ORLANDO — BlackBerry executives made their pitch to a somewhat skeptical group of technology leaders that the company has the best mobile device management tools and the staying power to be worthy of additional investment in its software and services.
Speaking at the Gartner Symposium and ITXpo, a trio of executives leading the company's enterprise software business — think BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 and mobile device management — highlighted the company's cloud plans, total cost of ownership and security for its applications that manage Android and iOS devices.
The elephant in the room, which was well attended as BlackBerry execs spoke, revolved around this question: Can you count on the company sticking around?
Stephen Bates, head of BlackBerry's enterprise business, addressed the issue directly. "A lot of people trust the BlackBerry platform. I believe the future is bright and BlackBerry is here to stay," said Bates, who added that the company's balance sheet is strong and going private enables it to invest in what the enterprise cares about.
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Bates also talked up BlackBerry's reach and support.
However, the BlackBerry customers in attendance — we interviewed three —were rooting for the company, but also had exit strategies being formulated. Indeed, this Gartner conference is loaded with mobile device management companies talking themselves up and BlackBerry down among the thousands of CIOs in attendance.
The consensus among the technology executives was that BlackBerry was late to the mobile device management game and many were evaluating options. Two of the three executives had already shut down BlackBerry Enterprise Server, but wanted to see if there was any secret sauce left. "BlackBerry is too late. They had the opportunity two years ago to do this," said one exec.
Bates said earlier that BES 10 has been a success given its trials and implementations planned.
It didn't help BlackBerry's cause that Gartner issued a report telling its clients to pursue an exit strategy given the uncertainty around the company. In a September 27 research note, Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney said:
All BlackBerry organizations must decide on a new course of action. BlackBerry won't be gone tomorrow. You have approximately a six-month time window to consider alternatives and then implement them.
Since that note, BlackBerry announced a plan to go private in a move that should alleviate exit fears a bit.
Donna Henderson, vice president of enterprise marketing, alluded to Dulaney's report and called it sensational. "I'm not sure there was any real analysis," said Henderson, who noted that "even Gartner" noted that BlackBerry had the most unique and secure mobile device management platform.
Leading up to Bates' comments Henderson and Jeff Holleran, senior director of enterprise product management at BlackBerry, talked ease of use and how the company's wares could better manage devices. Holleran touted a plan to offer user self service to reduce calls to IT.
Henderson, who acknowledged she has an Apple iPhone, iPad and a Q10, the BlackBerry architecture keeps her devices in sync and can better manage "bring your own chaos" plans.
Overall, BlackBerry deserves credit for delivering its product pitches while also addressing the corporate chaos relative to rivals right now. The attendance in the room indicated that there was interest among enterprise customers. It remains to be seen if the interest turns into actual enterprise purchases or is merely a case of curiosity. "No matter what happens we're focused on this part of the business," said Henderson.