Government // Mobile & Wireless
08:27 AM
John McGreavy
John McGreavy

BlackBerry 10 Has This CIO Singing Taylor Swift

My enterprise will give the new BlackBerry 10 and BES careful consideration, but it appears our RIM romance is over.

My IT organization was ready to roll out an Android and Apple BYOD program, having conceded that Research In Motion and its BlackBerry had been left in the innovation dust. But Sam, our CEO, suggested I "socialize" the new BYOD strategy with our management group before proceeding.

As I thought more about our situation, I decided to weather the "When can I use my iPhone/Galaxy?" storm a bit longer and delay our BYOD plans. The mobile device management landscape is changing constantly, and buying a bit more time seemed like a good idea.

We still run numerous BlackBerry Enterprise Servers, and we haven't given up on RIM. We have technicians who are steeped in the BES platform, so we understand how to run this engine, which has been a reliable one for years. And while many of our employees have personal Android and Apple smartphones, our company standard is still the BlackBerry. What we want is an easy, cost-effective transition to a far richer mobile experience, so if an MDM system could help us manage Apple, Samsung, LG, HTC and other devices effectively, we 'd have a clear path forward.

However, I just can't imagine RIM launching a smartphone and management platform that's provocative enough to gain my attention. Taylor Swift's catchy tune rings in my head: "We are never ever ever getting back together."

[ For perspective on what users want from RIM, see BlackBerry 10: 6 Ways To Win Back Consumers. ]

Even if RIM is able to convince me that it has exactly what we need, how long could it sustain its new product strategy? There's ample evidence to suggest that RIM is quite capable of mishandling good fortune. Sure, founders and former co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis have moved on, but current CEO Thorsten Heins's early comment that RIM largely had a "marketing problem" still irritates me. I have little confidence that even if its new BlackBerry device and server innovations are successful, RIM has the ability to innovate at the speed the market expects.

Despite all of the hype and the numerous invitations I've received to launch events, I'm not entirely clear on what my company will get from the new BlackBerry device, BES services and BlackBerry World app store. I've taken a quick look at RIM's website to get an idea of where this might be headed:

"BlackBerry World now gives you access to more of what you love. Download apps, games, music, videos, books, magazines and more. Plus, the new BlackBerry World storefront gives you recommendations so it's easy to find something new."

None of that seems groundbreaking. It's also not relevant to me as a CIO. Where is my enterprise partner, which understands my security, risk and cost-control needs?

It's tempting to look only at what BES 10 will do, but additional benefit comes from the transition strategy: What will it take to get from here to there? I'm looking for a transition that takes advantage of my existing staff's knowledge and capabilities. RIM would hold an advantage with a low-impact plan to convert to BlackBerry 10.

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I've also come to appreciate the granularity of control BES gives us. We need to manage the propensity for employees to use their company-paid device for non-business activities. I'm not looking for simple on-device management that the user controls.

I'm very concerned that more functional devices will lead to much higher usage costs. Our employees travel quite a bit, so roaming costs are a serious issue. The current BlackBerry excels at little else other than email, helping to keep roaming costs in check. We have seen enormous usage increases with Android and Apple devices. Will BES 10 allow for some serious control? Help me, RIM.

Regardless of how successful BB 10 is, we have other devices in play and will have more going forward. RIM says its Fusion MDM platform will manage it all, but I don't see support of rival products making it to the top of the company's development plan. An independent provider will do a much better job of following the market.

Many of the BB 10 invitations I'm receiving are coming from carriers, RIM's best friends. After all, where would RIM be without them? Like most companies we have significant communications contracts with different carriers, which can bundle products in ways that create value for us. This structure gives RIM an advantage of easy access to enterprises. Maybe the carriers will add something new to the mix, like bundled pricing advantages that we don't see for Apple and Android devices.

If RIM knocks it out of the park, I'll pay attention. We're definitely slowing down our smartphone migration plans to get a seat in the bleachers for the RIM show. But I won't be waiting for long. We have opportunities to pursue. Apple and Google drive the application innovation we're looking for. And the independent MDM providers are beginning to deliver the management functionality needed to harness those innovations for enterprise use.

As much as I would like to see RIM succeed, I have little faith that the company can sustain any momentum it might gain from this latest product rollout. I just don't see us getting back together.

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Andrew Hornback
Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/30/2013 | 3:14:27 AM
re: BlackBerry 10 Has This CIO Singing Taylor Swift
Before we go any further, I need to confess that indeed, I do carry a Blackberry for work and was even given the other options of iPhone or Android. Being part of the IT illuminati in the organization, I could pick and choose what I wanted - and I got a boring old Blackberry. Why? One simple thing that RIM has only strayed from a couple of times - it's a device that has a physical QWERTY, period. Being on-call 24/7/365, you don't want me trying to type on a touchscreen, half asleep, at 3 AM and trying to walk a junior tech through a process - you just don't.

But, let's also look at just what I do with my Blackberry (and what I'm assuming most folks who have one dedicated completely to business do) - e-mail, text, calendar and the occasional call. No Angry Birds, no Facebook, no Foursquare, no Pandora. Just basic functionality. Maybe I'm a dinosaur, but I believe in the idea of using a business device, for... business.

Every time someone mentions BYOD, I have this nervous tick. Mixing personal data and applications with company data and applications is a recipe for disaster, in my opinion. Even with the appropriate MDM solution - what happens when a user upgrades their phone and "trades in" the old one without appropriately wiping it? Basic principle of security - if you can't restrict physical access, you have no security. It gets even better when someone wants to add their rooted or jailbroken device to my network, I'm not thrilled in the least. Sure, user, bring your device and I'll load it up with corporate data and off you go - doesn't sound like a great idea.

The one thing that I see as a major draw back with the Blackberry solution is the reliance on their network - which has not proven to be the most reliable. With an Android or iPhone, you end up dealing with the carrier when you have a network outage - with the RIM solution, you end up with the carrier and RIM's network.

There is no perfect answer and we all have our own point of view when it comes to what we think is best for our organizations and for our own productivity. Is BB/BES10 going to be the perfect answer? All signs point to no... and unless they really come up with something amazing...

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
User Rank: Apprentice
1/30/2013 | 12:28:53 AM
re: BlackBerry 10 Has This CIO Singing Taylor Swift
I was hoping for a video of the Secret CIO singing a Taylor Swift song, maybe in shadow or something. Very disappointing. However, I am wondering whether there's any real innovation happening on the smartphone right now, even from Apple or the Android crowd. All of the phones seem to offer the same thing, and how many apps can someone really use especially in a business setting? Every improvement now seems incremental. Manufacturers are beta testing different sizes by putting things like 6.1-inch displays on sale. Maybe if someone could double battery life we could all cheer. Hasn't the game become creating a digital assistant-like experience? I see all of the players struggling with that. I no longer feel as if my smartphone (and I try to keep one of each) is a beacon of innovation. So why NOT a BlackBerry?
John Foley
John Foley,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/29/2013 | 11:58:32 PM
re: BlackBerry 10 Has This CIO Singing Taylor Swift
If I read this right, you invited your company's management team to weigh in on one of the most important decisions your IT organization faces, then decided to postpone action. Socialized decision making -- why does this not surprise me. As someone who made the transition from BlackBerry to iPhone, I can tell you the learning curve is about 60 seconds. (I'm guessing you already know this.) I agree with the commenter here who advises using MDM to implement a BYOD policy as soon as possible. You'll a have happier, more productive workforce. Less capability = lower costs is not a compelling business case. "We have opportunities to pursue" -- I'd go with that.
User Rank: Strategist
1/29/2013 | 10:09:10 PM
re: BlackBerry 10 Has This CIO Singing Taylor Swift
Dump your Blackberry devices and BES, go Windows Phone 8 or as a second choice Android smartphones. I would not add iPhones to my corporate supplied equipment list. Let those be BYOD devices using an MDM solution, paid for by the users. Corporate issued phones would be free to users.
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