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Analysts are predicting by 2017, 2.4 billion employees will be using smartphones. This is a growth rate of 17% and represents nearly 3 times more smartphones used by workers today. According ABI Research’s enterprise practice director, Dan Shey, the size of the BYOD smartphone market is in billions. Mobility suppliers and enterprises need to think in terms of serving all employees with tools, apps and services via their smartphones. The most immediate opportunities are in the mobile business customer base which includes employees using their phone for business reasons. This group includes corporate liable, individual liable and consumer acquired devices. Smartphones among this group will grow to 640 million employees by 2017. Android has the dominant leadership position among the global workforce expected to grow to 56% by 2017. 


However, it may never reach this level depending on the success of the Windows 8 and Blackberry 10 smartphone platforms. The question is will new smartphones from Microsoft and RIM put more power in the hands of the enterprise concerning employee mobile device use, particularly for accessing corporate resources? Such change would directly impact enterprise device market share.

BLACKBERRY ENTERPRISE SERVER

Secure email has been the mainstay of RIM’s Blackberry ecosystem since its inception in the early 2000’s. Enterprise organisations traditionally operate either Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Domino and RIM developed its mobile business around this market. RIM was the first mobile device manufacturer to capitalise on the fledgling mobile based email market. It achieved this with its BES server appliance which allowed enterprises to deploy thousands of Blackberry devices with a minimal administration headache. The same corporate security policy for Internet access and business communication could be applied to the mobile workforce centrally with a few clicks of a mouse.

The RIM BES server transported all the functionality of Microsoft Outlook to a mobile device. Unlike public email, Blackberry email within the organisation was encrypted. Not even the service provider had visibility of the content or connection. RIM operates its own global cellular APN network and brokers the end user connection back to the home enterprise using its own data centers. The solution is a nightmare for government organisations engaged in lawful interception since both anonymity and encryption are the mainstay of the Blackberry ecosystem.

The initial rate of BES adoption by corporations caught Microsoft completely by surprise, and as a result it extended mobile device support into Exchange 2003 which enabled much the same functionality to Windows Mobile and Symbian devices, without dedicated hardware. RIM responded by extending blackberry services to non RIM devices, including Windows Mobile, a move which was met with limited success.

But by this stage Microsoft had opened Pandora’s box. It broke the effective monopoly RIM was enjoying with the tightly integrated Outlook experience (Automatically Synced Contacts, Tasks, Calendar and Email), but as a result, opened a door which allowed competitors to compete with its own Windows Mobile operating system. What followed was a stark realisation from the Redmond technology giant that its existing Win6.x OS was no match for either RIM's Blackberry, Android or Apple’s iOS OS and it went into hiatus. Initially, most enterprises viewed the Apple iPhone as an iPod on steroids and treated it with a degree of scepticism.

 

They viewed it as a consumer device, and not a serious business tool. However, as the email integration with MS Exchange improved it soon started appearing throughout enterprise organisations everywhere. Suddenly for the first time RIM’s Blackberry ecosystem was under attack. RIM went into panic mode, releasing a tirade of new mobile devices and for the first time introducing a touch screen smartphone interface in addition to its classic scroll ball design. It started targeting Apple’s tablet market, by releasing the playbook, with a disastrous effect. 


RIM’s strategy now should be to reconnect with its enterprise business customers, not by releasing a stable of ‘me-too’ mobile devices, but using its expertise in enterprise collaboration and messaging to develop a new generation of mobile services around its existing blackberry ecosystem. For example, RIM is in a prime position to provide a secure corporate environment for BYOD, and should extend Blackberry services to other vendors devices.   


By Angela Sutherland


   

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