Blackberry or the iPhone for enterprises?

The Blackberry has been the smartphone of choice in the enterprise for some time, and for good reason. It mastered the most important business app, e-mail, and comes with all the controls IT requires. But enter the iPhone, stage right. A slick device that everyone craves and the dev world is smothering with new apps. So what ultimately wins in the enterprise? We asked two experts for their opinions:

It takes a village of third-party vendors to catch the BlackBerry
By Brian Reed, CMO and VP products at BoxTone, a Columbia, Md., maker of smartphone management software.

With about 36 million BlackBerry devices in use globally, half of which are enterprise-connected, BlackBerry has about a 17 million to 18 million device lead on the iPhone in the enterprise. Hundreds of organizations around the world have 5,000 or more BlackBerry devices, and a few run more than 50,000. In the past decade, BlackBerry has set the standard for enterprise-grade, reliable and secure mobility.

Sounds like we have the winner — already.

With that said, customers still want choice, and that means the enterprise mobility door is open just enough for other players to push through and perhaps gain share. But if the well worn history of enterprise technology adoption is any indication, winning on a global scale isn’t a walk in the park, and typically requires three things: Meet the needs of the enterprise IT organization; meet the needs of the enterprise user; be easy to do business with.

So to see why BlackBerry is the ultimate winner in the enterprise, let’s take a closer look at where each stands in these categories.

Let’s start with the IT organizations that care about architecture, security, scalability and manageability, and that have so heartily embraced the BlackBerry platform. They value the ability of the BlackBerry platform’s closed-loop system to reliably and securely enable mobility in an inherently unpredictable mobile world of roaming devices.

They value the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), not only because it securely and reliably routes data, but because it provides seamlessly integrated advanced mobile device management to give IT comprehensive control via 420+ IT policies, over the air (OTA) application push and security control, and enterprise application white-list/black-list control. And they value the RIM network operations center and its worldwide network of BlackBerry Relays, which provide near bullet-proof security, message queuing with guaranteed delivery, massive scalability and high availability approaching “five nines.”

Right now, much of what enterprise IT values in BlackBerry is missing from the iPhone with or without a third-party technology like Microsoft ActiveSync. No native VPN. No native Mobile Device Management (MDM). No private on-premise secure OTA App push. Only 30 or so IT policies with ActiveSync (of which iPhone implements 13).

Put another way, it takes a village of third-party vendors to enable roughly comparable configuration, provisioning, security and patching of iPhone devices in the enterprise. And the enterprise is still missing the mission-critical services and performance guarantees of the RIM NOC with BlackBerry Relays. Ultimately all of this comes standard in a unified proven package with BlackBerry for the enterprise.

Now Apple hasn’t achieved its success by chance. Its engineers have designed innovative new interfaces and applications that are driving consumer demand right into the business world. Prudence dictates that as the demands of enterprise iPhone users grow, Apple will respond with more enterprise capabilities. But ultimately, the iPhone has its hands full trying to catch up to BlackBerry.

OK, so we talked about why enterprise IT has made BlackBerry the winner. But what about enterprise mobile users? What they care about is the mobile experience.

BlackBerry is built from the ground up for speed and excels at messaging, collaboration and communication. You can read fast, type fast, jump/cut/paste from app to app fast, and talk at the same time. You can even work offline when there is no coverage using rich on-device apps, and the platform will sync automatically when back in coverage. Heck, even the battery seems to last forever.

In collaboration with partners years ago, the BlackBerry platform also rolled out third-party business and productivity applications like Bloomberg, Reuters, SAP, Oracle, Cognos and office docs, all of which can run simultaneously.

The iPhone has a slick user interface and a huge variety of applications (giving it a significant lead in the mobile application space), but it still lacks the tactile keyboard demanded by speed typers, the all day power, the multi-threaded operating system capable of simultaneous apps, and the reliable service delivery that most mobile business users demand.

Remember the third factor of what it takes for a technology to win on the global enterprise scale? It is the technology and vendor ecosystem must be “easy to do business with.” And to examine this issue you have to take two key enterprise requirements into account.

The first is breadth of availability required for enterprise standardization. BlackBerry devices and services are readily available from more than 200 carriers around the world in multiple languages, perfect for enterprises, which typically prefer to have a mix of carriers in order to negotiate the best deals and to be sure mobile users get reliable coverage.

The second thing is the collaboration and the predictable evolution needed for enterprise standardization. RIM works directly with enterprise CTOs and their teams gathering feedback, reviewing road map futures (sometimes years ahead and in detail under NDA) and testing early release technology. Plus RIM enables key partners to have early access to technology so they can ship simultaneously with new BlackBerry releases.

With a decade-long lead in meeting the needs of both enterprise IT organizations and enterprise mobile users, and by being so easy to do business with, the BlackBerry already won the battle for the enterprise. That said, iPhone has smart developers and an ecosystem of thousands of application vendors that is clearly giving the BlackBerry a run for the money in the enterprise. Game on!

iPhone will surpass BlackBerry
By Chuck Goldman, CEO Apperian Inc., a Boston mobile application development company.

The iPhone has invaded the enterprise fueled by consumer-sales success. There is no going back.

According to recent surveys, when companies give employees a choice between an iPhone and other smartphones, users choose iPhones more than any other device. Although Blackberry has historically been the backbone of enterprise mobile deployments, the single-vendor model is eroding.

Corporate users are demanding IT support their iPhones, in-house developers have seen the power of the iPhone App model and numerous visionary companies have already built and launched “enterprise custom apps” to support their business goals.

Within two years the iPhone will become the enterprise smartphone market share leader or, at a minimum, a peer device in the enterprise. But it will have a No. 1 leadership position in specific industries, such as retail and medical where organizations have the vision to leverage the “app model” for competitive advantage. Some analysts see a three-way game emerging between the Blackberry, iPhone and all other devices.

Of course, there are many factors to consider other than user demand. Carrier coverage, device capabilities and IT support related to security and management are all critical to success. But the winners will ultimately be decided by users and not IT managers, assuming that blocking issues (such as network coverage) are not in play.

To understand why the iPhone will emerge as a winner, look at recent history. Since the iPhone’s launch in June 2007 the device has exploded in popularity with over 35 million units sold to date. Users love their iPhone. And most of these users work in companies, both small and large.

It’s true that iPhone acceptance in larger enterprises has been delayed. However, Apple has been quietly adding support for Exchange mail, beefed up encryption, VPN support and basic management capabilities such as password enforcement and remote wipe capabilities to make IT folks (somewhat) happier about supporting the device.

The key reasons why the iPhone will win are:
   * Employees are demanding a great user experience and their companies will respond to support the iPhone. The engagement that users have with their iPhone is similar to the Crackberry phenomena years earlier, but an order of magnitude higher because of the Apps model and user interface. The increase in personal productivity for users in their home and work life is measurably increased, and users don’t want to carry two devices. Enterprises are responding by supporting the iPhone and re-thinking their mobile strategies based on the bottom up pressure. 
   * Smart businesses are seeing increased ROI and reduced TCO from iPhones. Rather than just being a managed expense, the iPhone enables critical business goals such as collaboration, sharing and the ability to build custom apps for competitive advantage relatively quickly and easily. Yes, it’s true the Blackberry has apps, but historically these have been focused on logistics and operations and have been costly to develop and maintain. The iPhone makes it possible for virtually all business functions, including sales, marketing and HR, to develop truly innovative solutions. Plus, B-to-C apps can provide new models for sales, support and service. Finally, the cost of ownership for iPhones is proving to be lower than Blackberries as companies avoid the “Blackberry Tax” imposed by BES. What’s more, users are more self-sufficient which lowers support costs. 
   * Apple is investing in enterprise support for the iPhone – and IT is starting to believe. Apple clearly focused on the consumer market more than the enterprise when the iPhone launched. IT departments were justifiably skeptical about the cool iPhones executives were showing off around the office. However, Apple is focusing on the enterprise both from the engineering side – with new releases – and the sales side by enhancing the team with enterprise mobile veterans. Much needs to be done, including continued improvement on device management, application deployment and security models. But Apple appears to be on track to provide this support. There is still cynicism about Apple from hard-bitten IT managers, but Apple appears to be balancing these concerns while maintaining the ease of use held so dearly by users.

The iPhone is already on a great trajectory within the enterprise. What’s exciting is the iPhone’s stealth entry occurred mostly organically, without a strong marketing or sales focus (at least compared to the consumer side).

Demand has been driven by users at all levels of the organization, from the CEO to the salesperson. Just imagine what can happen when Apple puts its back to the wheel and starts to push the enterprise market – especially as it considers leveraging iPhone acceptance as a way to engage IT about getting more Macs into the enterprise beyond the traditional marketing areas.

In fact, the iPhone has created a halo effect that is causing companies to rethink their compute platform. Look around and you will undoubtedly see more and more MacBook Pro laptops.

If Apple can continue to amaze users with its technology and provide a great experience, and simultaneously provide IT with enough to keep things in control, the iPhone will win. The disruption in the market has been driven by users who are going to use the iPhone whether IT says it’s OK – or not.

It’s Apple’s game to lose, as long as users continue to drive mobile adoption in the enterprise.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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