Research In Motion is in a difficult position in the mobile market.
RIM offers products that, in the eyes of consumers, don’t quite live up to what they expect. Smartphones like the BlackBerry Tour and BlackBerry Bold might be fine mobile devices to some, but because they lack a touch screen, they won’t compare, in the eyes of the consumer, with the iPhone. Prior to the Wireless Enterprise Symposium held the week of April 26, RIM attempted to address that by announcing an updated BlackBerry Pearl and BlackBerry Tour. Later this week, it’s expected to discuss the future of its operating system and browser. The mobile company seems to be feeling pressure.
But whether or not RIM needs to double down on the consumer market is decidedly up for debate. The company has made a fortune catering to enterprise customers who want functionality, productivity and a solid slate of features that will get them through the day. For that reason, RIM has been enjoying greater resistance to the iPhone and Android onslaught than competitors like Palm and Microsoft. As viable as the iPhone might be for home use, RIM is still the king of the enterprise. It offers the kind of services that, so far, Apple and the rest just aren’t willing to deliver. And it’s that advantage that RIM must keep in mind in the future.
RIM still reigns supreme in the enterprise. Here’s why:
1. BlackBerry Enterprise Server
BlackBerry Enterprise Server is perhaps the biggest reason why the competition just can’t match RIM in the corporate world. BlackBerry Enterprise Server delivers functionality, like collaboration and synchronization between accounts, that easily sets it apart in the space. In most cases, enterprise customers use the service to improve their productivity and collaboration with colleagues. As useful as it is, companies such as Apple and Google have yet to fully acknowledge the value of BlackBerry Enterprise Server. The companies are delivering similar functionality in less-capable products, failing miserably to match RIM’s offering. BlackBerry Enterprise Server is a key selling point for RIM.
2. Enterprise concern over third-party apps
Apple’s App Store is touted as a main reason why folks would want to switch to the iPhone. But all that talk fails to take into account that the corporate world isn’t so keen on third-party apps. In fact, most companies strictly limit or prohibit the use of third-party programs on company-owned mobile phones. It makes sense. Applications can be an easy gateway by which malicious hackers can gain access to sensitive information. They can also wreak havoc on an otherwise useful product. Apps are nice for the beach, but they aren’t so useful in the office.
3. It’s about control
Control over hardware and software is integral to the operation of any company. IT managers use every tool at their disposal to exercise control over the ways in which employees use and interact with the products provided to them by their employers. Unlike so many of the other devices on the market, BlackBerry phones offer IT managers the ability to fully control access, protocols and other elements that safeguard data from phone to phone. Apple has done a better job of giving companies the ability to control access and distribution of content on the iPhone in recent updates, but RIM’s slate of services is far more robust.
4. Security is everything
Control has everything to do with security. And security is the main reason why any company would opt for a BlackBerry over a competing phone. RIM has done an outstanding job over the years of delivering software that gives companies full control over employee security. Companies can decide whether or not they want encryption on removable media or any other storage device built into the device. Security settings can even be placed on individual applications. RIM realizes that the enterprise covets security above all else. And by offering the right security tools, it’s delivering what they need.
RIM Must Keep Laser Focus on the Enterprise
Although Apple has said the iPhone will eventually be used as a tethered modem allowing users to access the Web via their laptops over AT&T 3G, such functionality has yet to make its way to the device. BlackBerry devices feature that functionality right now. That might seem like a small victory for RIM, but it really isn’t. Enterprise customers need their employees to be productive at all times. Being able to use a mobile device to connect a laptop to the Web is a must-have feature for some companies. And until it comes to the iPhone, that means Apple’s smartphone is out of luck.
6. RIM’s focus
RIM’s success in the enterprise can be directly attributed to its fidelity to that world. Unlike so many other companies in the mobile market that have chosen to focus on consumers, RIM realized that its competitive advantage is sitting in cubicles and offices around the world. As long as RIM maintains that strategy and fights the urge to take Apple on in the consumer space, the company will be successful. The enterprise might not be as glamorous as the consumer market, but it’s certainly profitable.
7. The iPhone is a consumer product
Lately, tech experts have been saying the iPhone has a good chance of besting RIM’s BlackBerry in the enterprise. Although that’s certainly possible, we can’t lose sight of the fact that Apple’s smartphone is a consumer product. The iPhone might have Exchange support and push e-mail, but it lacks the many security and control settings that users increasingly require in today’s corporate world. It’s also important to remember that Apple, unlike RIM, is marketing almost exclusively to consumers. Apple isn’t an enterprise company-RIM is.
8. The enterprise loves BlackBerry e-mail
BlackBerry e-mail is typically touted as one of the main reasons why companies opt for RIM devices rather than an alternative. It makes sense. In many ways, RIM has made mobile e-mail a fine experience. The ability to view all the latest messages in multiple e-mail accounts is just the tip of the iceberg. RIM’s e-mail system automatically syncs with accounts through BlackBerry Enterprise Server, offers a tremendous slate of security features and delivers customization options that the rest of the market still has yet to match. The iPhone’s Mail app is nice, but for corporate customers, the BlackBerry’s e-mail still reigns supreme.
9. The corporate world is resistant to change
As smart as RIM has been with its enterprise strategy, part of its success can be attributed to the nature of the enterprise. Companies are resistant to change, opting to stick with what they know and like rather than switch to something new. It makes sense. Employees that are content with a product tend to be more productive. If they’re thrown something new that requires them to change their workflow, it can negatively affect productivity. The corporate world doesn’t like to fix something that isn’t broken. RIM is lucky because of that.
10. It understands the enterprise
As all the aforementioned reasons why RIM is still tops in the enterprise have shown, the company understands what the corporate world wants from a mobile phone. That is helping to set it apart from companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Google, which have had trouble adequately addressing corporate needs. RIM gets the enterprise. And it understands that in order for companies to continue buying BlackBerry devices or investing in BlackBerry Enterprise Server, it needs to cater to them. RIM’s success has been due to its ability to properly understand what the enterprise is all about.
Going forward, RIM can’t lose sight of that.