIM, or point to a future strategy for RIM: making life easier for enterprise developers.

Create a Breakthrough Technology

RIM has been lagging companies like Apple, HTC and Samsung in its hardware development lately. The Torch's 624 Mhz processor and 360/480 resolution display failed to impress most reviewers. At the very least it needs to keep up with the competition - but what if they were able to leapfrog the competition? It's hard to predict what that could be, but if RIM stays in the hardware game it would be nice to see some real innovation.

The Good News: Apple might Not be All That Interested in the Enterprise

There is some good news: even though Apple may be capturing some of the enterprise market, but Canonical COO Matt Asay recently tweeted "Will Apple care? It has never aggressively courted enterprises." In fact, Steve Jobs hates enterprise IT.

It's difficult to see Apple walking away from all that money, and have been releasing enterprise iOS tools, so RIM shouldn't take too much comfort. But IT managers should take note of Apple's antipathy towards the enterprise before investing too heavily into Apple technology.

What else?

Are you a business user who has switched to the iPhone or an Android device? Or an IT manager considering supporting more mobile operating systems? What can RIM do to win you back or keep you?

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