The BYOD revolution is everywhere. It’s sending shock waves through the channel and opening the door to new opportunities and new products, from MDM solutions to next-generation cloud services and completely mobile workforces. But these industry-shaping moves have not been fueled by enterprise-ready devices, but instead by consumer products – specifically iPad and Android tablets.
Objectively, the story is strange, especially when you consider the level of renown, respect and reliability RIM once held in the workplace. But all of that has faded, and we know why: Apple and Google, aside from building more capable and friendly mobile devices, have both successfully warmed their way into the hearts and minds of corporations everywhere.
As RIM watched its mobile market share decline, it had the opportunity to reinvent itself and become relevant in the mobile world once again. RIM could actively track its competitors’ deficiencies and keep its head low to the ground for what enterprise customers really wanted. Instead, the company went to compete where it though it should compete, with Apple and Google.
RIM launched the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, which received a lukewarm reception at best. While the device is technically capable, it shipped without a native e-mail client and had no native access to BBM. Those things required an existing compatible BlackBerry device with which to “bridge.” This made the PlayBook much less friendly for non-BlackBerry owners and much more frustrating for existing BlackBerry owners. Then, 10 months after the initial launch, RIM updated to the operating system in February, fixing the functional deficiencies of the previous version. RIM’s late delivery of the update – which originally was set for the summer of 2011 – did little to help its case.
Now that we’ve gotten to May, you might believe RIM has a few tricks up its sleeve to recapture its lost momentum. Instead, RIM has built something highly unusual – a developer device that acts as neither a phone nor a connected device. It’s a piece of hardware that exists solely to run an incomplete version of the BlackBerry 10 OS – as a prototype platform for developers to test and run new applications. It includes little else, except an admittedly intuitive on-screen touch keyboard.
RIM believes this strategy will help mitigate the problem of a sparse app ecosystem when the first BlackBerry 10 device arrives. But the real problem is that an official product, official OS and official launch date for BlackBerry 10 has not be announced. That hardly inspires confidence.
While a more complete version of the OS is slated for a summer release, it’s anyone’s guess if RIM can meet that goal. More importantly, without a finished GUI and OS, user experience will take a hit. Sure, talented developers exist, but the magic of iOS is that most applications follow the same UI and UX conventions. Where does a developer draw inspiration from for BlackBerry 10? And more importantly, do developers feel inspired to build on a platform that’s hardly baked? How will apps learn to co-exist when they run on an incomplete operating system? What are the official specifications of the final BlackBerry 10 device? None of these questions have concrete answers. (RIM was even hesitant to discuss the exact technical details of the prototype device.)
If RIM focused on what made it popular in the first place, it could have hunkered down and built a new BlackBerry device that addresses key enterprise pinpoints in the BYOD world. Security, unified communications connectivity, resource integration and remote management are just a few. RIM might have even reshaped the way the enterprise views mobile devices for a second time inside a decade! Instead, it opened up its enterprise MDM software for use with iOS and Android devices while it continued to attack the market from an app-driven standpoint.
Had RIM truly reinvented itself, it’s not hard to imagine a new wave of channel partners, all of them happy to offer complete BlackBerry mobile integration services. It would make Apple and Android devices like “toys” in the workplace. Between Android’s security issues and the relative inflexibility of Apple’s iOS, many companies that were wary about adopting mobile devices could rest assured RIM would address all their needs. In short, RIM missed the chance to capitalize on the enterprise trepidation of consumer mobile devices.
As a result, we stand here with the current gamut of MDM solutions, wrought from the consumerization of IT. RIM will have to re-enter a market it once controlled, essentially starting from Square One. As it stands now, how can anyone – from channel partner to consumer – recommend the BlackBerry platform? Even companies with a soft spot for RIM will be unlikely to hold out.
For RIM, it’s all too little, too late. Neither a developer community, consumer market nor channel program can take RIM’s malformed plans and turn them into something successful. Further speculation on RIM can no longer be about the BlackBerry 10 – but rather, which companies are in the running to acquire RIM.
The consumption of RIM’s assets may prove useful one day in the future, but as it stands now, RIM is doing it all wrong – and there’s no signs of stopping.
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