The Blackberry maker RIM, the largest tech company in Waterloo - my present port of call, has been growing fast, particularly since the smartphones took off. Apple and now even Google jumped in with smartphones of their own and already, we hear voices claiming that the era of Blackberry’s dominance is over and that RIM is in trouble.
Well, I have no doubt that the popular iPhone will dominate the market in terms of units shipped. But Apple (and Google too) is targeting the consumer market – a market that RIM never owned. So far, RIM has been selling in the enterprise space, allowing busy professionals to remain productive while on the go with the killer enterprise application – e-mail. Today, we have more mobile enterprise applications than just e-mail and the Blackberry is a really useful device.
Apple and Google don’t pay particular attention to the enterprise. Sure, they have been trying to establish an enterprise line of products for years but those represent a tiny fraction of their overall revenue which offers little motivation for investment compared to the billions made in the consumer space. RIM on the other hand has been selling almost exclusively to enterprise, establishing a stronghold in the corporate IT department with their Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES), which provides a secure communication channel from the mobile devices to corporate data.
The BES represents the greatest competitive asset for RIM. It has been deployed by every organization using Blackberry which represents a huge percentage of the enterprise market. BES can be used not only for e-mail but for any application. For example the recently announced Open Text Everywhere, the enterprise application for content-based tasks, is simply piggybacking on the secure tunnel already established by BES. It means that the IT department does not have to install anything else to run other secure applications, and that’s what iPhone and Google Android don’t have to target the enterprise. Not only do they face an uphill battle convincing the IT departments to punch another hole in their secure firewalls, but they both miss the enterprise DNA and a credible security reputation. And that’s a major concern for any IT department.
Don’t take me wrong, there are solutions today that allow companies to connect either iPhone or Android to the corporate environment including e-mail. However, RIM has a tremendous head-start in the enterprise while Apple and Google don’t put enough emphasis on it. Sure, RIM wants a piece of the consumer market and Apple and Google want to get into the enterprise and so they will be fighting it out for years to come. But when it gets down to enterprise mobility, the battle is RIM’s to lose.