November 6, 2012
Despite the expected rebound of Nokia in the US market with its new Lumia 920, and the expectations surrounding Research In Motion’s BlackBerry 10 OS, the talk during the recent MobileCon had little to do with devices or operating systems. The participants were mostly interested in discussing topics such as mobile device management (MDM). While MDM and Nokia are somewhat unrelated subjects, RIM and MDM go hand-in-hand.
With enterprises softening their IT/telecom policies by promoting the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategy, and even providing iPhones and Android phones to their employees, MDM has become critical to IT departments. If managing a corporate device without compromising its usability was a hard task when all employees had similar devices (such as BlackBerrys), it has become an even harder task now that employees have their personal data mixed in with work information in smartphones they acquire themselves. And to make matters worse, these BYOD employees expect their device to be fully functional at home and at work.
Enter MDM. RIM was once synonymous with the smartphone and MDM with its BlackBerry Enterprise Server. For IT departments, the fact that RIM is losing ground also means that their professionals have to work twice as hard to keep up with a platform that now speaks many languages due to the multiple types of devices, multiple OSes, multiple screen sizes and multiple brands. It is true that the new Windows 8 phones (and here we mean Nokia) could make their job easier again, but let’s not go there yet, since this benefit has yet to be proven.
Now RIM is repositioning its MDM offering. The company is moving away from its device exclusivity, coming up with a new MDM/server platform that allows for IT managers to control Android and iOS-based devices almost the same way it controls BlackBerrys. Of course it lacks the BlackBerry golden standard security features when it comes to non-BlackBerry devices, but it still gives IT departments the option to make the BlackBerry devices available to those users that simply can’t stand typing on touchscreens (or to those who still enjoy their BlackBerry – you know who you are!).
Will RIM’s initiative to open up its platform save the company? Unfortunately not. This move seems like an attempt to return to RIM’s successful years in the mid-2000s, when it had full control of the smartphone environment. But now RIM has way too many competitors in the MDM market, including Samsung, the world’s smartphone leader, which is about to launch a system that also combines security and MDM. Also, more than two-thirds of RIM’s revenue comes from devices, not services, so opening the service to other brands could initially represent a problem.
Even if this plan completely succeeds, we would still have to wait through a 1-2-year product cycle for current users to exchange their devices for BlackBerrys, so we won’t see a flood of BlackBerrys anytime soon.
So what would get RIM back in the game? For the company to reemerge, users need to want a BlackBerry, the same way they wanted and forced their companies to buy into Apple and Android. BlackBerry 10 devices will need to bring users much-improved usability that compares to its competitors — including the availability of apps, hardware specs and functionality that wows the pickier Apple, front-of-the-line-on-launch-day user. If RIM is able to make it (and it has the cash in the bank to do so), I’m positive that IT departments would be happy to have their BlackBerrys and its server-incorporated MDM tool back. If the new devices fail to deliver, RIM won’t last much longer, neither in US nor in emerging markets, where its products will eventually follow the same path they did in the US.
— Vinicius Caetano, Senior Analyst
Latin America Smartphone Forecast
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Smartphone Operating Systems: Ecosystem analysis and trends shaping the future of the global smartphone market
Thematic Report published June 2011
In this report, Pyramid Research analyzes the current state of the smartphone market segment, focusing specifically on the developments taking place in the OS arena.