The BlackBerry Q5: Primed for enterprise?

I was terrifically disappointed to have been unable to make it to BlackBerry Live in Orlando recently. By all accounts it was a super event. I followed much of the updates live from the likes of my friends at CrackBerry and from BlackBerry’s own excellent social update team.

I had an inkling that a Q5 was due. I didn’t know the name, I didn’t know the specs, but it stood to reason for me that once BlackBerry had got the Z10 and the Q10 out of the way, their attention would turn to lower-end models.

It is all too easy to forget just how dependent companies (and their employees) are on BlackBerries. Yes we’ve now got a plethora of iDevices being used across enterprises, but the vast majority of corporate-issued devices are still BlackBerries. I don’t have specific facts to back this up. I just know it.

You only have to walk around central London to spot the number of company BlackBerries in use. They’re almost everywhere. Nowadays it’s routine to come across an individual with an Android, Nokia or iPhone as their personal device, with the trusty 3-year old BlackBerry in the bag.

Now that I’m working heavily in a bank, it’s a lot easier to appreciate the scale and reality of BlackBerry’s position. Most corporates still don’t issue iDevices as standard. It’s a simple cost decision (underpinned by a real need for proper security). Executives can have anything the want (i.e. iPhone or iPad). Everyone else is given a BlackBerry — usually an 8520 or similar. These are the devices you’ll find still rocketing off the PAYG shelves because, even today, they offer a heck of a lot of ‘smartphone’ for your £100.

Any enterprise that’s got a concern about security will typically deploy BlackBerries by default, with perhaps Good for Enterprise (or similar device management systems) to allow some folk the option to use their own phones.

Invariably Android is verbotten. Absolutely verbotten. Because the technology teams just don’t feel good about the security capabilities.

I’ve been engaged in a lot of correspondence with a range of readers who all work in enterprise and who all have to deal with phones, either from a strategic or a day-to-day operational level. When it comes to risk, companies can just about stomach an iDevice-compatible solution from the likes of Good. But the favourite, the absolutely safe (and financially viable) option is still the BlackBerry. Unfortunately a lot of the readers I’ve been talking to are not enjoying giving old technology to their end-users. Give someone an 8520 BlackBerry for about £100 and the enterprise won’t expect to upgrade that for a good few years. In fact it’ll more or less have to die before the company will replace it, such is the standard policy for the rank and file.

I do agree. It’s rather depressing giving a BlackBerry 5.0 (or 6.0) device to someone *today* knowing that the ONLY thing they can do is email and a rather limited amount of web browsing. Because, of course, everything is shut down. Everything. Many organisations still switch off everything apart from web and email. It’s a different situation if you’re deploying an iPhone for an employee.

So when the Q5 was launched, the chatter picked up dramatically. There are a lot of questions about the Q5 from an enterprise perspective, especially for those enterprises that are still running a relatively standard Exchange 2010 with BES configuration.

I suppose the biggest question is price. I’d expect the Q5 to be at least, what, £300 to begin with? That’s still quite expensive compared to the existing 8500/8900 lines. Perhaps the Q1, 2 or 3 could help there. I’m sure they’ll be under development already.

The next question is device management. What are you supposed to do when you’ve got a fleet of 10,000 x 8520 devices out there all working perfectly fine? Who in the organisation is paying for the upgrade? Is an upgrade required… yet? What’s the device policy going to be given the Q-series is highly capable running on BlackBerry 10.

I recognise that BlackBerry is busy playing the consumer game. This is important, very important. However I’d like to see them put a lot more focus into educating enterprise about the next steps.

Just like Microsoft will put a significant amount of effort to telling you that the world is now flat (e.g. If you were using Exchange 2003, you shouldn’t be now. It’s time for 2010. Or more. Or Office365). A lot of energy is expended by software and hardware vendors laying the groundwork for their customers to help them understand the next steps and to start planning ahead of time.

I think it’s time to see BlackBerry really engage with enterprise around their next generation of devices, even just to set expectations. Even just to give a nod’n’wink about strategy.

Should I be seriously thinking about swapping my fleet of 4,000 BlackBerry 5/6 devices to iPhone? Seriously? Because right now the costs are almost exactly the same as buying one of the existing Q10/Z10s. Or have you got anything coming? If so, when? Roughly. Just roughly. And… rough costs?

Thoughts? Are you running the mobility strategy for a large organisation? What’s your policy on BlackBerry right now and how is it likely to change?

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