It?s been a tough year for BlackBerry maker Research-In-Motion. Despite still being the leading smartphone maker in a number of countries, the vendor has suffered from extremely poor PlayBook sales and dire press following its lengthy service outage in October 2011. Add to this the rampant growth in IT consumerization that has seen Apple iOS and Android devices surge into organisations, as documented in the Mobile Workforce Report released quarterly by iPass, and it appears that RIM has its work cut out in 2012.
BlackBerry sales have undoubtedly been impacted by the exponential growth in non-BlackBerry devices entering companies and this presents a major challenge for RIM; not only because around 80% of revenue is dependent on device sales, but also because IT departments have been boxed into a corner where they have actively had to seek additional or alternative means of securing and managing non-BlackBerry devices on their networks, either due to seniority of requests or as well increasingly be the case, volume of requests.
In theory the announcement of Mobile Fusion, created through the acquisition of Ubitexx (and discussed in this Strategy Analytics report) is RIM doing what it does best: Highly secure mobile administration, and comprehensive mobile device management through extensive IT policy support, with additional support for managing iOS and Android devices.
Figure 1: Which mobile IT policies do you require on individually liable devices?
However, the question that emerges is whether the announcement, welcome though it is, is twelve months too late, or whether it is timely and helping to solve a real problem faced by many IT departments.
According to our report 2011 Enterprise Mobility Mid-Year Recap and Outlook (see figure above), personal liable devices still lag corporate liable devices significantly in terms of IT policy compliance.
Clearly Mobile Fusion helps to address these issues, but the situation is not clear-cut:
There are some positive aspects to the launch of Mobile Fusion:
- The first positive aspect to the announcement is that it will give dedicated RIM shops the tools they need to cope with additional devices infiltrating their organisations without the need to invest in third party MDM management software/MDM servers.
- The other positive aspect is that it is relatively early in this market and a limited number of companies have deployed comprehensive device management solutions as yet.
- It combines BlackBerry Balance capabilities to manage personal and professional profiles on BlackBerry smartphones and PlayBooks.
- Other MDM vendors cannot support BlackBerry devices to anywhere near the level that is natively supported by BES (and in future Mobile Fusion).
- There are fewer network components required to deploy BES or Mobile Fusion than a typical non-BES setup.
- RIM has a dedicated installed base of customers who will welcome (and more importantly pay for) added support for non-company issued devices.
The challenge, however, is several fold:
- Many IT departments have already had to work in third party MDM software into their network architectures (along with other components) as a result of pressure from senior management to support devices like the iPad or iPhone. By offering Mobile Fusion, RIM is potentially offering a solution to a problem that most IT departments have already had to address.
- BlackBerry balance does not extend to iOS and Android devices due to limited control that RIM has over access to relevant layers and APIs of those Operating Systems, although it is now at the same benchmark with other MDM vendors.
- RIM is completely dependent on the carrier channel in most markets, and all larger carriers have or are developing their own efforts to monetize the MDM opportunity through their own hosted or premises managed service offerings. These may, but will not exclusively include, Mobile Fusion.
- The MDM market is very crowded, especially for iOS and Android. The reaction from the channel may be luke-warm at best (12 months ago it would have been ecstatic!)
Overall it?s encouraging that RIM has accepted the massive impact that personal liable devices are having on their core business. It?s too early to say how successful Mobile Fusion will be, but I suspect the response will be mixed for the reasons above. Core BlackBerry customers will embrace Mobile Fusion as part of a BES upgrade cycle, whereas others will simply be indifferent. Either way RIM is headed for a challenging 12 months, where the path to BBX promises to be exciting, but far from smooth.