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BlackBerry's New Enterprise Candy Won't Tempt CIOs

The company formerly known as RIM can't just copy the same things Apple and Google did to steal the top spot.

I don't pretend to be one of the smartphone technorati. I'm a business technology guy who relies on staffers to provision smartphones that make employees and their work more efficient. And I try to bet on financially sustainable vendors unless the short-term benefit outweighs the longer-term risk.

So on the day after the big BlackBerry announcement, I'm doing what guys like me do: reading what the smartphone technorati have to say on the subject and surfing the BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion) website to see how this is all relevant for me. I have bad news for the company formerly known as RIM: I'm not excited, and I don't think my peers are, either.

Hovering over the banner on the new BlackBerry website, I read: "Take advantage of offers, tools and resources to help you leverage your existing BlackBerry investment!" Um, what BlackBerry investment? Unlike InformationWeek's Secret CIO, John McGreavy, we decommissioned our last BlackBerry Enterprise Server about six months ago. While McGreavy's organization has given in a bit to the iPhone and Android wave, it still runs BES. But most CIOs I speak with are somewhere between "decommissioning" and "have decommissioned." BlackBerry's focus on "leverage your investment" is just too little, too late.

[ Want to see what all the fuss is about? Take a visual tour of the new BB 10 smartphones and operating system. ]

But I clicked on the "get the details" link anyway. Turns out I can get a free BlackBerry 10 smartphone for my organization, begging the question: Can I get our people to let go of their beloved iPhones to take it for a test drive? I can also get a free upgrade to our existing BES licenses -- pretty cool -- if we hadn't decommissioned the BES server and if our staff hadn't taken it out back and beaten it like those guys do in the movie Office Space.

What else? "Get actionable insights from weekly webcasts you can use to ensure your enterprise will be ready." And look, they're coming to a city near me so that we can get super duper excited and ready! But does my municipal enterprise want to be ready?

Not really.

The same things Apple and Google did to steal the top spot from the company formerly known as RIM are not going to help the company now known as BlackBerry regain the top spot. Neither my IT nor line-of business co-workers will care.

BlackBerry is trying to entice end users with the same kinds of candy -- books, videos, music -- that Apple and Google used to overtake the company formerly known as RIM. That tactic worked for Apple because there was a "candy gap" in the market. BlackBerry toys never cut it, unless you considered Brick Breaker state-of-the-art entertainment. And as a CIO, I'm not particularly interested that BlackBerry 10 promises a slew of "apps, games, music, videos, books, magazines and more."

Apple offered awesome consumer features and enough enterprise features to force execs like me to enlist a mobile device management vendor to provide the needed enterprise control. Most of us have taken our "consumerization" lumps and implemented solutions. We're living in a detente era, my friends, and without a really great reason to change the balance of power, nobody will want to.

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The new social contract between end users and IT requires a smartphone platform rich with end user candy and IT pragmatics. For BlackBerry to regain its crown, it must do as well or better at both, plus offer some innovation that Apple or Google couldn't quickly match. I'm not optimistic.

It does appear that BlackBerry is trying hard, announcing 70,000 apps for its new platform. That's not surprising considering that the company gave away a reported 25,000 units to developers to encourage application development.

From an enterprise standpoint, I'm not in the camp that thinks the super high BlackBerry level of device control is necessary or effective. A more pressing issue for me is the extent to which enterprise application developers will support this new mobile platform.

In addition to rolling out email and personal productivity apps such as Snap2PDF and Toodledo on smartphones, my shop is starting to roll out enterprise apps. A lot of IT shops are. We didn't develop these smartphone apps; they came with the enterprise software we bought, so we must use the platform those developers support. So, for example, for our building safety app, we can choose one of two platforms: iOS or Android, not BlackBerry. Point is, both Apple and Google have had so much market success that the enterprise software developers want to ride along. It will be difficult for BlackBerry to convince the ISV crowd that it's back from the dead, making it that much harder for enterprise IT to re-adopt BlackBerry.

In my mind, RIM was dead at the point when it mustered a lousy response to a four-day service outage, at a time when salespeople and the C-suite of multibillion-dollar companies were afflicted with iPhone envy. This can't end well, I thought.

Rather than ask the question "Will the company formerly known as RIM survive?" we need to ask a different question: "Would a startup succeed with what BlackBerry is bringing to the table?"

Only if it totally lets go of its failed legacy and disrupts the market and the balance of power with true innovation. But with new products that don't go beyond what's now leading the market, and a focus on "leverage your existing investment," I'm highly skeptical.

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User Rank: Apprentice
2/1/2013 | 8:07:38 PM
re: BlackBerry's New Enterprise Candy Won't Tempt CIOs
I notice the words "Windows Phone" do not appear anywhere in this article.
Frank Castle
Frank Castle,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/1/2013 | 12:16:50 AM
re: BlackBerry's New Enterprise Candy Won't Tempt CIOs
Doesn't sound like you really ever had a need for BES nor are in a regulated industry. Just use ActiveSync and call it a day.

That said having oversight over 10k+ mobile devices secure and managing iOS is pretty much double what we pay for Blackberry. The devices are cheaper, data costs are lower and the enterprise Apps we need are all extended to Blackberry. Again your likely ok with the public App download and use whatever you want policy but when you have FINRA, HIPPA and a host of other regulatory bodies that audit you, you need a little more management.

The MDM space is a mess of solutions but there really is a short list and each solution has pros and cons. The big negative are they are ALL limited by the API support Apple and Google provide. Apple's done great work here, Google not so much. At the end of the day employees don't want a restricted iPhone anymore then they wanted a restricted Blackberry. Thus the last point - BYOD

BYOD is such a PITA but we have a program and very few employees use their device at work. Biggest drawbacks are the cost is shifted all on them, this works great for your C level who can foot the bill or just expense it back but rank employees don't like paying for data and phone calls for work. Subsidies eat into any cost savings and take time to administer so it is what it is. At the end of the day we still have employees using Blackberry 20-1 over BYOD.

Empolyees want the single device to serve both worlds and they don't want to give corporate control or access to their device. Corporate wants to dump growing mobile expense but want to ensure their data is protected, HR is paranoid about questionable activity being done on corporate property. We've already dealt with a sexting / harrasement case that almost killed the program. It's messy and there is not perfect solution. What works in one company, fails in another. Every company has different needs and culture. Personally if work expects me to be reachable all hours, they can pay for that priviledge. If they don't - my day ends at 5pm. If they technology is not what I like, I deal with it. It's really an entitlement attitude.

Back to BES 10, we're already running it and have Z10 devices deployed - rave reviews. People were so fed up with our current MDM it's like getting rescued off a deserted island. One of the users said it best, "I didn't realize how much time I was wasting on the iPhone, I gave it to my kid"

But hey, best of luck with your new approach to enterprise mobility.
User Rank: Ninja
1/31/2013 | 8:41:10 PM
re: BlackBerry's New Enterprise Candy Won't Tempt CIOs
The product category is called MDM - Mobile Device Management. It's available from more than just the vendors you mention. Hope that helps.
David Lundquist
David Lundquist,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/31/2013 | 8:10:28 PM
re: BlackBerry's New Enterprise Candy Won't Tempt CIOs
Would a startup succeed with what BlackBerry is bringing to the table?
The short answer is yes.

Here is why BlackBerry Z10 is indispensable:

1. Communication flow using BlackBerry HUB (Yes it's overwhelming at first, not unlike getting behind the wheel of a Formula One race car. However once you get into it, you never go back to your iPhone or Android.)

2. BlackBerry Contact Profiles with real time feeds and suggestions for addition data about the contact. Add your contacts email and the BlackBerry10 retrieves a rich canvas of information about the person, including photos, company info etc.

3. BlackBerry Remember for rich custom contextual information about your conversations. Any communication, data or app you engage with.

Out of the box BlackBerry 10 delivers exclusive must have features any sales or knowledge driven organization needs.

I understand how the Z10 must appear to those CIO's that have staked their reputation on iPhone and Android.
The whole concept of Conversation Flow with context and rich contact profiles must seem alien, almost as weird as the F35 Fighter would seem to a village medieval peasants with an ox cart.

The Ace in the hole
Blackberry built its new OS as a predatory ecosystem. The ability of developers to build native BlackBerry Apps has multiple approaches, including most critically in the initial stages the best suite of source code conversation tools for existing App Developers.

No other platform has so many choices for developers, not Apple, Google or Windows.

So having answered the hypothetical question, I am happy to say BlackBerry is not a start-up, and it's reputation for total security has yet to be matched.

Blackberry is back, try to get to the acceptance stage quickly.
User Rank: Apprentice
1/31/2013 | 5:28:30 PM
re: BlackBerry's New Enterprise Candy Won't Tempt CIOs
If you are using iPhones or Androids in your organization without Good, you are opening your organization up to data leakage. It is easy on a device to save a document from corporate email and then send it using your personal with no one the wiser. Additionally, you can copy and paste across apps including mail etc. You have no record of the intellectual property theft.

This is why Blackberry/Good etc continue to have a place in the corporate environment and government organizations. As a CIO, you have a responsibility to protect your confidential data that provides the underlying competitive advantage.
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