Today CNET reports that the European Commission has selected iPhones and HTC phones over BlackBerrys, striking another blow to Reasearch in Motion. This follows Saudi Arabia announcing it will ban BlackBerry service starting Friday. The United Arab Emirates and other countries are threatening to ban BlackBerry services as well.
The EC cited a few criteria for its selection, but this stands out: “openness toward other applications and future technologies.”
Following the announcement of the BlackBerry Torch yesterday, we wrote that the BlackBerry felt like yesterday’s smartphone compared to other devices on the market. Some thought-out emphasis on bleeding-edge technological features like augmented reality and video conferencing was unfair to RIM, which is focused on fulfilling today’s business users’ needs.
To be fair, RIM still rules the roost in a few areas: security, email and SMS, and battery life (battery life concerns may be why RIM opted for a less impressive screen for the Torch). For many enterprises, this is a perfect combination of features and will continue to be for some time now. The truth is that most users seem to be perfectly happy with the iPhone and Android’s messaging features. iOS and Android already meet the security requirements of most enterprises, and third-party solutions can help make up for other security issues. Android users seem complain the most about battery life, but iPhone users seem satisfied.
Meanwhile, despite having a huge head start on Apple and Google, both dwarf BlackBerry when it comes to the number of apps available. RIM doesn’t seem to be winning on quality of apps either. The reality is that developers are making BlackBerry a low priority. Does this matter for the enterprise? Yes. Enterprises’ communication and collaboration is quickly moving beyond just email. Web applications – whether on-premise or in the cloud – are becoming increasingly common and mission-critical. Enterprise users are going to increasingly depend on mobile phones to access critical company data, and having native apps to do so will be a strong selling point.
RIM is finally releasing a web browser which may be able to compete with the browsers offered by Apple, Google and Palm. But OS6 isn’t even out yet, and when it comes out it only catches RIM up to where others have been for years. Enterprises don’t want to invest in technology that will be obsolete in the next quarter; they want technology they can count on to be ready for whatever needs they have two or three years down the road.
And that’s not even taking into consideration the pressures IT managers are feeling from employees at all levels to support so-called “consumer” devices, regardless of any technological or business advantages they may have.
It may ultimately be in RIM’s best interest to keep its focus on its core competencies of security, messaging and battery life in order to keep the segment of users who place the biggest priority on these features. It may not be able to do much encourage developers to develop for its platform, but as enterprise priorities shift and RIM’s competitors improve in those key areas, RIM is going to need to do some serious innovating if it wants to stay relevant to the enterprise at large.