I have been speaking with Brian Reed at BoxTone for some time now about iPhone vs BlackBerry and the line I get most often is that it’s a “BlackBerry++” scenario. This denotes that the majority of organizations are using BlackBerry, with a smattering of other devices on the network such as the iPhone and the Pre.
There are a variety of reasons why the BlackBerry has become the business standard. Security and reliability are some of the central reasons, but Brian sums it up as having met three criteria: “Meet the needs of the enterprise IT organization; meet the needs of the enterprise user; be easy to do business with.”
From an IT perspective, BlackBerry provides some essential features that the iPhone currently lacks such as native VPN, native Mobile Device Management (MDM, private on-premise secure OTA app push and a limited number of IT policies. Other features such as a 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, make the BlackBerry a winner in enterprise for the foreseeable future.
So why is everyone talking about iPhone in enterprise? As mentioned above, the BlackBerry++ scenario is in some ways confusing mainstream media that the iPhone has a significant presence in enterprise. It’s true that these devices exist in enterprise, but these devices are often employee liable versus corporate liable.
A typical case involves a CEO who decides he wants to try out the latest Droid phone and brings it to his IT department and says “get this working for me.” The Android software is new and unpolished, and it may not even support IT policies, but the CEO has to have it nonetheless. Others in the company see the CEO using this device and some want to try it out too. IT admins will either fight against these devices, let employees have them under employee liable conditions, or just give up and let the gadget lovers in the company bring whatever they want on to the network. This is where the iPhone sits in business, as a gadget that a few in the organization want, and IT isn’t elated about. I would be surprised if there is even 1 major organization that has rolled out iPhones across a network in the thousands of devices. BlackBerry has several of these clients.
While I appreciate the Apple design philosophy and the company’s ability to create a revolutionary platform, to date it lacks many of the features required by business. Personally, I would like to see Apple try a slider device, as having a keyboard would go a long way to making the device more functional. But in the end, this may all be a moot discussion. Quarter after quarter, we’re seeing non-enterprise subscriptions go up, and while enterprise subscriptions aren’t necessarily down, they’re being overshadowed by consumer smartphone purchases. Winning the enterprise market may not be enough anymore to be a competitive smartphone manufacturer.