Attacking RIM's enterprise beachhead: What iPhone, Android need to achieve victory

Attacking RIM's enterprise beachhead: What iPhone, Android need to achieve victory

Summary: RIM's enterprise fortifications are strong, but Apple's iPhone and Google's Android are quickly encroaching on their territory, lacking only a few key strategic features that could ultimately spell defeat for the Canadian smartphone manufacturer.


RIM's enterprise fortifications are strong, but Apple's iPhone and Google's Android are quickly encroaching on their territory, lacking only a few key strategic features that could ultimately spell defeat for the Canadian smartphone manufacturer.

Yesterday, in an attempt to regain market relevance, the Canadian smartphone manufacturer Research In Motion (RIM) announced its BlackBerry 9800 Torch, its latest entry in the ever-escalating mobile wars.

The new phone, which is currently exclusive to AT&T Wireless, is the first to sport BlackBerry OS 6, which features a modern Webkit-based mobile browser that finally brings it to relative parity with the iPhone's Mobile Safari and Android's built-in browser. The updated RIM OS on the Torch also features social networking integration and better integrated search capabilities.

Two of RIM's more recent models, the Bold 9700 and 9650 will shortly receive software updates that will bring them to feature parity with the Torch.

Still, even with this significant new software update, industry insiders, press and analysts have been cold to the new device, citing the lower-resolution display when compared to the iPhone 4 and newer Android devices (such as the Droid Incredible, Droid X and HTC EVO 4G) as well as lack of on-board memory and a relatively slow ARM processor.

Also Read: BlackBerry Torch 'Best BlackBerry ever' fails to generate buzz

To add insult to injury, the latest market analysis from Nielsen indicates that many current consumer BlackBerry owners are considering Android or iPhone smartphones to replace their current devices when their wireless contracts expire.

Additionally, another market research group, Port Washington, New York-based NPD, which monitors POS activity from retail purchases of smartphones in the consumer space, has reported that Motorola and HTC, the two largest Android manufacturers, both drove Google's OS to a 33 percent market share in Q2 2010 for smartphone sales.

More than fifty percent of current BlackBerry users polled by Nielsen indicated they were likely to purchase a handset other than a new RIM device (Graphic: San Jose Mercury News)

While this is certainly a serious problem for consumer RIM growth, the BlackBerry remains a secure messaging bastion within large Enterprise environments. For now, at least.

BlackBerry is strong in enterprises because many of them have made an investment in BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) which acts as an extranet messaging gateway between corporate Exchange/Lotus Notes servers and RIM's network operations centers, and allows for secure "push" of email traffic to the wireless devices.

Additionally, BES allows wireless administrators within corporate environments to set IT policy on the handsets such as increased levels of encryption, forced password locks and retention.

However, BES is an expensive software product and service, and many organizations are clamping down on BlackBerry use and only issuing the devices to senior management or employees with a demonstrated business need.

Others are also beginning to embrace a "Bring your own device" approach, where employee-purchased BlackBerries are being permitted provided that the data plans or even the monthly BES fees incurred by corporate chargebacks are covered by the employees themselves.

Today, Google's Android and Apple's iOS support Exchange Messaging and their encryption is generally considered to both be "good enough", but they lack the flexibility, the guaranteed push delivery and the policy control of a BES-based environment.

To be able to fully displace RIM's octopus-like grip on corporate wireless messaging, and to join the "Bring your own device" movement, both Google and Apple or even the Android handset vendors themselves are going to have to step up to the plate.

A clone of BES and/or a secure messaging software layer for Android and iOS is going to be required in order for large enterprises to do away with BlackBerries. While a third party could step in to fill the gap for both types of devices, it's more likely that Apple itself and one of the Android handset vendors will have to provide the solution.

On the Android side, the obvious solution is to design a handset with integrated corporate-grade messaging software, essentially an "Armored Android" device or specialized software layer that replaces the standard Android consumer email software bits.

Ideally it would also use encrypted, user inaccessible storage on the Android devices themselves, combined with some sort of physical or virtual appliance that is run within the enterprise to act as a messaging gateway.

There are only a scant few Android handset manufacturers with the expertise to do this -- one of which is Motorola, which could create a special Enteprise software layer, appliance and service for their Droids along with the required policy management.

And while not a handset player itself, CISCO could also potentially build a hardware or software appliance combined with a secure corporate messaging app for both Android and iOS.

Apple could certainly build corporate-grade security and gateway software itself, but it would behoove itself to partner with CISCO or another major network security firm to develop a truly enterprise-grade solution.

Will Google and Apple step up to the plate and displace RIM's stranglehold on corporate enterprise messaging for smartphones? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, iPhone, Mobile OS, BlackBerry, Smartphones


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Jason owns stock in Google and Apple

    That's why he always attack their competition
    • No.

      @nomorebs As I said in my disclosure statement, I own no stock or financial instruments from the companies I write about.
      • Re:

        @jperlow : maybe your don't but perhaps your wife, son/daughter, other relatives. You defend those companies with passion and attack their main competitors like a rabid keleb. You aren't fooling anyone Jason
    • RE: Attacking RIM's enterprise beachhead: What iPhone, Android need to achieve victory

      look look
  • no enterprise is going to want motorola between them and their phones

    not after putting up with rim. cisco maybe, apple not so much. i think ms is already there and will take this space.
    Johnny Vegas
  • RE: Attacking RIM's enterprise beachhead: What iPhone, Android need to achieve victory

    apple will do that, google won't, rim do it right now.
  • Do you even know what your talking about??

    What a mess of an article. Considering you obviously don't work in a corporate environment nor have any experience deploying / managing mobile devices at a corporate level I'll provide you some feedback as I currently support a large Blackberry deployment as well a GOOD Technology server for those that want iPhone / Android.

    1. Blackberry made the needed move earlier this year and put out BES Express. It's free .. no cost, no CAL. Basically a baby BES but has a decent amount of IT policies and allows personal liable Blackberries. Just provide a server to install it on and within an hour or two users are getting corporate email / PIM with all the security you want.

    2. Exchange ActiveSync is not a fantastic means to manage mobile deployments. It's a simple email connector with a very limited set of policies (of which iPhone supports some and Android presently none). So if your serious about any other devices to support your going to want a middleware solution and last I checked there is close to 20 at this point.

    3. Apple will never make a middleware solution as they have no interest in the enterprise market. They prefer being the trojan horse vs. sharing roadmap, reacting to support issues etc. They would get slaughtered trying to keep enterprise happy and it would eat away profit and time they like making magicial hardware.

    3. Google COULD offer a middleware option (they already have BES for Gmail) but it would likely to cloud based and again they don't really have many corporate customers in their cloud (yet). The real action (and money) is large companies that have Exchange or Domino with thousands of users.

    4. Enter said middleware solutions, I spend most of my time evaluating these solutions throughout the year and presently GOOD is the clostest to the BES out there. MobileIron, Zenprise, Sybase (now SAP), Boxtone etc are making progress but even with GOOD one thing is very apparent:

    Apple and Google need to provide more API hooks into their OS to even get close to what RIM has with BES / BB. Apple is making progress but they only open the API, it takes time for all these solutions to incorporate them and often new API are limited to the latest OS only so what do you do with the users on older iPhones / Androids? It gets messier if they are personal liable as you can't just force them to buy a new device. You also forget to mention Apple or Google don't have (and likely never will) FIPS certification. Do you know how many security issues the iPhone has had? A new doozy just came out. Any security group at large companies cringe at reading these flaws. RIM is being banned for being TOO secure.

    5. The DLS (dirty little secret) in all this is RIM is actually cheaper to support. Our GOOD CAL is 3x the cost of a RIM CAL. We could likely move half our users to BES Express and have ZERO middleware expense outside of servers. So we put in a GOOD server and bought seats and have not seen a ROI, we have some happy iPhone / Android users but we are NOT saving money. The only way you save money is forgo security / compliance controls so weigh that and decide what is your risk / benefit.

    BTW Motorola OWNED GOOD for awhile and let it die, it's funny now that they have Android it would actually help them. Opps on that one eh. The biggest moron in all this is Microsoft, if they got off their ass and actually made some enterprise management improvements every company wouldn't of dropped their devices and moved to RIM. I just don't see large Blackberry deployments going anywhere. It's fitting the need, provides the security and IS lower cost. So why would we migrate to something else? Right so users can have a higher resolutions screen and some Apps to waste time with.
    • RE: Attacking RIM's enterprise beachhead: What iPhone, Android need to achieve victory

      @MobileAdmin I appreciate your feedback, and certainly you make a couple of good points. The level of maturity for deployment tools for Android and iPhone are not there yet and there is also an issue of trust with the solution providers for Android and iPhone compared what they have in place today. The CAL issue is important today and will limit adoption of alternative platforms, but I think that eventually a cost effective solution for Android or iPhone will have to manifest itself in order for the platforms to remain competitive solutions for the enterprise.<br><br>I disagree that Android and iPhone are strictly for "apps to waste time with." The development platforms for both these OSes are far richer than what BlackBerry offers today, and enterprises looking to extend their applications to mobile are going to be hard pressed not to utilize them.<br><br>BTW, given that I work for a company with 350,000+ employees and have participated in large BES implementations for our customers I think I can say I work for a large enterprise. <grin>
    • Re: New versions of iOS can be installed on old iDevices


      It is not correct that new APIs in iOS are only open to new iPhones. It is easy and free to update an iDevice - and I am currently running iOS 4 on my 2-year-old iPhone 3G. Though it doesn't support the APIs allowing certain application to run certain processes in the background.
      • RE: Attacking RIM's enterprise beachhead: What iPhone, Android need to achieve victory


        True but many of the API's and new security only apply to iOS4, older devices are left out (iPhone Edge / 3G) and seeing they will likely be personal liable you will impact users if you stop supporting their device.

        The beauty of BES is it supports pretty much any Blackberry.
  • Perhaps this has a bearing on your post .. perhaps not

    A CNET report (and a similar report on AppleInsider) indicates that "The European Commission has added support for iPhones among its employees while declining to support RIM's BlackBerry in a move that will affect 2,500 employees."

    And that "The EC's evaluation factored in "security, financial impact, integration into its IT infrastructure, resiliency, administrative overhead, and openness toward other applications and future technologies"

    Perhaps this development may mirror similar future IT decisions.
  • RE: Attacking RIM's enterprise beachhead: What iPhone, Android need to achieve victory

    When RIM started out all those years ago, the needs of the enterprise were very specific. Now the lines are blurring such that enterprises allow people to buy their own phones and download apps they need, cloud based solutions are changing buying decisions, and consumers and prosumers are becoming more sophisticated in their needs too. We were a sponsor at RIM's WES event in April, and to conincide with that we wrote a thought-provoking paper about the "prosumerise", i.e. the way that the needs of the enterprise, prosumer and consumer are not as defined as they once were. You can access it at

    BTW, we are a BlackBerry app developer, and as we have one of the most popular business apps on App World we have seen a lot of shift in the thinking within the business community about how they source solutions that meet their needs, much of which can now be served by some of the better apps out there.

    Terry, Widality
  • Dear MobileAdmin

    I understand your fear. Your job is becoming less relevant every day. The iPhone and Android phones are coming into the enterprise with or without your help. The Blackberry user experience is horrendous relative to the modern smartphone alternatives - which are the iPhone and Android. You can get on board or get out of the way. Those are your only two options.

    IT works for the business and exists solely to serve the business' wants and needs. The business provided your job and will take it away. We want iPhones and Androids, that's what we're going to get regardless of your opinion. It literally doesn't matter what you think. Your services are no longer required.
    • RE: Attacking RIM's enterprise beachhead: What iPhone, Android need to achieve victory


      Did you read the article and my response?

      My job is going no where - if anything it's even more important.

      I SUPPORT iPhone and Android already via Good Technology. I pointed out via Jason's question "Will Google and Apple step up to the plate and displace RIM?s stranglehold on corporate enterprise messaging for smartphones? Talk Back and Let Me Know."

      I have 10+ years experience supporting mobile, personal liable is just a new wrinkle. The security and management of the device will not change just the ownership.
      • RE: Attacking RIM's enterprise beachhead: What iPhone, Android need to achieve victory

        Don't encourage 'them'
  • What you want...

    PatKelly: What you want does not matter. That is, unless you are willing to pay or assume full responsibility for fines and penalties for business/enterprise security breaches. You obviously do not recognize the peril encountered on a daily basis by IT support in a large organization.
  • Supported

    Many Android phones support Exchange security policies including wipe, locks and encryption. Installing PKS12 certs too. HTC and Motorola come to mind. I lump BES and Good in the same bucket. Dependent on a third party server not in our control but probably secure. The US government requested some WM phones from Motorola in the form of the Q9n, which never really saw the light of day, but the point is that RIM does not have corner on secure cell phones. The same thing that makes their security work has also made them stagnant. Their phones are basically a client of the server and can't do anything on their own. Last time we tried to activate a Curve, the BES server wasn't working so no data. VZW apologized and gave us an early upgrade for an Android. Good for me as it was the last BB in our company for me to have to maintain. No more endless scroll wheel actions and clicks to do the most simple thing. Except for a couple of WM phones we are now all Android. The iphone platform would be ok to support too as they are so simple that my two year old can navigate it.
  • GMM beats RIM-BES on enterprise Lotus Notes

    I have both a BB & iphone - iphone works better to our lotus back mail thru GMM than the BB does thru BES. RIM is old hat now.