Mobile Device Makers Vie to Replace BlackBerry as Enterprise Standard

NEWS ANALYSIS: BlackBerry is no longer the go-to mobile phone brand for enterprises. But with the rise of BYOD and mobile application bundles, can any company ever be that again?

BlackBerry spent much of 2012 and 2013 trying to shake off the image that it was locked in a "death spiral.” It was so succinct a descriptor of the company, in the weeks leading up to the delayed launch of the BlackBerry 10 platform, that after Canadian radio host Matt Galloway used it during an interview with then-BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins, the phrase stuck indelibly.

Five years earlier, "enterprise gold standard" was the phrase most often applied to the brand.

In early 2006, half of all smartphones sold were BlackBerry models. By 2009, though, its share of the global smartphone market was down to 20 percent. In 2010 it fell to 16 percent, in 2012 to 5 percent, and in 2013 its share was too low for analysts to delineate on top-five lists.

BlackBerry's fall from the top of the smartphone market was due to the arrival of the Apple iPhone and then Android, coupled with BlackBerry's underestimation of the market impact of consumer smartphone preferences, which ultimately led to the bring-your-own device (BYOD) trend.

In 2014, BlackBerry is a far steadier company, under the sure hand of its new CEO, tech veteran John Chen. Industry insiders expect it to retain a core base of customers within regulated industries and enterprise users who appreciate BlackBerry's security features.

But even if Chen can make BlackBerry profitable again and hold on to its BlackBerry Messenger fan base in emerging markets, the days of BlackBerry being the company in the enterprise space—the standard smartphone for corporate for IT departments—are over.

But this begs the question: Can any single mobile device company replace BlackBerry?

"The answer to the question is that most enterprises are not contemplating a direct replacement," Gartner Vice President and Distinguished Analyst Ken Dulaney, told eWEEK.

"They have now learned that such a decision may be incorrect in a few years as well. So more choice and BYOD programs are the norms."

Based on data from a September Gartner survey, Dulaney added, "Most of the business is going to Apple, but Samsung is expected to get a significant share, too."

Gartner's November report on the survey, which tracks changes in enterprise smartphone preferences, found that, on average, 37 percent of workers in an organization are using iPhones and 26 percent are using BlackBerry smartphones.

Samsung Android devices were said to be used by about 16 percent of enterprise workers, while another 13 percent were said to use other Android smartphones, which puts the Android user base ahead of BlackBerry's.

Furthermore, while 71 percent of the Apple users in Gartner's study said they planned to upgrade to the next version of the mobile OS, only 23 percent of BlackBerry users said the same. By 2016, Gartner expects BlackBerry's user share to shrink by 60 percent.

Good Technology, in its fourth-quarter 2013 Mobility Index Report (an indexing of its customers' activities), reported that iOS activations made up 73 percent of total device activations during the quarter; Android, by contrast, accounted for 26 percent of total device activations, while Windows Phone—holding steady for three consecutive quarters—accounted for 1 percent of activations.

In the enterprise tablet space, Good added, 91 percent of activations were iOS (iPads), compared with 9 percent Android.