Why one firm has just ordered 10,000 BlackBerry handsets

Europe's second largest car maker discusses why it has chosen to stick with BlackBerry.
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

BlackBerry rarely makes headlines for positive reasons these days.

Its latest range of handsets designed to compete with iPhone and Android phones failed to sell in the expected numbers and led to the company recording a $965m operating loss in the three months to August this year, and analyst Gartner has warned BlackBerry customers to consider alternatives.

But despite these difficulties, there are signs that major customers are sticking with the Canadian handset maker. Europe's second largest car manufacturer PSA Peugeot Citroen is to provide 10,000 Z10 smartphones to staff in France and Spain and is moving to the latest version of BlackBerry's mobile management system, BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10.

Why has the company chosen BlackBerry? Partly it is down to the fact that the company is already a BlackBerry shop, running a fleet of BlackBerry Curve and Bold devices on BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0.2, so it will not have to invest the cost and time of starting from scratch when setting up its infrastructure to manage the Z10s.

"We have no diversity, no iOS and no Android, and we do not want to go into this technology because it's costly," said Eric Marchand, head of telecom at PSA Peugeot Citroen told ZDNet.

However a key reason for choosing BlackBerry, said Marchand, is a clear view of the future development of the BlackBerry hardware and software, which he said isn't available for other mobile platforms.

"For iOS you have no roadmap. That's not the case with BlackBerry. We have an 18 month perspective with them and they are pretty reliable with their roadmap," he said.

"We have to schedule a two year project and that's not possible with Android or iOS because there's no real roadmap in terms of mobile."

In spite of BlackBerry's recent operating losses and the disappointing sales of its recent BlackBerry OS 10 handsets Marchand said he remains confident BlackBerry's portfolio of services is broad enough to guarantee its future.

"We believe that BlackBerry is not only devices but also provides MDM (mobile device management) and worldwide infrastructure that is very consistent," he said.

"We do not feel in the very short term we will have trouble with BlackBerry because of the value of this infrastructure."

Peugeot Citroen plans to deploy the Z10s between March and June next year to staff who work outside the office. As well as providing access to Microsoft Exchange mail, calendar and contacts, the handsets be able to connect to a web portal offering a suite of corporate apps, covering manufacturing, retail and general corporate services.

Marchand said that while not all of these web applications have an interface that suits the size of screen found on a mobile phone, these apps would be easier to use on the new touchscreen of the Z10.

"With the new tactile approach and the new screen we think it's easier to work with non-mobile designed applications compared to on older solutions [handsets]."

While there are obvious advantages of sticking with BES to manage its fleet of phones, for example "all the development we have done for the BlackBerry APIs are very easy to migrate from 5 to 10" said Marchand, the upgrade is not necessarily straightforward.

"Moving from 5 to 10 we have to build a brand new infrastructure for that because it's really a very different platform," he said. Part of the work comes from catering for the broader range of controls available in BES 10, for example over data roaming.

"We are going to run the two infrastructure in parallel for one year and a half to be really sure we finish the migration of the BlackBerry 7 devices to BlackBerry 10."

From the end of 2014 staff will be able to use the BlackBerry handsets to tether mobile internet connections to laptops and tablets.

PSA refreshes its handsets every two years and Marchand says he anticipates that the next fleet of handsets will also be BlackBerrys.

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