The Use of Personally Owned Devices

By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2010-09-27 Print this article Print


Whether the enterprise provides the device or the user brings his or her device while the company covers service costs, these solutions should also provide billing and expense management for wireless services. These solutions can help IT identify usage patterns out of whack with assigned service plans for voice minutes, text messages or network data, whether these conditions are international travel on domestic-only service plans, excessive minutes being used consistently from month to month or for devices not used enough given the allocated service level.  

Increasingly, customers should also begin to look for integrations with existing infrastructure management solutions, therefore allowing customers to add the mobile client base to the tools already used to manage the rest of the network. For instance, MobileIron recently unveiled an API for its product to allow integrations with partner products over time.

Since more companies are allowing their users to use personally owned devices, there definitely won't be a homogenous device base. Therefore, the solutions absolutely need to deliver wide cross-platform support. Each of the products I mentioned started with support for the last generation of enterprise devices-Windows Mobile 5.x/6.x and BlackBerry, typically. Apple iOS support is simply the latest major platform supported, and customers should expect Android support, if offered at all right now, to be greatly improved within the next 12 months.

RIM has garnered a lot of criticism over the last year for the shortcomings-both real and perceived-of their stable of BlackBerry clients when compared to Android and iPhone upstarts. To be sure, BlackBerry has not been as successful at attracting consumers or developers to the platform in the last couple years, ceding those segments to Apple and Google. With BlackBerry 6 OS, RIM has made significant strides to again be competitive, although the modern distinctiveness of the platform is not yet there. That will require a lot more developers delivering innovative apps and services that leverage the platform. However, I'm not in the camp that thinks BlackBerry's lost ground on the client side spells doom for the mobile OS-indeed, I would not be surprised if the platform was again competitive, feature for feature, by mid-2011.

Instead, I think the threatening storm clouds hover over RIM because of the monoculture-the walled garden-that once helped make BlackBerry so successful in the enterprise. Monoculture may work if the enterprise is buying the device and providing it to its users, but in this time of rapid platform enhancements and numerous viable and attractive options available on the market, why would IT standardize their business on something with such a short lifecycle? And users are going to go with what suits them best, which is not a good recipe for a homogenous solution.

With a heterogeneous client base, the BlackBerry network and back-end suddenly becomes an isolated part of the network, built to provide excellent functions and support to a limited segment of the device base. Even though BES is a superior mobile management platform, it nonetheless will become redundant.

At this time, BES isn't even any good with user-provided BlackBerrys, if the device is not licensed and activated to the BES infrastructure. RIM recently added features to BES 5 that promise some functionality along these lines in conjunction with an as-of-yet unreleased on BlackBerry 6 OS, although there is no word what this capability will look like. Recently, RIM launched a user management portal-BlackBerry Protect-to provide some location tracking, security wipe and backup functionality, but these functions are only available to devices explicitly not activated to a BES.

Each of these third-party mobile management solutions support BlackBerry device management, so customers can manage iPhones and BlackBerrys side-by-side within the same solution. But each does it through an integration with an in-place BES server via BlackBerry APIs, as they could not tap into the BlackBerry walled garden directly. Two middleware elements would be required.

Most large enterprises previously standardized on BlackBerry undoubtedly have a BES infrastructure already in place, and they have likely already upgraded to BES 5 (which was released in 2009). But if companies are no longer buying BlackBerrys, I can't see the BES deployment base growing, and that base will likely shrink significantly when it comes time to upgrade to the next version.

Simply put, I'm not sure there is much revenue opportunity for RIM for BES and enterprise licensing, at least as everything is currently constructed. The company likely needs to take a long, hard look at how it operates on the back end. On one hand, RIM could go the same route as other platforms-embracing Exchange ActiveSync and other mail protocols for direct messaging connections. But I doubt RIM will do that, as it already invested heavily in its messaging network and because much of its device battery efficiency can be traced to the device's connection to a single messaging infrastructure.

Alternately, RIM could embrace multiplatform support and open its walled garden to other platforms, delivering a client agent for multiple mobile operating systems to extend core competencies of message delivery, enterprise systems integrations and device management and security to other platforms. However, RIM would likely need to buy one of these third-party mobile management solutions in order to speed support for these other clients.

Otherwise, I suspect BlackBerry could be relegated to niche enterprise situations as time passes, perhaps to customers who require the high-end security or FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) certification that competing mobile platforms cannot yet provide.


Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at

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