The BlackBerry 10 announcement came in at about a week ago. We all know the challenges they face, the execution that is going to be required, and the pressure they must be under – one of the most underplayed aspects of BlackBerry’s fortunes is the enterprise, which was once one of their most reliable key business markets. There have been reactions praising the new platform as well as others that see the efforts as being too late. The enterprise will be keeping an eye on the choices and strategy surrounding BlackBerry 10 for some time to come, and there may be too many on the sidelines to realistically salvage the once dominant company.
Part of the corporate buy-in to supporting new BlackBerry 10 devices is that they are forced to upgrade the BlackBerry Enterprise Server to BlackBerry Enterprise Service, (both conveniently known as BES). BB10 is such a departure that the older management servers are completely incompatible with the new platform. To make this adoption easier, BlackBerry has launched support, features, and incentives in a program called the BlackBerry 10 Ready Program. Under this program RIM’s larger customers will have access to online training and webcasts, free BB10 smartphones, and free trade ups of licenses and services to the new BB10/BES platform. The program runs between January and December of this year. The program is pretty critical in the BlackBerry proposition to the enterprise.
The New BES – not like the old BES – EMM
This is not all about upgrades and training however. The grand platform actually offers management of iOS and Android devices, forming a BYOD management solution that has many attractive features for the enterprise. For BlackBerry devices, the BlackBerry Device Service provides enterprise mobile management. A Universal Device Service is designed for those non-BlackBerry devices such as iOS and Android and allows for a push of a secure work environment to iOS and Android, enabling secured email transmission, shared calendars and notes on those platforms.
It remains to be seen how the enterprise will embrace the product, but some enthusiasm has been observed. While it can be safely assumed that a number of organizations will take advantage of the upgrade, there is likely a group of some that are wary of BlackBerry for a variety of reasons. Many organizations have simply moved on, having uninstalled the last of the BES services as device counts dwindled and other more popular devices took hold. Many businesses move slowly, due to such things as budget, security, vetting and so on – there simply may not be an entry point for a new product in the amount of time needed to be a success. Others still are looking at BlackBerry the same way consumers may be looking at it – as in it could be risky to adopt a platform that may not be around in the long run.
BlackBerry’s strategy is complicated to say the least, and gaining business adoption is but one of its significant challenges, along with gaining a winning consumer response. While it has been reported that companies have expressed interest, this hard-cut dual-support fragmented paradigm that the new BES service proposes is a bit hard for the average organization to swallow, regardless of the free upgrade program. Interest does not equal adoption, I’m interested in a 80 inch TV but it hasn’t happened yet. It’s also not always about free, there’s a level of effort to support, maintain, and troubleshoot. IT will be considering the impact of a multi-pointed mobile system and all it would take. It is quite possible that in light of all these considerations that this will hasten migration away from BlackBerry 10.
I have personally spoken to a number of people who feel that this is finally their opportunity to “throw these things out of here”. If BlackBerry is looking to turnaround their fortunes in the enterprise, they have to prepare for such anecdotal opinions even if they are in the minority. How they rebuild a compelling enterprise proposition is anybody’s guess; I believe they do have a foundation here and solid offering, but it is at least somewhat tied to the fortunes of adoption of BB10 devices coming in the door and going out the door. On the one hand if consumers want BYOD capabilities at their business on their BB10 device, it’s something the business has to build specific infrastructure for. On the other side, IT departments would have to wish to retain BB and add BB10 support, add support and infrastructure for that and perhaps take advantage of the Enterprise Mobile Management (EMM) aspects of the service. Either way – it’s a long play and it will take some time to play out – time that RIM may not have.