As iOS and Android duke it out for smartphone supremacy, Research in Motion appears rudderless. Here is why businesses would lose out if RIM fails.
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It's been a very bad year for Research In Motion. The PlayBook was a flop. The latest BlackBerrys have fizzled. And the company's stock continues to plummet as consumers clamor for hotter handsets running iOS and Android. And now Ironfire Capital's Eric Jackson has raised very public doubts over RIM's chances of surviving to see 2013.
While iPhone and Android fanatics are making much hay over the BlackBerry's possible doom, the prospect of a RIM-less world could be terrible for business customers. Sexy as iPhones and Android devices may be, they still fall short on a number of fronts that are critical to enterprise IT departments. Here are five important reasons that losing RIM and the BlackBerry would be bad news for the business world.
The most obvious and basic problem that a dying RIM poses for established enterprises is the transition from a legacy of BlackBerry fleets to adopt and integrate alternative smartphone platforms into the fold. As has been mentioned frequently on InformationWeek.com, this may prove inevitable with or without the loss of RIM, as end-users overrule IT departments through sheer mob strength by bringing their own handsets into the business environment. Still, some 90% of Fortune 500 companies run BlackBerry Enterprise Server to manage their mobile phones. If RIM folds, a resultant forced migration to alternative mobile device management systems could cost IT departments dearly.
The frequency of new Android malware discoveries is enough to raise serious concerns about Google's mobile platform for any security-conscious IT manager. While the iPhone and iPad appear to be faring somewhat better, Lookout Mobile Security noted in its August 1 Mobile Threat Report that "iOS has been more notably affected by browser exploitation."
By comparison, BlackBerry is generally regarded as a highly secure mobile platform. "While most enterprises can use Apple mobile devices securely, some require higher levels of authentication assurance, resistance to attack, manageability, and logging than the iPad or iPhone can provide," said Andrew Jaquith, senior analyst for Forrester Research, in his August 2010 report on iOS devices in the enterprise. "For these customers, Research In Motion's BlackBerry still rules the roost."
3. Management and Control
While both Google and Apple have recently launched mobile device management tools for their respective platforms, BlackBerry Enterprise Server is a mature device management system with proven security cred. In contrast to both Android and iOS, BlackBerry puts IT departments in complete control over their devices, right down to patch management and OS updates, via BES.
4. Data Efficiency
For very large companies with big mobile phone fleets, data efficiency is a serious consideration. According to research firm Rysavy, BlackBerry devices can be more than four times more efficient than iOS and Android devices across a variety email, messaging, and Web browsing applications.
5. Transparency and Consistency
One of the most significant considerations any IT manager has to make in evaluating the reliability of a given technology investment is the reputation of the vendor for transparency, consistency, and service. On these counts, RIM scores remarkably well with clear, timely communications and regular, timely patches for its devices. And well it should, since enterprise customers compose a large bulk of the company's business internationally.
By contrast, both Apple and Google have earned dicey reputations with many enterprise customers. Notably, Google's sluggish, essentially beta-like development on its premium business products gives businesses the backseat while putting consumers not just first, but way, way ahead of enterprise clientele. Apple, meanwhile, has spent years deliberately cultivating a reputation for secrecy and unresponsiveness. The recent unceremonious death of the X Serve product line offers IT departments little assurance of Apple's commitment to enterprise technologies over the long haul.
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