To a great extent, the media lens on the rapid expansion of smartphones in business has focused on the growing popularity of the iPhone and Android devices. The underlying assumption-and one that doesn't get quite as much attention-is the resulting challenges this raises for Research in Moiton and its BlackBerry line.
It's not a zero-sum game, as they say. While Android and iPhone are growing in the enterprise, the total number of users is increasing as well, so competitors' growth isn't entirely coming out of Research in Motion's hide.The flow of events, though, has to concern RIM executives in Waterloo, Ontario.
The trend lines are fascinating-and don't necessarily favor Apple. This week comScore MobiLens reports that RIM's market share shrank from 41.1 percent to 39.3 percent between April 10 and July 10. Apple's share also declined from 25.1 percent to 23.8 percent. The winner was Android, which moved from 12 percent to 17 percent. Note that the total increase in smartphone owners during the period-11 percent, to 53.4 million-just about negates RIM's percentage loss.
Bloomberg Businessweek reported last week on the increasing corporate use of iPhones and Androids by the likes of JPMorgan Chase, UBS AG, Vanguard Group and Standard Chartered Bank. The latter seems to be a switch-out, while the other three appear to be adding the non-RIM devices to their BlackBerry stable.
This is no isolated trend. In a poll of 200 companies in the United States and UK done by research firm Sanford Bernstein, 74 percent allow employees to use smartphones other than RIM. The story says that Apple is fully engaged in the corporate world:
Apple said in July that more than 80 percent of the Fortune 100 companies are deploying or testing the iPhone. The Cupertino, California-based company has taken steps to improve the iPhone's security, such as strengthening encryption tools, adding the ability to set longer passcodes and integrating with servers that could wipe out or lock an iPhone if it's lost.
None of this is surprising, considering the manner in which the mobile industry has evolved. The New York Times nailed the trend in an article in July:
Corporations and consumers used to be happy with handsets that served up e-mail reliably, promptly and securely. R.I.M.'s products do this very well. Now, though, Android and Apple handsets adequately handle e-mail, while also doing much more. For instance, iPhone users can download about 30 times as many apps as are available to BlackBerry users, and the process is more user-friendly.
The story quotes Gartner numbers reflecting RIM's decline in the United States: During the first quarter of 2010, it fell to 41 percent, compared to 55 percent in the year-ago quarter. The story says that RIM is being helped by the overseas market, and that average device has experienced a "sharp" decline in price.
Some drop in BlackBerry popularity and use was inevitable. The apparent gap in functionality and sizzle between RIM's devices and other smartphones wasn't. The company now apparently is paying the price.