Yes it is true that Research In Motion (RIMM) has lost 2-3 years of the smartphone rat race and has been left behind. It is also true that most enterprise customers have changed platforms, because RIMM did not have a smartphone good enough to compete with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) or Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).
However, just because RIMM has lost momentum does not mean that enterprise costumers are satisfied with Android or iOS. In a recent report, researchers at North Carolina State University wanted to find out if the Google service that is included with Android 4.2 Jelly was enough to detect known malware. Out of 1,260 malware samples from 49 different family types, only 193 forms of malware could be detected, for a detection rate of 15.32%. Obviously if you are an enterprise customer, these results are not satisfactory.
The new thing as far as enterprise mobility is the code name PaaS (Platform as a Service). Mobile PaaS technologies make it possible to create bi-directional enterprise-to-mobile interactivity that allow companies to offer sophisticated mobile functionality to their employees. Although these apps will resemble the consumer apps that employees use today, in reality they will be custom built for the individual enterprise and cater to distinguished corporate needs.
For those who don't realize it, the only real PaaS mobile platform out there at the moment is RIMM's Blackberry Enterprise Services 10 (BES 10). One look at RIMM's enterprise platform features will convince you that companies wishing to deploy mobile applications and services across their entire workforce really have no other choice than BB10. While Apple's iPhone is a great phone, Apple and the Android space have nothing to match the enterprise capabilities of RIMM's new BB10 platform.
But it's not only the enterprise possibilities that will drive BB10 unit sales, there are many other features that make the new RIMM phone very palatable to the enterprise market. For example there are hyper secure options available for governments and companies that need the ultimate secure environment.
Thanks to BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, BES 10 will serve as a central management console to allow the enterprise to manage all BlackBerry, iOS and Android devices (tablets included) via a single interface. Enterprises can connect all these devices behind a firewall and transport data and other security features. But, because Apple's iOS and Google's Android don't support the same security safeguards as BlackBerry 10, they can't be managed using the same IT policies as BlackBerry 10 devices. So that's one reason why corporations will need to upgrade to the new BB10 phone device. Yes they can use other devices, but to get the best out of the new platform, it would be wiser to use the new BB10 device.
There is currently no inherent capability in the Android platform for extending and revoking privileges to users, tracking usage, or notifying IT departments when devices violate corporate policies. Blackberry Balance fills this void. This feature allows companies to have two separate on-device persona, one for corporate data and one for personal information. This feature is not just about protecting corporate data. BlackBerry 10 will allow corporations to segregate corporate data and apps from a user's personal material. As a result, technology departments will be able to wipe out all of a company's data on a phone when an employee quits or gets fired. For practical purposes, BlackBerry Balance is like having two separate phones in one.
Corporations today are more global than ever. So how does sending and receiving messages in three different languages in the same text conversation sound? Yes you will be able to do this with RIMM's new phone devices. No more trying to translate something while you are running to the airport, because it happens for you in real time.
RIMM however has been losing the enterprise client to Google and to Apple. According to IDC (via computerworld com) RIMM shipped 22.4 million corporate smartphones in 2011. But for 2012, this is projected to fall to 5.2 million units. In fact, 2012 will be the first year that Android and iOS devices will sell more corporate units than RIMM.
IDC also said that "BlackBerry continues to be the gold standard for security," but added that consumer and development interest hinders its viability going forward.
I think both these issues will be resolved next month with the launch of BB10. For one thing, RIMM will have a brand new smart-phone that will be as good as the iPhone or other Android devices. Also, one reason why many people have put off buying a BlackBerry phone in 2012 is because they were waiting for the new BB10 phone to come out. I assume the same reason for hesitation applies to enterprises also.
Second, RIM has lowered the barrier to entry for developers and has stated that they will enjoy a better revenue split and will spend less money developing apps. And judging from the capabilities of the new platform, I think that developers will be attracted to this platform. There is a lot of money to be made developing custom corporate solutions. This is just not possible in the Android space. So I think that RIMM will attract a large number of developers and I think we will all be surprised with the types of apps they come up with.
There are many reasons why enterprise customers would want to come back to RIMM. Security is only one reason, simplicity and deployment capabilities are another.
And since the smartphone market is poised to keep increasing over the next several years, I think RIMM can easily ship more than 22 million corporate phones over the next 12-18 months, provided of course the new BB10 phone stands up to the competition.
And if the new BB10 device is indeed good, I think the enterprise customer will go back to RIMM with a vengeance.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.