The end is near. Yeah, right.

by Volker Weber

The end isn't as near as you might think. Which end? The end of the road for BlackBerry.

You probably know, you just know, they are doomed. You can read it everywhere. iPhone and Android are winning. BlackBerry is toast. Windows Phone is toast too, but next year, or the year after next year, Windows Phone is going to win big time. Says IDC, so it must be true.

The problem is, the people who write all this stuff don't have to support a few hundred devices. They don't have to find a dozen misplaced smartphones, they don't have users who forget their passwords, they don't have users who travel daily. They are not in back-to-back meetings, they don't do five telcos a day. They are usually well covered by WLANs, or at least 3G, if not 4G.

The other people, the "enterprise" users and their support staff, live a completely different life. Yes, they want their iPads, they want their iPhones, but they have to work just as well as their BlackBerrys. They may be running the books for other companies, they may be working in a heavily regulated industry like healthcare. They may be in finance. They may be in defense.

When these people start deploying their iPhones, they think in categories of "containers". Put the business data in a protected environment. Connect back to the enterprise over secure channels, without exposing any enterprise servers. And once they roll out those containers, they find that they don't work out so well like the BlackBerry used to. Calendars won't alert you when the container is still closed. There is no mail waiting when you do open the container. And when a call comes in, the phone has no idea who is calling. Unless you drill a lot of holes into those secure containers.

After this learning, they go back to the drawing board and start to design a secure iPhone, a secure Android. Which isn't nearly as much fun as an iPhone or an Android, without security. And they find it incredibly hard to separate business data and apps from private data and apps.

And they find that Windows Phone isn't even a starter since it does not provide full device encryption. And that Android only recently started to provide that. And they find out that some apps aren't nearly as secure as they claim to be because they leave temporary files behind, that they forgot to encrypt. And then they have to deal with rooted devices, and jailbroken ones. And simple passwords that can be bruteforced.

And so it happens that the planned migration does not happen.

Which the analyst or the journalist never realizes, since they are concerned with the latest apps, the new chipsets, the screen resolution and the general coolness. And everybody knows that BlackBerry is dead anyway.

And then somebody points at the king's shiny new smartphone and says: "Did you know that there was never a jailbreak for a BlackBerry smartphone? Never ever!"


RIM have a Director of the BlackBerry Security Incident Response Team who "recommends against installing any jailbreaking tool".

Jan-Piet Mens, 2012-06-10

Read my last paragraph again. Repeat until you find the difference between a BlackBerry smartphone and the PlayBook.

Volker Weber, 2012-06-10

Right, but as long as the others like Samsung or Apple makes tons of money with the kids and their parents, why think about the professional users?

We have to face it, IT especially mobile IT is no longer primary driven by the needs of professional users as some 10 years ago. Why? In the first place because the number of devices you can sell to consumers is really big and nobody expects support and updates for 10 years.

10-15 years ago usually the computer/printer/phone on your working desk was much more powerful and had more features as the devices you had at home (if you had any). Today it's the other way around.

RIM missed the trend to touch devices, Apps and the pressure users can put on their company to get the loved iPhone to handle at least business mail/schedule. The discussions about who from which government is able to see mail communication was also not helpful to show how secure the plattform is.

I'm really nosey how this security vs. usability issue will be solved and by whom ( Windows Mobile - anyone?)

Sven Semel, 2012-06-10

When somebody like Jan-Piet misses the details how can I expect others to get the difference between BES and BIS.

I am not pulling this story out of my ass. I have been watching a few efforts hit the wall.

Volker Weber, 2012-06-10

The end of the road of BlackBerry OS 7.x and BES 5 is without question already at the horizont. So far RIM did not deliver any successor with the same level of security and manageability. We all hope they will.
Still there are enterprises using Lotus Notes because of its deeply build-in security. Does this stop the masses from moving to Microsoft Outlook?

Peter Meuser, 2012-06-10

@Peter, yeah OS 7 and BES 5 is ending this fall/winter when OS 10 and Fusion comes out. I hope they really have an easy and intuitive way to switch, or many won't. Not sure if we will.

Michael E Kobrowski, 2012-06-10

So far RIM did not deliver any successor with the same level of security and manageability

Peter, as a matter of fact, not only did RIM not deliver this yet. Nobody else has. And for that reason, my horizon is a bit further away than yours.

Michael, do you seriously think that RIM will drop BES and OS7 when OS 10 comes out? That could be a DoesNotWorkplace moment.

Volker Weber, 2012-06-10

Volker, of course, RIM will not drop BB7/BES5 completly not having a rock solid successor without a .0 in the version number. But we should not have a hope in any further development of this dried branch.

You are right, that currently nobody has the solution to deliver secure mobile basic functionality (mail, calendar, contacts) and a function rich enterprise grade app platform which also attracts enough developers.

RIM has secure basic functionality. Apple has the developer who are already waiting to jump on the enterprise band wagon.

If you talk with AirWatch, Good, MobileIron or IBM ( and others), you will see some current approaches to address the security problems of apps in the enterprise today. They are all not ready for prime time (as today), but I am certain, you don't have to wait very long...

RIM did not attract the in-house enterprise developers in the recent years (as Notes did for example before IBM killed it) and this will be the crucial point of success in the "mobile age".

Peter Meuser, 2012-06-10

GOTO "The end isn't as near as you might think".

Volker Weber, 2012-06-10

@Volker It's not about getting the difference. People, also decision makers read Blackberry - Security Issue - Governments have access to Mails and that are the key words staying in mind when the next time someone ask for budget or decision.

And yea I can see that stuff hitting the wall as well. IT is currently caught between the stools delivering reliable and secure service and satisfy the wishes of the users having mobile platforms they like.

@Peter As long as some of the Notes users still on a client version 6.5.something which is not able to forward appointments, other issues in appointment/mail handling and an outdated UI, no wonder. Here again as I mentioned above, security is highly interesting to the company the users are mainly interested to get the job done with the tools. Other as in the past today normal users have something to compare out of their personal experience with other systems and know what's technically possible. That's true for mobile and usual desktop solutions.

Sven Semel, 2012-06-10

OK, not tomorrow :-) Thumps up.

Peter Meuser, 2012-06-10

Great article. Exactly to the point. We have ca. 25000 BlackBerry devices, 15000 iPads and around 2000 iPhones. BlackBerry number going down, iPhone number going up. iOS security setup and the support of all independent parts of the environment (MDM, VPN, ActiveSync,...) is a nightmare ... I understand that BlackBerry lost its coolness, but currently iOS and the MDMs are lightyears behind concerning "enterprise readiness". And also on the iOS, I was personally disappointed when I saw the mail application. Using that with 100+ mails a day; 100+ folders and a global address list with 100k+ users is much more complicated and time consuming than on the BlackBerry ...
From a running cost perspective, it is head to head: BlackBerry needs the special APN access which costs as much as a 1 GB flat for iOS. BES support and environment against iOS MDM plus much more support for other stuff (VPN etc.) is also quite even.
The game might change with BB10 and BDS as at least infrastructure cost are much lower (5000 devices per BDS).
We will see if and what RIM delivers and if someone ever requests a BB10 device though ...

Tobias Zuegel, 2012-06-10

Thank you, Tobias. Finally somebody from the "other world". ;-)

Volker Weber, 2012-06-10

For all the features that RIM lacks, security is VERY "sticky".

I definitely wouldn't count Blackberry out. Though I think it could be Windows Mobile's game to lose - they COULD do everything right. But I don't think they will.

Erik Brooks, 2012-06-11

Tobias, why are the iPhone numbers going up in your company? Is there for example a different usage pattern of enterprise apps on iOS or do the people (with a choice) just switch to a different ("cooler") device and try to use it the same way as a BlackBerry before? What kind of MDM solution are you using?

Peter Meuser, 2012-06-11

In the heat of the moment I forgot to add "on the playbook ;-)" to my first comment. Sorry.

Jan-Piet Mens, 2012-06-11

All that vowe said might be true. There are migrations from Lotus Notes to Outlook that hit the wall, too. Even today.
But does that prevent that Lotus Notes as we know it steers towards it's end?

And when in the history of computer business did *the better solution* win? Did this happen even once?

Blackberry is the better solution for the enterprise, from the technical point of view. But which CEO or CIO cares? That's the problem of Blackberry.

If Blackberry comes up with a solution that combines the technical strengths of Blackberry with the coolness and easy to use factor of iOS, they might stay in business. Personally, I hope so.

Julian Buss, 2012-06-11

It's not the devices.

Volker Weber, 2012-06-11

RIM is on the same platform with Symbian and Lotus, and they have missed the train collectively.

Maybe they'll catch up, but nobody's holding their breath. Developers are voting with their feet.

Frank Köhntopp, 2012-06-11

RIM still works and works fine, the same as a few years ago. The problem is that a few years ago consumers were buying BBs because it was cool and the Enterprise had a fist of iron on its users.

Now, consumers are not buying BBs because of iPhone revolution and the Enterprise is suffering from consumerization.

But, there will always be places for BBs: defense, health care, big enterprises(I mean big real big), etc. That will be the place for RIM, not the 50%+ marketshare of smartphone sales in the last quarter.

I personally will never use a phone that requires me to give my password to the manufacturer company. It may be encrypted and "invisible" to that company, but my password will always be sent in plain text over SSL to my mail server. If someone hacks the SSL between RIM and my mail server, we will all be doomed.

Oliver Schulze, 2012-06-11

Oliver, looks like you are talking about BIS and I am talking about BES.

Volker Weber, 2012-06-11

I would never ever compare RIM with Lotus.
IBM is investing hardly anything (but still making money) while RIM is really doing a lot (and they are building some great stuff in my opinion).
I also do not believe that developers are voting with their feet. Instead I believe a lot of developers are currently looking at RIM. While you can make money with iOS, Android is a very difficult platform for developers.
Tobias mentions 25.000 Blackberry devices and this is just one company. If you get those customer on the new platform I see a lot of business for developers.
Secure, good looking enterprise applications for mobile and tablet supporting a C\C++ SDK, HTML5 and Java tools, plus an Android and Adobe Air converter.
The platform looks much more attractive than, for example, Windows Phone.
And they are also investing in their MDM platform with support for iOS and Android.
I just hope that they will get the time they need to deliver. RIM's market capitalization is low.

Henning Heinz, 2012-06-11

@Peter Meuser: There is one main driver here for iPads and that is CRM. It is far more "cool" to go to the customers and sell stuff with slides and so on on an iPad and I can imagine, that this "coolness" may stick to the company in the minds of potential buyers. Currently for a corporate phone you can choose between BlackBerry and iPhone - and as Volker said, it is common knowledge that RIM fails and Apple is (and must be) cool.
However some things are just missing on iOS e.g. set/unset out-out-office.
As MDM we are using a cloud based solution based on SAP Afaria. But to get everything set up, the end user must be somewhat IT afine: Get an apple ID, Go to a special website, log in, accept profile, set up VPN, WiFi, ... The setup guide is about 35 pages. That is not what Apple is standing for.
I was at BBW and BB10 Jam in Orlando and I think RIM is aiming BB10 to be the second (or third) platform in developers minds - not the first. They focused a lot on how easy it is to port existing applications (Flash/Air, HTML5, Android, Java,QT,...). This is quite different to Windows Phone where you have to start basically from scratch with an potentially unknown programming language and a unknown environment.
At BBW, I had the chance to be invited to a BlackBerry enterprise user group of almost all big US financial companies. I guess, it was about half a million BB devices/licenses in that room. Biggest one had 56000 BB devices and 130 BES all over the world.
All came to the same conclusion: RIM MDM (Mobile Fusion/UDS) is already behind in terms of functionality compared to Mobile Iron or AirWatch - they need to catch up really fast. The only real benefit with RIM that you can manage all devices with one (1) platform. BB10 looks nice - but the trust in RIM to deliver is slim. They have promised a lot in the past, delayed the product or never delivered at all.

Tobias Zuegel, 2012-06-11

The masses drive adoption of software and they do not care about price, security, backward compatibility or local access. If they did care, Notes would be the #1 platform for mail and applications. What they care about is

1. cool/buzz/fun factor
2. good UI
3. easy to use (because they want to learn it)
4. gets the job done (doesn't have to be the best)
5. continue to innovate (which drives items 1-4)

RIM is not cool, the UI is confusing, it doesn't get the job done when it comes to web browsing and apps, and they are not innovating. Sure, there are exceptions like their twitter app (pretty nice).

RIM will survive in niche environments where ancillary functionality, such as security, is a high priority.

Wayne Scarano, 2012-06-11

Tobias, great input! - Thank you very much.

Peter Meuser, 2012-06-12

Volker, thanks for this. This hits the nail on the head. It is exactly in line with my daily experience. Stopped iPhone deployment after pilot. Stopped even thinking about Android. Stopped waiting for solutions giving same usability as the iPhone does with the security of BES.
The only reliable and secure business tool in this regard is still the Blackberry smartphone. Business and mainstream journalists do not understand, because business and mainstream journalists do not understand Blackberry's architecture.

Bodo Menke, 2012-06-16

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