Can RIM be saved? To find out, we surveyed 536 IT professionals in our InformationWeek Research In Motion Survey. While respondents report BlackBerry is the company-purchased device in use by more than two-thirds of employees, that number plummets to 35% when they look out 24 months. And a mere 7% plan to increase their use of RIM products.
Clearly, the company's presence in the enterprise is still strong. Fully 91% of respondents have either purchased BlackBerry products for their businesses or evaluated them. RIM accounts for 70% of phones in the enterprise, Apple 25%, Android 15%, and Windows phones 2% (the numbers don't add up to 100% because we're using median percentages).
IT pros have strong feelings about RIM, both its products and plight. But they also realize that, for the most part, the real issue is end user preference. "I'm personally a BlackBerry user and love it," one respondent says. "However, they seem to not be coming out with new technology. Apps aren't as readily available for BlackBerrys as they are for the Android and iPhones."
And therein lies the rub: While RIM perfected its messaging device, Apple and Google created the next generation--true mobile computing platforms.
It's hard not to make comparisons to the many tech companies that myopically improved what they knew rather than creating the next great thing. In fact, a number of respondents didn't hold back: "Read the story about Wang Laboratories. RIM is hauntingly similar," says one. While it offered a "great product," it got "caught in the onslaught of a product that does more for the person holding the device," he says. "RIM can talk security and battery life all it wants, but the consumer really doesn't care. Corporate IT cares, but we can't stop the mob holding the smartphones and torches."
End user preference isn't RIM's only problem. It's also struggling to create a robust developer ecosystem. When we asked about the important features for an enterprise phone, RIM did well on top-ranked criteria, such as device management and security, but it received horrible ratings for any kind of app support.
BlackBerry 10 may offer a more reasonable path for developers, but RIM's pitiful app story to date has resulted in businesses and third parties focusing on iOS and Android. Most IT pros blame this misstep on RIM's management.
RIM's former co-CEOs, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, made a huge error in letting the company fall so completely behind Apple and Google. RIM didn't help itself by taking what appears to be a rather tame corrective step by promoting former COO Thorsten Heins into the CEO slot. Heins called that move into question by saying that RIM would largely stay its course. Whether RIM can get its act together and make a cogent story for its future remains to be seen, but so far, Heins' message has been less than inspiring.