Apple Begins to Dominate on BlackBerry's Enterprise Turf - Is it Game Over for RIM?

By Tony Rizzo, Editor in Chief — November 29, 2011

Some days ago, iPass, a veteran mobile messaging vendor, released its newest quarterly mobile report, which is based on responses from over 2300 enterprise users, and which looks at mobile device trends, among other mobile-related things. Many of these reports in recent quarters have pinpointed a trend: Apple has been quietly gaining ground within the enterprise.

However, the truth of the matter is that this is no longer a trend. The trend is over and Apple has now taken on a new role as the enterprise leader in both smartphones and tablets. Steve Jobs was no illusionist. It turns out he was a realist.

When enterprise users were asked what phones they have that are used within the enterprise for work-related reasons, the following numbers emerged (note: all charts and figure references are from the iPass report).

Enterprise iPhone users now represent 45% of the smartphone population. There has been a significant increase since 2010, while RIM has seen its market share continue to erode. Relative to Apple the disparity - now at 12.8% in Apple's favor, becomes far worse when Android devices are factored in. The above chart now places Android at 21.3%, a full 10 percentage points higher than in 2010. Together, Apple and Android now own 66.3% of a market where RIM once had no competition what so ever.

That's the scenario as we come to the end of 2011. The above chart doesn't hold good news for RIM. Do things perhaps get better in 2012? The following chart answers the question.

The above chart represents the real crisis that RIM faces - and the numbers speak for themselves. Apple can anticipate significant future growth. RIM cannot.

So far the numbers have focused on smartphones - all of which enterprise users also keep in hand for personal use. There is absolutely no doubt that BYOD will continue to dominate where smartphones are concerned. What happens when we shift the discussion to tablets?

Mobile Enterprise strongly believes that the real battle for enterprise mobility will clearly be fought over the tablet landscape. It is on tablets that the huge percentage of corporate data and new mobile applications will ultimately reside, and it is the tablet that will become the dominant enterprise device. If there is a battle RIM needed to win, the enterprise tablet battle is it. What do the numbers show?

Once again, Apple dominates - and Apple dominates in a huge way. Even the collection of Android tablets from myriad vendors taken as a whole do not compete. RIM's PlayBook, which won't have a "next generation" update until February 2012, is simply not in the game. To be clear, "next generation" in this case means an incremental update.

Although the chart above shows Windows 8 tablets - where Microsoft has clearly drawn the line in the sand on winning the enterprise mobile marketplace - runnning far behind Apple, the marketplace is already suggesting that Windows 8 tablets running the latest version of Microsoft's Metro UI (keeping in mind that as yet there are no such available devices, and there won't be until mid 2012) will begin their own steady climb beginning in 2012. Mobile Enterprise believes that the tablet battle will be fought, long term, between Win 8 tablets and the iPad.

What is RIM to Do?

Let's now turn our attention fully to RIM. At a recent Innovation event, RIM demonstrated a variety of things coming down the road from the company. Among them is the already noted update of the PlayBook. More interesting however, is Mobile Fusion, a device management platform that RIM claims will deliver on the ability to manage not only RIM's own hardware, but also iOS and Android devices.

It is important to note that in RIM's view Mobile Fusion is a major new product release. It was certainly presented that way at its Innovation event. But is it? At its core it is a simple mobile device management (MDM) platform that provides a set of basic device management services. Is it a level of innovation that will cause enterprises to stop and rethink the possibility that many enterprises will no longer feel it critical to maintain their BES infrastructure?

This issue is at the core of Mobile Fusion, and RIM believes it represents an "opportunity" for the company. What do the numbers show here?


RIM's numbers in this chart merely reflect its historical enterprise entrenchment, and it is this that RIM believes represents the opportunity for Mobile Fusion. The problem is that Mobile Fusion won't change what the chart tells us about what we can anticipate in 2013 - RIM will drop below 50% and Apple will soar above it in terms of adding new support and continued support.

Can RIM Think Strategically?

The take away from RIM's Innovation event is that the company continues to think tactically rather than strategically. It makes the mistakes that Steve Jobs would go ballistic over - incremental and slow changes that fail to offer true creative thinking and that fail to seize the moment.

There is a great deal of doubt in the mobile industry - whether the doubter is an editor, a technology analyst or a financial analyst - that RIM can become a strategic and forward thinking company, rather than one that thinks incrementally and tactically. We need to keep in mind that just as Apple invented the MP3 market, so too RIM invented the mobile enterprise device. Up until and including when RIM delivered its Curve back in 2006 - 2007 the company presented the appearance of strategic thinking. The Curve was an exceedingly cool mobile device until Apple showed up at the table.

In retrospect the Curve wasn't strategic - it was derivative. Since late 2007, when the mobile game changed and true strategic thinking became necessary, RIM simply didn't deliver. It still hasn't. For RIM to survive, and for the company to regain any semblance of its powerful former enterprise position, RIM must come out of 2012 with head-turning technology and a strategic point of view. The mobile industry needs RIM to be creative, strategic and successful. 

At this time next year the numbers will tell which path the RIM story followed.


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