Research in Motion on Tuesday outlined plans to launch BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, enterprise software designed to manage a bevy of mobile devices including the iPhone and Android smartphones.
With RIM's smartphone share taking its knocks, the company can't afford to rely on selling a complete mobile stack---BlackBerry device, BlackBerry Enterprise Server and RIM management software----any more. BlackBerry Mobile Fusion will be available in March 2012.
The new plan for RIM revolves around focusing on what it does best for mobile device management software---asset management, configuration, security policies, group administration and centralized management. The challenge for RIM here is obvious: There are multiple mobile device management software providers and the BlackBerry Enterprise Server doesn't have the lock-in it once did.
Simply put, RIM is entering a very crowded market.
RIM appears to be trying to thread the needle between the bring your own device movement and selling its BlackBerry stack of mobile hardware and software.
How will this turn out? Here are three scenarios:
Best case: RIM's focus on security and enterprise management puts it at the top of the mobile stack. RIM brings its security and enterprise management knowhow to a bevy of devices. RIM's enterprise foothold gives it a leg up. Middle-of-the-road case: RIM's BlackBerry Mobile Fusion effort is a bit late, but manages to keep the company relevant even as it fades on smartphones. Companies loyal to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server naturally gravitate to Mobile Fusion. Other CIOs, however, look to other mobile device management suites offered by Sybase, Good and a bevy of other players that include Microsoft and Google.
Worst case: BlackBerry Mobile Fusion is viewed as a Hail Mary pass that comes too late. Technology executives begin to wonder why they need RIM as a mobile device management middleman when employees aren't bringing BlackBerry devices to work.
It's unclear how this BlackBerry Mobile Fusion effort will pan out. All of the cases outlined above are likely to have an equal probability of actually happening.
RIM's move does remind me of a Clayton Christensen talk about innovation. Christensen, a Harvard professor, outlines innovation conundrums through the years. The common theme in multiple examples is how companies cede the lower ground in a market to move upstream to higher margin products. If you follow profit margin religion, you're likely to outsource and give up on tough markets. The higher ground always looks better. The issue is that companies eventually run out of headroom and nothing is left. See Smart Planet: Clay Christensen: 5 observations on innovation
It's a bit of a stretch to argue that RIM is ceding the device market in a bid to move up the mobile stack, but the writing---beginning with Mobile Fusion---may be on the wall.
- Security software for iPhone/iPad/Android coming from RIM
- Google just rattled RIM's mobile device management plans
- iPhone most popular business phone; BlackBerry loses vital street-cred
- RIM's juggling act flops as PlayBook OS 2.0 slips
- BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 Android support: A work in progress
- RIM's BlackBerry outage: $350 million max hit, but losing enterprise
- RIM's biggest problem: Always seeking a device home run