Mobile OS Olympics: Race for the Enterprise

By  Denise Lund — September 09, 2011

In the overall consumer mobile OS market,  Android, Apple, and BlackBerry clearly have made their presence known, accounting for 31%, 24%, and 23% of smartphones used by U.S. consumers, respectively. Manufacturers of these devices need to leverage the familiarity and usability of their popular consumer OSes to break into the enterprise market­—or vice versa, in the case of BlackBerry.  Winning in the enterprise will help OSes grow their overall share, but it requires success with both consumers and corporate buyers. Much like in an athletic competition, winners will be determined by what they bring to the starting line and which strategic maneuvers they make along the way. So far, this mobile OS Olympics in the enterprise is shaping up to be a neck-and-neck race.

Take Your Places, Please…
A mobile OS can no longer distinguish between its consumer strengths and its enterprise offerings. Approximately 60% of the smartphones and tablets in the workplace are brought in by end users, with the remainder being corporate-liable. To lead in the enterprise, a device (or set of devices) with a given OS must serve as a dual-purpose entertainment and productivity tool, balancing end users’ wants with employers’ needs. Exhibit 1 reveals where each OS stands in the consumer market.

Android clearly enters the enterprise market bringing its favored smartphone position with it. Accordingly, it can leverage consumer mindshare and an appreciable extent of end user familiarity with the device and the content experience it enables. Android is challenged by its fragmented platform and limited positioning on uses other than entertainment.

Fewer consumers are currently using Apple smartphones than Android smartphones. While this alone puts the iPhone at a disadvantage relative to Android, the fact that those who do use the iPhone are not dealing with fragmentation helps to create a consumer base that can expect and get familiarity and consistency in the device experience. This may ultimately help Apple in the enterprise market race versus Android. Like Android, Apple clearly has developed its success in the consumer market based on rich entertainment and media experiences, a legacy that does not squarely translate to meeting enterprise needs. But unlike Android, it has the advantage of being able to pitch its non-fragmented approach to new developers it targets to enhance its business value.

The success of the BlackBerry OS in terms of percentage of consumers who use it is on par with that of the iPhone. Its legacy is in messaging use cases, and unlike its Android and iPhone competition, this aligns well with key requirements of employee and enterprise buyers. BlackBerry’s unique challenge is not in growing its overall share by penetrating the enterprise as a whole, but in battling the familiar experiences of Android and iPhone among the employee-buyer portion of the enterprise market.

Microsoft and Other Mobile OSes
There is clearly a segment of the market that is using Windows Mobile smartphones, more so in the consumer market (17%, as shown in Exhibit 1) than in the enterprise market (only 6%). Yankee Group does not generally see Microsoft and other mobile OSes as part of the close mobile OS race in the U.S. at this point, but we clearly recognize that their decisions and strategy will influence the opportunity for the top three mobile OS players.

The Mobile OS Opportunity: A Neck-and-Neck Race
Nearly one quarter (23%) of employees are planning to purchase their own smartphones for work purposes in the next 12 months. Today, both smartphones and—even more so—tablets continue to appeal to employees as communication-, collaboration- and productivity-enhancing tools at work, as well as to enterprises for both productivity and strategic, customer-facing initiatives. Employees are playing an increasingly significant role in the success of given smartphone OSes in the workplace, with 60% (and this percentage is only growing) of smartphones in the workplace today being selected and purchased by employees rather than by corporate IT buyers. Exhibit 2 reveals how the enterprise mobile OS market shakes out today. The challenge for BlackBerry will be to strategize to maintain as much of its share today amid the immediate threats from Android and iPhone with end users. These buyers bring that crucial familiarity over from their consumer experiences.

To maintain a foothold for mobile OS growth in the enterprise, a device must be seen by IT buyers as secure, manageable, and enabling productivity, collaboration, and strategic benefits for the business. To an equal degree—or, in a growing portion of cases, to an even greater degree—it must also appeal to the employee end user who approaches the purchase of a mobile device as a consumer with intent to secondarily use the device for work. iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android are neck-and-neck for first place in the type of smartphone considered by these employees: between 40% and 43% of employees are considering each brand, as shown in Exhibit 3.

IT Leaders React to Employee Choice for Smartphones
The dramatic shift in smartphone OS within the enterprise clearly is being influenced by consumerization, as the previous data shows.  But the employee perspective tells only one side of the story.  How the OS battle finishes up will also be determined by IT’s willingness to support employee choice and alternative platforms to what was once a largely corporate-driven decision. Yankee Group’s July 2011 Enterprise Mobility IT Decision Maker Survey gives insight into both of these pressing issues: how is IT reacting to the influx of employee-driven technology choices, and where do they see the mobile OS mix winding up?

According to the Enterprise Mobility IT Decision Maker survey, 43% of respondents are allowing user choice to some degree (Exhibit 4). When asked about their organizations’ approach to the use of consumer tools and devices, 28% of IT leaders said they support employee-chosen devices—but don’t provide full support.  However, 15% of respondents indicated they not only allow employees to choose their own devices and technology, but are also actively supporting them. In reality, once IT opens the floodgates to employee choice, they will have to initiate some level of support for these technologies, whether they are prepared to do so today or not.  Security, compliance, and other corporate policies, as well as the need to keep users productive, will compel enterprises to implement solutions that allow them to manage and support employee-owned devices.

So how do these decision-makers think the OS mix will shake out?  They largely agree with their employees.  Given that many IT leaders realize that consumerization has become a reality, they anticipate that their preferred smartphone OS platform will begin to reflect those devices that consumers in general, and their employees specifically, will be purchasing (see Exhibit 5).

While BlackBerry remains the preferred smartphone OS among IT decision-makers today (46% versus 24% for iPhone and 19% for Android), the enterprise landscape will continue to reflect what is occurring in the overall marketplace. That means a shift to both iPhone and Android at the expense of BlackBerry’s traditional stranglehold—in a remarkably short period of time.  Perhaps what’s most interesting about these results is that IT decision-makers finally may be getting ahead of the curve.  While employees themselves showed a slight preference in their next device decision for iPhone over Android (43% vs. 41%), decision-makers have this reversed with Android being the leading preferred platform in two years’ time at 33%, with BlackBerry and iPhone trailing closely at 30% and 29% respectively. This may reflect IT leaders anticipating that Android’s recent overall market share surge will continue and be reflected among the devices that their users purchase themselves.

Finish Line Remains Unclear
In the mobile OS Olympics, there remains one near certainty: none of the top three smartphone mobile OSes will fall out of the top spot for lack of traction with end users. While the legacy, or historical, positioning of each OS will be a key contributor in each brand’s success or failure in the enterprise market, it will not be the final determining criteria. Each leading mobile OS has its own challenges, including updating and enriching its legacy positioning (e.g., entertainment- or messaging-oriented) to the types of employees who tend to buy its devices. Of those employees who have bought their own smartphones for use at work:

  • Android and iPhone users are a bit more likely to be female, at a 60%/40% split. BlackBerry’s user base is closer to a 50%/50% split.
  • BlackBerry and iPhone users are 1.5 times more likely to have leadership positions (director, VP, or above) at work than are Android users.
  • BlackBerry users are more likely to be in the 35+ age group than they are to be in the 18- to 34-year-old group; seventy-two percent are 35 or older. This percentage decreases by 15% in the case of iPhone and 23% in the case of Android

There is considerable room for device manufacturer repositioning, partnering, developer targeting and the like to win the minds and hearts of all types of buyers in the enterprise. All eyes will be on the OS that creates the winning formula over the next two years.

About This Research

Yankee Group’s 2011 U.S. Enterprise Mobility: IT Decision-Maker Survey is an online survey of nearly 1,000 enterprises in the U.S. The type of questions asked include: What is your deployment status? What are your purchase plans? What are your barriers/challenges to adoption? What motivates you to deploy? What factors impact your decision to deploy a technology and to select a supplier?

Part of Yankee Group’s Enterprise Surveys, the Empowered Employee Survey focuses on U.S. adult full-time workers and their perspectives on enterprise mobility, including work habits, tools, and devices. The report includes data from 2,438 respondents.

Yankee Group’s U.S. consumer surveys analyze consumer attitudes and opinions today, including how they spend their time and money on connectivity-related services, digital media, and applications. Yankee Group probes 15,000 consumers in the U.S. annually through 12 rolling waves of data capture.


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