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The “BlackBerry’s Dead” Myth: 4 out of 5 SMEs I called are staying with RIM for “foreseeable future”

I did my own BlackBerry research the other day. I must qualify this post’s headline — I called five SMEs to talk about their BlackBerry usage.  Each of the companies I called are British companies, they are all primarily engaged in the manufacturing industry and they all employ 25-500 people. I think I probably called about 7 firms in total but stopped when I’d got 5 results.

I recognise that this is less than scientific but they can certainly be considered anecdotal. I simply spoke to the IT director or senior manager — whoever was available to have a chat.

When I called, I introduced myself as the Editor at Mobile Industry Review and gave them a quick overview, pointing out that I was doing a quick bit of BlackBerry research.

I came up with three questions as I didn’t want to impose too much on their time. Indeed I didn’t expect them to be as polite as they were. (I ended up getting a whole load of feedback from each question.)

Here are the questions I asked along with the rather simple results:

– – – – –

Do you have BlackBerry email services?

100% (all five said yes)

Do you intend staying with BlackBerry for the foreseeable future? (i.e. 12-24 months)

80% (4 out of 5)

Are you considering other smartphone platforms?

60% (3 out of 5)

– – – – –

So, yes, RIM are going through a lot of trauma but I wonder whether their core business will still remain relatively secure. That said, relying on core business simply won’t cut it in the smartphone wars. Also rather worrying is that 3 out of 5 are having their heads turned by other platforms. This is not surprising given the consumerisation of IT and the amount of employees hankering to try out the latest gizmos.

[An interesting aside — one of the chaps I spoke to pointed out that they currently pay for their BlackBerry services and licenses via their operator but plan to stop doing this soon because they intend swapping to Office365. They’ll still need BlackBerry ‘service’ from their operator, but they won’t need the client access license costs for their exchange server — because it’s all wrapped into the Office365 monthly service fee. This is good news for RIM’s continuity but bad from a reduced license revenue perspective.]


  1. I’m sorry Ewan, but that’s the death knell right there. BES has to be the stickiest platform known to mankind. Once you are in the BES/Exchange world (no small feat in itself), it’s a herculean task to get out without major disruption to your operations. I’d say almost impossible to do without major downtime for field staff.

    So even with such a huge disincentive to jump ship to the roughly similar QoS / security / featureset of iOS or Android mail (or infact any modern IMAP Lemonade client/server setup) over HALF  of IT managers are *still* considering it.

    And what of SME’s who *don’t* have BES – how many are considering getting it? That response would be, I’d guess, less than 10%.

    The bell tolls for thee, RIM…


  2. I think this is the key — there’s a major difference between ‘considering’ vs ‘in the process of swapping’.

    But then again, how important is enterprise to RIM? Obviously I’d presume the license fees are the life blood of the company’s revenues, but more and more, it’s all about consumer isn’t it? If you can reliably assert that, say, 90% of enterprises currently using RIM/BES will still be doing so this time next year, then that’s good news for RIM’s basic financial health, right?

    If that figure is closer to say, 10%, then yeah, let the bell toll. I’m not sure what the reality is. My wholly anecdotal research there shows that those I spoke to *aren’t* swapping. Yet. And I only spoke to 5 SMEs. I think the reality is most SMEs will take a long time to do anything but consider. Agree?

  3. I think it’s bad news either way. We know circa 70% of current RIM customers are going to get a different device next time around. Even if *all* of them were consumer (and RIM corporate users often don’t have any choice in what they use as it’s corporate provided) it’s still very bad. If some of that 70% are corporate, that more or less gels with your ‘60% are considering jumping ship’ anecdote. We have 70% of handset users saying they want out, and 60% of BES admins saying roughly the same thing. Against iOS users less than 10%. Dunno what the figure is for Android, but getting into Android as a corporate platform is not a challenge. It’s free pushmail and damn capable devices can be had SIM-free for £80. And with increasing interest in BYOD as a cost-cutter, a lumbering system like BES really does look like a dinosaur. Ask any sysadmin what he’d rather provision – iOS, Android or BES. No contest.

    Fundamentally, it’s down to this: CEOs are starting to talk, questioning why they have telephone-number-size mobile email TCO. CTOs are already running iOS pushmail for many execs due to the CEO-downward push of iOS phones & tablets into enterprise. So if it’s good enough / secure enough for the boss, why not everyone? As iOS/Android devices can now be had on simple flat-rate internet plans for sod-all, the BES premium has evaporated. Add in the BYOD revolution, and it’s a perfect storm for RIM to piss into. There is just no rational justification for the BES ecosystem/cost.

  4. Surely it’s not down to cost? If you want to cut the cost, all you need to do is move your infrastructure to Office365 and pay a tenner a month (roughly) per seat including BES support.

    Turn your arguments around Mike — I’d like to see what you think from a positive perspective! Go on! Force yourself!

  5. Cost is the only comparator remaining. It used to be more about  security, then ‘administerability’. Both those issues are gone now with iOS/Android supporting SSL/remote wipe/ Exchange password policies etc.

    The idea of shifting all your emails into the cloud in order to save on mobile email costs is a completely different kettle of fish. I agree that these days cloud services like 365 or more specifically the cheaper Google Apps for business are perfectly viable for SME – if your business can get its head around cloud hosting, that is. And all your emails being subject to the US Patriot Act.

    For around 15k employees or less cloud makes sense. Above that on-premises is still worth it. If you want you can have your iron hosted but retain all the software/admin roles in-house. Google Apps / 365 is still only a small part of the overall SME/corporate email landscape, so RIM still have a load of customers doing it in-house and paying $€£30-35/month for something they can get for free with iOS/Android.

    I can see IT admins pushing for loosing BES as a cost saver that removes a load of hassle. But cloud hosting of everything? Even IT Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas that easily 😉


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