Gartner Inc. says that BlackBerry users have six months to decide about a definite course of action – with four different paths before them, three of which include keeping BlackBerry in the IT eco-system in at least some capacity

A story published on the U.S. Network World site Sept. 27 reported that IT consultant firm Gartner Inc. was recommending its clients abandon the BlackBerry platform in light of an uncertain future at the Waterloo, Ont.-based smartphone maker.

While the story was quickly regurgitated by other tech blogs and thrown on the heap of bad news piling up about BlackBerry, it’s not accurate. Gartner’s full report, says that BlackBerry users have six months to decide about a definite course of action – with four different paths before them, three of which include keeping BlackBerry in the IT eco-system in at least some capacity.

Still, the Gartner advice is hardly good news for the beleaguered company as it in the midst of a deal to sell to Fairfax Financial for $4.7 billion and potentially retreat from public markets. A BlackBerry statement says the Gartner report is “purely speculative” about its future, saying it has 25,000 Blackberry Enterprise Service 10 implementations to date, up from 19,000 in July and is the only mobile device platform with “authority to operate” on U.S. Department of Defense Networks.

“Everyone at BlackBerry is grateful for the ongoing support of our customers, and we are working harder than ever to keep it,” the statement adds.

Gartner vice-president and research analyst Ken Delaney is the author of the report detailing four paths to choose from for businesses using BlackBerry 10.

Gartner’s clients have been asking about what options they should be considering in regards to BlackBerry for months, Bill Menezes, principal research analyst at Gartner, says. Now the buyout offer from Fairfax is causing things to come to a head and BlackBerry’s second quarter financial results are showing how serious the situation stands.

The $1 billion write down on unsold BlackBerry 10 smartphones “kind of underscores what the market has been saying for some time,” Menezes says. “It’s no longer part of the primary consideration for some businesses.”

With the landscape at BlackBerry changing it’s time to make plans for a course of action, he says, but there’s a six month window to consider that plan. “There’s millions of BlackBerry devices out there and support isn’t going to disappear overnight.”

Still, some companies may just decide to move away from BlackBerry altogether. “We think that’s a sound idea for some companies,” Menezes says.

BlackBerry on ‘contained status’

An August survey conducted by Gartner shows only nine per cent of organizations expect to still be using BlackBerry by 2016, compared to the 24 per cent using it today.

This is a model that is one step away from removing BlackBerry from an eco-system entirely, but still allowing some devices as approved by business management. When current users of BlackBerry come off contract, those devices can be used as spares.

Companies still running BlackBerry 7 must transition to BlackBerry 10 (or another platform) by the first half of next year. By then, it will be too hard to find those devices for purchase.

“If the company is already supporting the BlackBerry 7 platform, then they need to contemplate moving to BlackBerry 10 by the second half of next year… if they want to continue supporting BlackBerry,” Menezes says.

Gartner recommends businesses don’t activate any Android or Apple devices using the BES 10 platform until BlackBerry’s corporate future is clearer.

Limit BB10 upgrade

This path involves allowing executives who insist on having a BlackBerry for its physical keyboard or in a scenario where high security is a priority. But it’s designed to complement another mobile OS issued by the business or with a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategy.

BB10 backup plan

Gartner says all of its clients should at least have mobile data management plans and be actively testing new devices. Waiting too long to do this exposes a business to more risk, Menezes says.

“If the company determines it’s the best course of action to move away from BlackBerry, then you’re prepared,” he says.

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