RIM to survive mobile enterprise onslaught

Despite reports that BlackBerry maker is losing edge to market rivals, an Ovum analyst believes RIM will still attract developer interest but it will have to share market with other platforms.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Research In Motion (RIM) remains a "very compelling" option for enterprise mobile apps developers, but the BlackBerry maker should brace itself for growing competition from rivals Apple and Google, according to an analyst.

Claudio Castelli, Ovum's senior analyst for enterprise in Asia-Pacific, noted that while developer interest will remain for the BlackBerry platform, enterprises are finding it easier to adopt a multi-device policy for its employees and this is opening up the market for other players.

Castelli told ZDNet Asia in e-mail that the main challenges in enterprise mobility are security and management, both of which are RIM's strong suits.

However, with a growing number of enterprise tools built for device management, such as those provided by Sybase, and security covering a broader range of devices, such as Apple's iPhone and the multiple handsets running Google's Android operating system (OS), it is "becoming possible for IT departments to support multiple devices in a more [balanced manner]", the analyst explained.

Furthermore, the growing trend of "consumerization" is impacting RIM's existing market leadership in the mobile enterprise arena, said Castelli.

"We have seen more and more enterprises selecting devices by influence of users' preferences, and suppliers are working to make [popular] consumer devices more enterprise-ready," he said. "This is the reason for the growing adoption of iPhone and Android in the enterprise sphere."

Castelli's comments follow an Appcelerator survey which revealed that mobile developers were focusing their attention on creating software for the iOS and Android platforms.

Of the 2,733 developers surveyed, 90 percent indicated they were "very interested" in developing for iOS, while 81 percent were eyeing the Android market. By comparison, only 34 percent professed interest in developing for the BlackBerry system.

Tech blog GigaOm also published an article noting that the door is open for phonemakers to target the mobile enterprise market as there are "signs the BlackBerry's days as the phone of choice for business users may be coming to an end".

The author cited RIM's quarterly shipment figures and subscription additions falling short of market expectations earlier in June, causing its shares to drop in value, as one of the primary reasons for the company's possible fall from grace. The article, however, noted that RIM did register a 24-percent jump in revenue in the same quarter.

The market is voting with its feet, too.

Standard Chartered bank, for instance, earlier announced plans to provide its employees the option to choose between BlackBerry and iPhone devices, though the iPhone will be its "smartphone of choice globally", according to its media release in May.

Developers retain RIM interest
Enterprise app makers, however, remain keen on developing for the BlackBerry platform, alongside other platforms.

Deepak Ramanathan, product manager of enterprise intelligence platform at SAS Asia-Pacific, said RIM is "still the leader" in enterprise computing applications.

"SAS, given its history of supporting multivendor architectures, considers the BlackBerry as having considerable influence in the mobile applications market and we support these applications given the current market dynamics," Ramanathan noted.

He did add that the Android platform is the "fastest growing mobile computing platform" given its strong play in the apps market. "SAS recognizes Android's growth rates and will be looking to support its customers' existing and potential requirements for the platform," he said.

Another mobile app player, Volantis Systems, told ZDNet Asia that developers' apparent lack of interest in writing enterprise software for RIM devices--as indicated in the Appcelerator survey--stemmed from having to recode their app for a second or third time, after designing their apps first for iOS and Android.

Mark Watson, CEO and co-founder of Volantis, noted in his e-mail, however, that this challenge has now been "removed" by software such as the company's Framework 6.0, which enables developers to produce browser-based or native apps that fulfill the "write-once, deliver to many" ideal that many developers desire.

"This has happened at just the right time for RIM because it's going to open up a raft of new applications that will work on the BlackBerry as well as on most other devices, so [RIM's] outlook remains good," Watson said.

Cisco Systems, which has developed apps such as WebEx Meeting Center and Cisco Unified Mobile Communicator that run on multiple platforms, said it "firmly believes" in developing for and supporting platforms that are popular with its customers.

"Cisco [will] continuously develop and improve our offerings for the various operating systems, from iOS and RIM, to Android and [Microsoft's] Windows Phone," said Peter Borup Jakobsen, director of collaboration architecture marketing at Cisco Asia-Pacific.

He pointed to the company's Cius Android-based mobile collaboration business tablet--announced last month and which will offer access to the full range of Cisco's collaboration and communication apps--as an example of Cisco's willingness to adopt different OSes that best suit its customers' needs.

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