Will BlackBerry 10 revitalize enterprise interest?

Summary:On the heels of BlackBerry 10's launch, our mobile experts debate the prospects for this erstwhile business favorite.

Matt Baxter-Reynolds

Matt Baxter-Reynolds

Promising

or

Unlikely

Matthew Miller

Matthew Miller

Best Argument: Unlikely

65%
35%

Audience Favored: Promising (65%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

BlackBerry still fits many customers

What do you buy if you're a mobile executive that needs hours of talk time, days of standby, and the best mobile email and scheduling system on the market? You buy BlackBerry. It was true a decade ago, and it's still true now. Although the market moved on, leaving RIM (as it was) for dust, BlackBerry remains close to a certain type of enterprise customer. There are still plenty of organizations out there that are not executing a shift away from the BlackBerry proposition.

BlackBerry 10 doesn't throw the enterprise baby out with the bathwater. The mobile email and scheduling is best in the market, taking what BlackBerry knows about that type of software and just adding a New World Smartphone sheen. Talk time is better than the old BlackBerry handsets -- more double in some case, and talk time is important to this sort of customer.

And BlackBerry Balance is a unique product in the market, allowing the user to control how much they share (important in a post-PC device that's about hyper-social, always-connected lifestyles), and how much the organization does or doesn't leak.

BlackBerry 10 in the enterprise has legs -- which is a good thing in a mobile platform.

New BlackBerry: Close but no cigar

I was at the BB10 launch event in New York this week and now I'm testing out a BlackBerry Z10 device. BlackBerry is definitely fresh, but the big question is whether or not there's something compelling enough to excite, retain, bring back, or recruit new enterprise customers. Over the past couple of years we have seen large companies and government agencies leave RIM, now BlackBerry, for iOS. Unfortunately, I can't see anything obvious at this time that shows me BlackBerry is ready to revitalize enterprise interest.

BlackBerry has been known for security and it is important for them to show that the new BES not keeps that but improves the IT experience. The BlackBerry Balance functionality is interesting and may appeal to both the enterprise customer and consumers who may no longer have to carry around a work BlackBerry and an iPhone. Businesses also need to know the company they sign on with is in it for the long haul and Apple is showing that is the case with a focus on profits and quality products. The company BlackBerry's future is still a bit uncertain and a lot is riding on the success of BB 10. Companies may be taking a wait and see approach until later in 2013.

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Mike check

    Are the Matts ready?

    Posted by Zack Whittaker

    Ready

    I'm prepared.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Promising

    Let's go

    I'm prepared too.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Unlikely

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Exciting -- or not

    Let’s open up the debate with personal opinion. BES 10, and BlackBerry 10 devices and platform. Are you excited, or not interested--and why?

    Posted by Zack Whittaker

    I'm a flip-flopper

    To be honest, I flip-flop on this from one day to the next! What I think they have absolutely right is their philosophy. BlackBerry 10 is a true post-PC proposition, built by an organization that really understands what's happening to the industry and society as we become more and more entangled in ubiquitous computing.

    Where they have challenges is that although it's a great product, they're coming from way behind. The app coverage at launch is very rough around the edges. The pricing is a little too high to be of interest to anyone other than hardcore, moneyed technologists.

    What I think it will do a as a platform is drive the story of enterprise and consumer mobile computing forward in a way that hasn't happened for a good number of years.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Promising

    BlackBerry took the year off

    As a smartphone enthusiast and early adopter I am excited for BB 10 and the devices. I've been using a BlackBerry Z10 for nearly a week and am enjoying many aspects of it. BlackBerry has always focused on communications and so far the BlackBerry Hub looks like an optimal way to support communications in today's world of smartphones.

    I was never a die hard BlackBerry user before, primarily because my small marine consulting firm doesn't have a BES and BlackBerry devices are not well supported. I like what I see in BlackBerry Balance, but am unable to take it for a spin myself. I am debating for the Not Likely side of this argument because I think businesses may have already moved away from BlackBerry after they essentially took the year off in 2012.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Unlikely

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Who will buy it?

    BlackBerry (RIM) boomed in the enterprise in the early-mid 2000s, then consumers fell in love with BlackBerrys in the late-2000s. Now, BlackBerrys barely exist in either market. Which audience should BlackBerry be focusing its BlackBerry 10 pitch on, and why?

    Posted by Zack Whittaker

    A tricky question

    I'm not sure they can win this one. Fighting a battle on two fronts is never a clever idea, yet BlackBerry has to have both an story to tell consumers and a story to tell enterprises.

    The enterprise story is easier to tell (and to sell) as BlackBerry 10 is more of a natural extension of old school BlackBerry devices in enterprise. For consumers of low-end battery devices (think low-cost data and BBM) it's not a very straightforward transition as the devices are too expensive. For consumers who are looking to move to BlackBerry 10 from iPhone or Android, there's that tricky problem in that the app support is a little ropey.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Promising

    Focus on the enterprise

    I think BlackBerry should be focusing on the enterprise market because I think their two new devices and the BlackBerry 10 OS currently match other platforms and consumers will discover them in stores, via online articles, and in magazines. However, to be viable for the long term, I think BlackBerry needs to convince businesses to stay with them while also convincing those that may have left or are looking for a provider that BlackBerry is the best enterprise solution.

    More and more consumers are bringing their own devices, but when you look at large corporations and government agencies there are still millions of phones that are issued to employees and this steady business should be targeted. Apple is making some advancements in the enterprise, but I still think BlackBerry is associated with high security and they need to convince enterprise that they are still number one in this regard while now also offering a compelling product that employees will want to use.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Unlikely

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Is the price right?

    Do you think BlackBerry got the pricing right? Where’s the sweet spot between the enterprise and consumer audiences?

    Posted by Zack Whittaker

    Yes and no

    I think the BlackBerry has the pricing right in the enterprise. For one thing, enterprises aren't that price sensitive when it comes to handsets. For another, a good number of people who are demanding that their IT teams let them move off of old BlackBerry devices and onto iPhone so there's already a "high sticker price" expectation there.

    In the consumer market, it's too expensive.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Promising

    Yes

    I think the pricing is right and I do not think they should go any lower or they will take an unnecessary hit on profits. It looks like the Z10 will likely cost $200 with the Q10 probably coming in at $150. The specifications are the same on both, with the exception of the display size, display technology, and physical keyboard. These prices are typical for Android and Windows Phone devices and less than the iPhone.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Unlikely

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Keeping the faithful

    With governments and businesses flocking to adopt Apple’s iPhone, is BlackBerry’s secure messaging service enough to prevent a further exodus?

    Posted by Zack Whittaker

    A good story to tell

    This is one of these situations where BlackBerry has always had a good story to tell, and that story continues to be good. In a lot of places in the BlackBerry 10 proposition, it's more that it's their game to lose, rather than their game to win. They certainly haven't done anything that would turn off governments or commercial organisations in this regard.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Promising

    BlackBerry needs to get the word out

    BlackBerry really needs to promote their security and the flexibility they offer to with BlackBerry Balance. They need to make sure companies understand that many people currently have a work phone and an iPhone and with BB10 devices the employee can have a single phone that excels in both aspects of people's lives, without being a security risk. Even if government agencies and businesses issue iPhones to employees, the employees may still carry another personal phone to keep their personal life separate from their work life. BlackBerry has a solution for this and needs to get the word out if they want to have a chance at success.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Unlikely

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The plan

    RIM’s BlackBerry 10 strategy is a tale of two parts: the smartphones and its operating system platform, and BES 10, which now supports Android devices and iPhones. Does BES 10 have enough to compete with open mobile device management (MDM) alternatives for rival platforms?

    Posted by Zack Whittaker

    Determine the needs

    It's a relative newcomer into a very mature market. Products like MobileIron, Airwatch, and Good Technology are considered to be the market leaders in this space. In a Gartner magic quadrant from May 2012, Mobile Fusion was too new to be considered.

    It's going to depend what your needs are, and what you're used to. If you have no MDM at all as an organization, Mobile Fusion is probably good enough to manage a mixed fleet without surprises. Enterprises may find it more of a challenge to "downgrade" to Mobile Fusion from more mature products.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Promising

    BYOD

    More and more people are bringing their own smartphones to work and I think some of this was driven by the desire to have something more advanced than an older generation BlackBerry. With BES 10 now supporting Android and iOS, a company can roll out BES 10 to support these users and new BB10 smartphone owners. As employees see the functionality of BlackBerry Balance in action with a BES, they may start bringing BB10 devices to the workplace.

    The challenge for BlackBerry is to convince IT departments that BES 10 is worth the price when there are other solutions that may cost less and provide the flexibility companies need.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Unlikely

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Bring your phone to work

    BlackBerry Balance enables users to switch between ‘work’ and ‘home’ lives. While it’s ideal for bring-your-own-device (BYOD) employees, is it enough to coax them away from rival devices? What about IT policy makers and those in control of the IT budget?

    Posted by Zack Whittaker

    Needs a mandate

    The only way that's going to work is if their employer mandates BlackBerry 10 -- e.g. someone walking into a shop and saying "work says that I'm only allowed a BlackBerry 10". There's no way that a regular smartphone customer will care that much about BlackBerry Balance without that push.

    Of course, there's the flipside to that in someone being told that the phone will separate their work and personal lives only to find out that their employer doesn't run BES10 and the customer has been oversold.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Promising

    It's up to IT to decide

    From what I have seen so far, there isn't really anything in BB10 that makes me want to drop another platform and run to it. Actually, the application story is still sad and BlackBerry has a lot of work to do to compete in the application and services space. It is nice to see that Balance looks to be the first system that lets you make a device fully for work or fully for home without any real degradation in either environment.

    I think IT will like the control they get with BlackBerry devices while also being able to tell employees they can switch to a home environment that the employee manages without IT involvement. Larger companies are concerned about security and I think people still associate BlackBerry with security.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Unlikely

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Continued support

    BES 10 will not offer a free Express version. Should RIM continue to support small-medium sized businesses with Express versions?

    Posted by Zack Whittaker

    BlackBerry, there's a problem

    Yes, I think this is an real misstep by BlackBerry. Although you don't need BES in order to connect a BlackBerry 10 through to the enterprises (you can just use Exchange ActiveSync), you don't get BlackBerry Balance without BES. This means that BlackBerry Balance is only available to organizations who spend money on the back-end infrastructure to support it. BlackBerrry Balance is such a huge selling point over any other platform, it needs to be universal, and that can only be achieved with a free BES tier.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Promising

    Can live without it

    I work at a company of 71 employees and we do not have a BES, nor plan to purchase and set one up. We have an Exchange server and small IT staff that works to keep it up and running. I know that we don't care about the Express version and think Blackberry should just focus on BES 10 for companies willing to pay for it as they try to stay competitive in the mobile world.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Unlikely

  • Great Debate Moderator

    One-year contract?

    BlackBerry 10 phones arrive on two year contracts in the U.K., and three year contracts in the U.S. Not wanting to send any subliminal signals, do you not think--at least for the annual IT budget review--RIM should have offered a one-year contract, just in case the company collapses?

    Posted by Zack Whittaker

    No way

    Nice try. The carriers wouldn't allow it!

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Promising

    The confidence factor

    I understand Canada has three-year contracts, but have not heard of these extended contracts in the U.S. Mobile contracts are managed by the carrier and I believe that a business can setup shorter contracts directly through a carrier business account. I don't think BlackBerry should offer shorter contracts because that would be a sign they are not confident of a long future with BlackBerry 10 and beyond.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Unlikely

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Tablet blackout?

    BlackBerry PlayBook wasn't mentioned at the BlackBerry 10 launch. Has the tablet, which failed to launch in the first place, got a future?

    Posted by Zack Whittaker

    Not dead yet

    My sources have told me this was intentional. It's a case of focus -- taking PlayBook out of the story meant no one was talking about PlayBook.

    PlayBook remains hugely important to BlackBerry. Although they are planning to update the PlayBook OS to harmonize it with BlackBerry 10, no timescales have been announced. In this market, they need both -- it's not enough to have a smartphone offering and no tablet offering.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Promising

    No more tablets

    BlackBerry stated that all existing PlayBooks would be upgraded to BlackBerry 10. Even with the upgrade, I don't think people will go out and buy PlayBook devices. The PlayBook is actually one of the best 7 inch tablets, but it never took off and I don't think BlackBerry should stray off course and work on tablets again. They need to succeed with their smartphones and I would like to see them focus on them and BES 10.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Unlikely

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Last question -- too late?

    Maybe this last question makes the whole debate moot, but is BlackBerry 10 simply too late? Has the influx or rivals--notably the iPhone in the enterprise space--carried too many prominent customers over to the other side?

    Posted by Zack Whittaker

    It's not too late, baby

    One thing that BlackBerry has going for them on the enterprise side is that large businesses are typically very conservative. In that sector of the market, it's arguable that iPhone is actually too new to have filtered through. (Of course, some enterprises will be much more responsive.) People that I have spoken to have indicated that there is considerable interest from enterprises looking seriously into BlackBerry 10 pilot projects alongside the existing fleet.

    I don't think it's too late for BlackBerry in that context.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Promising

    Asking too much

    I think Android and iOS are untouchable for the foreseeable future and the third place platform will have to define success as something like 10-15 percent of the smartphone market. Even though Windows Phone has been out for over two years, Microsoft is not having much impact in the smartphone market. BlackBerry is still in third, but have been on a downward trend for a while and need to turn the tide with BlackBerry 10. Developers are on board with iOS and Android while Windows Phone is gaining with a number of high end applications. BlackBerry has been working hard to bring in developers, but they may be asking too much at this time in the mobile market.

    Some large government agencies and companies have moved to iOS and Apple continues to work hard to attract enterprise customers. It is definitely an uphill climb for BlackBerry and I think it may just be too little, too late.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Unlikely

  • Great Debate Moderator

    That's all folks

    Thanks to the two Matts for a great debate. Check back tomorrow to see the closing arguments and Thursday for the final verdict. And thank you for joining us. Don't forget to tell us your take on the newest BlackBerry.

    Posted by Zack Whittaker

Closing Statements

It's the only enterprise communications solution

Matt Baxter-Reynolds

BlackBerry's main strength has always been in the enterprise. It was originally a business-oriented product and grew gracefully into that market to become not just a market leader, but one that was respected throughout the industry.

With BlackBerry 10 the story in and of itself gets stronger. BlackBerry remains the only enterprise communications solution that is always connected behind the firewall, removing the need for VPN or complex authentication. BlackBerry Balance is unique within the market, an obvious win for people who use their phones for both their work and personal lives.

BlackBerry continues to enjoy loyalty coupled with natural conservatism/inertia that almost defines enterprise IT life. BlackBerry 10 is a product that serves this market well.

An uphill battle

Matthew Miller

It is tough to predict if BlackBerry can make a comeback yet, but with so many people bringing iPhones and Android smartphones to the office it is going to be a major uphill climb to regain mindshare. However, I agree with Matt that the conservative nature of business may be working to BlackBerry's advantage. I know many companies that are just now upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 so when BlackBerry took most of last year off, enterprise customers and IT departments may not have been that concerned. There is something to be said for the BlackBerry name and security so it is possible for them to have a comeback year in 2013.

Right now, iOS and Android have the smartphone mindshare and neither Apple or Google are going to sit idly by either. Some government agencies and large companies have adopted iOS and I highly doubt they are going back to BlackBerry until BB10 is proven itself. While I want BlackBerry to succeed as much as any other smartphone enthusiast, I have my doubts at this time.

Very close but Mr. Miller is the winner

Zack Whittaker

This was a tricky one. I'm going with Mr. Miller on this one, despite the audience voting in favor of Mr. Baxter-Reynolds' position. There is, perhaps, a strange logic to this madness.

This wasn't necessarily a debate to see whether or not BlackBerry can survive with BlackBerry 10. It falls down to one thing: Will BlackBerry 10 revitalize enterprise interest? That's the key word here. "Interest," sure, and these two new devices will definitely prick up the ears of IT managers and reinvigorate enterprise interest in the platform. But it's hard to conclude that enterprises will fully bite down and not look elsewhere for a more stable offering, in terms of feature set, back-end manageability, and long-term prospects for the company's stability.

This debate was won on semantics. Both presented a string of valid points, but "interest" unfortunately does not equal "success."

Topics: Great Debate

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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