How BlackBerry Lost Its Status as the Enterprise Mobile Gold Standard

NEWS ANALYSIS: Despite its continuing market presence, BlackBerry is no longer the standard mobile device for enterprises. There will probably never be such a standard again.

I was reading Michelle Maisto's well-researched and well-written story about how enterprises are slowly moving away from BlackBerry as the standard for secure mobile communications.

While I was doing this, I was waiting for the new BlackBerry Z30 GSM phone to restart—a process that was taking far longer than it should. This device that I'm reviewing for eWEEK should have been BlackBerry's tour de force.

Instead, this device that was intended to help bring the company back to life does little to inspire confidence. In fact, this lack of confidence is such that I'm packing a spare phone just in case this device gives up the ghost again. But enough of writing about the Z30. This phone will appear in a detailed review that will appear soon on eWEEK.

Instead, we need to examine how it was that a company with such a commanding role in the market, and with such good hardware engineering, lost its way so completely. In the process it's also necessary to separate fact from fiction, since a great deal that's said and believed about the mobile enterprise market is almost entirely fiction.

An example is that only about 2 percent of the mobile devices out there are BlackBerry devices, seemingly inundated in a sea of iPhones. Another is that the enterprise has virtually abandoned the maker in favor of cooler choices. In fact, as Maisto writes, a Gartner report places the installed base of BlackBerry devices at 26 percent in the enterprise, on average. That may not be the company's once commanding lead, but it's a far cry from 2 percent.

Clearly, the enterprise has not abandoned BlackBerry. But what is the source of this misinformation about BlackBerry's market position? Partly it's because there's confusion between gross sales, sales into the enterprise, total installed base and enterprise installed base. It's also partly due to a skewing of figures when the numbers are taken from U.S. sales versus global sales.

Still, the share of BlackBerry in the enterprise is shrinking overall, although the numbers vary by the type of enterprise. Consider the government and financial services industries, and BlackBerry is doing fine. But that's not the case in every industry. The one constant is that in companies where security is of paramount importance, there are a lot of BlackBerry devices. In enterprises where security is less important than user happiness, other brands prevail.

BlackBerry was forced into its long retreat from the top of the mobile market for two reasons. First, the company chose to ignore the trends clearly being set by Apple and Android phones for far too long.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...