While RIM BlackBerry
phones face immediate threats from iPhone and Android, RIM's mettle to vie for
the future of the corporate IT market is being severely tested in another
device subset: tablet computers.
Apple's iPad, already the
dominant tablet computer with nearly 30 million units sold since its launch in
April 2010, is becoming a favorite in the enterprise. There are many reasons
The product was the first
of its kind to serve as a viable computing slate. It's also quite good, so it
has come to set the bar for what consumers and IT workers expect in tablets.
RIM has a tablet, too; the
BlackBerry PlayBook, a pretty, 7-inch slate fueled by a 1GHz processor.
Unfortunately, RIM didn't launch the PlayBook until April 19 of this year and
reported that it has sold only 500,000-plus units to date. By comparison,
Apple's iPad 2 sold 500,000 units during its first launch day, March 11.
"The fact that it
took so long to get the PlayBook to market is one of the challenges that RIM is
dealing with," Forrester's Pelino said.
That certainly jibes with
what is happening in one of the nation's largest law firms. Proskauer Rose
issued iPad 2 slates to 500 of its 700 partners through April and May. The
PlayBook was available at that time, but Proskauer had opted to go with the
iPad months before that, said Malcolm Collingwood, senior technology strategist
"When we made these
technology decisions, the iPad was in the marketplace and the PlayBook
wasn't," said Collingwood.
Proskauer is a harsh
reminder of a missed opportunity for the PlayBook, which didn't hit the market
until a year after the first iPad launch.
Proskauer's iPads include
business applications such as DocsToGo and Goodreader. Attorneys for the firm use
their iPads to send and receive e-mail messages and other electronic documents.
Partners, for example, use the iPads to go over contracts with clients. Attorneys
also participate in conference calls remotely while following a Microsoft PowerPoint
presentation on the device.
Steve Kayman, a partner
and chair of Proskauer's technology committee, said the firm mulled seeding the
firm with laptops two years ago, but felt the winds of technology were changing
toward more modular machines such as netbooks and tablets.
"We decided to offer
the iPad because we felt that was the direction in which technology was
moving," said Kayman, adding that Proskauer let partners choose between a
laptop or a desktop and an iPad. Most picked the desktop and iPad combo.
Interestingly, it should
also be noted that Proskauer is still primarily a BlackBerry shop for
smartphones, with 600 out of 700 partners using one BlackBerry handset or
another to communicate. What do the other 100 use? iPhones.
Proskauer pays for its
partners' devices and data contracts, and it has tapped mobile device
management software specialist MobileIron to help manage and secure its
partners' iPhones and iPads. The firm uses BES to manage it BlackBerry devices.
While Collingwood said he
currently doesn't find it onerous to operate MobileIron and BES mobile device
management suites, he acknowledged MobileIron could support all of Proskauer's
devices in the future. That could mean another hit for RIM's BES.
Fender and Proskauer Rose
are just two examples of corporations looking outside the RIM sphere for mobile
devices. Indeed, this is a sensitive issue, and there's a lot of money-both
present and future-at stake.
Not every customer wants
to discuss why they switch platforms, but they are out there. It's clear that RIM
must double its efforts to retain its enterprise market lead.