In advance of its BB10 smartphone launch next week in New York City (no secret here, this has been widely talked about), RIM announced the release of BES 10 today–the next generation of its on-premise enterprise smartphone support. Before looking at that, how is RIM doing and what should everyone expect this year?
There’s no doubt that RIM has taken a hit on global smartphone marketshare–especially in the enterprise where it is rapidly being replaced by iPhones. It saw its installed base decrease for the first time in history to 79 million in the last quarter. But in the famous words of Monty Python, it’s, “not dead yet!” The fact is–RIM has not seen even close to the same level of decline in BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) installs. Though I think that will increase this year as companies migrate off of the platform–I see a lot of business going to managed and hosted BES at some enterprises. A Gartner survey from Decmber 2012 of 222 companies, primarily in North America, said that almost 14% will still have BlackBerry as its primary platform in 12 months. Speaking with clients regularly, I see the same level of interest–generally 15-20% of mobile employees who still prefer RIM for its security and its hard keyboard.
So a lot depends on the handset launch next week and the next few quarters of sales. Preliminary views of the new device don’t show much differentiation on hardware form factor–though it is skinny, feels solid and a similar size screen to the iPhone 5. It’s the user experience that will make the difference, which is where RIM focused its energies. From what I have seen, it pays off. The new BB10 offers the best UX on the market–not perfect, but certainly a rival to the iPhone 5, with even greater performance. The question is: will the market take it? So I’ll go on record here saying that it will. Now I don’t expect it to surpass iOS or Android sales, but I think this device has great comeback potential. And the fact that enterprises can support it using Exchange Active Synch offers a low impact solution if they don’t upgrade to the BES 10.
Which gets us to today’s announcement. You can check it out here at RIM’s site, so I won’t go into the feature offerings. But the integration of Mobile Fusion with multi-platform MDM and the BES just makes sense. I think a key feature is the improved BlackBerry Balance, which offers an easy to use business container in a dual-persona format. The growing interest of companies in seperating business vs. personal data, especially with BYOD, will help stem some of the flow of BES removals. RIM has a lot riding on the next week’s announcements–maybe the future of the company. It will be an interesting year ahead. More next week as the new phone is launched.