The Battle for Enterprise Mobile Dominance

Updated: July 06, 2010

There is a large scale battle taking place currently that could signal which smart phone OS will win the hearts and minds of the enterprise users. Indeed, the popularity of "user liable" devices and the ensuing infiltration of iPhones into enterprise territory previously dominated by BlackBerry has given rise to speculation that BlackBerry is in decline. Couple that with an expected rise in popularity of Android-based devices and the diminishing prospects for Windows Mobile and Symbian, and all this leaves companies wondering if the battle for the enterprise is over and BlackBerry has lost.

First, the best device for the task at hand often has to do with whether or not companies deploy their apps in the cloud or as thick applications resident on the device. Android is likely to win big if companies deploy to the cloud. "All apps working in the cloud" is Google's stated strategy. Even iPhone wins if all things go to the cloud or are provided as "Software as a Services (SaaS), although iPhone does support thick apps. But not all apps for all work styles perform well in the cloud or as SaaS. If companies are looking to deploy rich apps built for a platform, BlackBerry offers more capabilities and tools to do so than either Android or iPhone, and importantly do it in a far more secure and managed environment. HTML5, so often pointed to by supporters as the answer to "off-line cloud computing", is not always adequate, and many of the components of HTML5 to enable such functions are not yet complete. And lack of adequate bandwidth at a low cost further hampers the cloud's appeal.

Second, the various platforms are not created equal when it comes to the cloud. Google is betting big time on the cloud. If the cloud doesn't emerge as quickly or as deeply as expected, Google will be at a major disadvantage, given Android's weak security model for on-board apps, and a lack of enterprise management capability. Apple has taken a middle of the road approach to the cloud. The iPhone has app development capability for traditional apps based on the iPhone stripped-down version of the MacOS, iOS. And it has a high performance browser in Safari including Java support. It is updating its security and manageability, and while better than Android it does not approach the level available from BlackBerry. BlackBerry is at disadvantage in the cloud based on an underperforming browser (which it is fixing with its move to Webkit based on its acquisition of Torch and available in the next OS later this year). But it has a key thick client advantage with its traditional reliance on Java apps, and its compelling advantage in security and manageability

But a key question that needs to be answered is, what will enterprises do about corporate apps - will they cloud/SaaS or not? And how quickly? We expect many companies to deploy cloud based apps but we also believe that the transition to the cloud will be slower than most experts expect. We expect it will be at least 3-4 years before most companies transition a significant portion of their mission-critical apps to the cloud and SaaS. So for SaaS apps like, Android will be a very attractive candidate, as will the iPhone as it requires very little corporate effort to deploy. But for the traditional thick purpose-built applications, we expect BlackBerry to maintain its significant installed base in the organization through its ISV community and its superior manageability and security services.

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