BlackBerry Demystified 3: Enterprise Surprise

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 |  About: BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY), Includes: SCOR, SSNLF
by: Transcend Asset

Summary

ComScore and other web analytics should carry a disclaimer on reports. Their data is unreliable as true enterprise traffic is unknowable. Predictions of BBRY's demise is based on questionable research.

Samsung, FixMo, Good Technology, AirWatch and others in Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) and Mobility Devices Management (MDM) have not gained serious traction.

Analysis of information from the Google Play Store shows BlackBerry is the clear winner in enterprise.

BlackBerry's pricing strategy, software release schedule, and management of client expectations leaves the competition in the dust.

How a Short Update Becomes a Long Commentary

While intending to give a brief report on BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) short interest as of Friday's market close in an edition called Demystified 2.1, a discussion following the release of my latest article makes it impossible for me to write anything less than yet another detailed disclosure on things that are not generally known. Hence, welcome to Demystified 3.

First, The Short Update

Friday's NASDAQ data shows short interest continues to be range bound in the 100 million area. The most current report is based on the April 15th settlement date. Short interest is 102,472,527 and the days to cover is 7.1. Here is what we can gather:

  • My first Demystified article was a call for all reporters to abide by The Journalist's Creed. Released on April 23rd, it would have zero impact on the most current NASDAQ short interest update. The new information will not be factored into investor's decision-making until the next report from NASDAQ is released at 4 PM EST on May 9th. It will cover data as of the April 30th settlement date.
  • The short interest is higher than the March 31st reading (99,334,950), but lower than the March 14th reading (105,469,466).
  • Volatility has gone out of the stock. The seasoned investors going long are not clamoring to sell, and those traditionally short are not eager to add to their shorts or they have covered and gone long.

Further to the above, technical analysts may also want to note that BlackBerry is now oversold and poised for a rebound. It is rare for a publicly traded technology stock to move down less than the NASDAQ on a down day, up slightly more on an up day, and retain a share price range bound for close to 3 weeks.

Data from comScore (NASDAQ:SCOR) and Pals Are of Limited Value

Web analytics, at most, are only good for evaluating consumer traffic. Most consumers are not savvy about how their data is collected and cannot effectively fight an invasion into their privacy. This is not true of enterprises. Web analytics are completely unreliable for judging enterprise activities. To gather intelligence, companies like comScore and Alexa may employ a number of methods which are blocked or rendered useless by IT departments. Taking a closer look:

  • Tracking cookies compile information on an individual's browsing habits. On a work computer, cookies can be disabled or set to delete. If disabled, the analytics company does not get to know information about the user. If habitually deleted, they end up with data suggesting they are dealing with a continuous stream of new and unique users.
  • Javascript embedded in any number of websites can gather information for transmittal to web analytics companies. They use the information to produce web traffic reports. Javascript can be permanently disabled on a work computer.
  • User agent switchers can be used to change the identifying information sent to a website. By making a website believe it is dealing with a certain browser, mobile, tablet, or desktop when it is not, one can change how the website is displayed. A work-related use for this is to make sure a site that is designed for desktops shows up on your tablet or mobile looking the same as it is more functional. This saves the company having to redesign an entire app to accommodate a group of people on a certain device that is not viewing information in their browser the same way as everyone else. Another group that sees the value of user agent switchers are developers and web designers. Their switcheroos inevitably skew web analytics.

Also, considering that companies like comScore and Alexa install software on a user's computer to track their behavior and IT frequently locks regular employees from installing anything, the value of web analytics is more doubtful than ever. My research shows:

  • comScore.com is related to PermissionResearch.com, OpinionSquare.com, and VoiceFive.com - companies that pay people to agree to have software installed on their computer that will track their activities. Further motivation is given to become members by the chance to enter to win monthly sweeptakes of $100,000. Though comScore's website does not detail this relationship, and because Wikipedia articles sometimes have dubious research, I have done a Whois Search on each entity. Everything checks out and all entities use the same contact address of "11950 Democracy Dr. Suite 600" and a Google search will reveal that to be comScore's address.
  • Interestingly, while PermissionResearch, OpinionSquare, and VoiceFive each contain verbiage touting "over 2 million members," I cannot find a similar or exact declaration on comScore. This leads me to wonder if the entire world is largely relying on the extrapolation of the behavior of 2 million, 6 million, or 8 million people to determine what everyone else likes and does. Essentially, comScore's weakness is its inability to determine with accuracy what someone is doing during work hours; and more importantly, how business-related purchase decisions are made as it does not have the ability to closely track the behavior and choices of business people and IT professionals.
  • Effectively, there are 2 million people in the research pool if PermissionResearch, OpinionSquare, and VoiceFive are utilizing the same bucket of members; 6 million if each of the entities have unrelated members; and possibly, 8 million+ if we are to believe comScore has another set of people they research.
  • Any way you slice it, in a world with 7 billion people, even the surveying of 8 million is not statistically significant. That only equals to 0.11% of the whole population.

How can the study of individuals who do not value their privacy be used to draw a conclusion on how others behave? How can 0.11% of the world be considered a statistically large sample size?

As for the other big player in the web analytics space, Alexa, it is classified as trackware by Symantec and adware by McAfee. It is voluntarily installed by people who want to use it to make searches, and the validity of their data is also questionable as I do not see businesses as willing participants.

The 800 Pound Gorilla in a Room Full of Ants

BlackBerry's enterprise software is poorly understood by the public. EMM and MDM by itself is a topic that can get quite unwieldy to discuss. In a nutshell, EMM is the umbrella product and MDM is just one of many sub-products. Over at Berkley Technical Services, they provide an excellent detailed overview of the entire field if one is interested in deciphering the jargon.

Personally, what I find to be an infinitely more startling and interesting subject to get into surrounds all the information readily available from Google's Play Store. If we stick with the well-known IDC statistic that 81% of the world is on Android, then the fate of BlackBerry and other EMM providers on the Android platform is very important to monitor. Below is a table detailing various companies in this field. All products are grouped by company and the key product is highlighted. Ratings, the total number of reviews, the total number of installs (downloads), and the last time each company updated their offering is also provided:

(click to enlarge)Product Offerings from Various Companies and How They Rank Against Each OtherClick to enlarge

Looking over the data, the following conclusions can be made:

  • The BES10 client gets the most installs. While we cannot know the exact number of downloads, this information does show that many companies are still loyal to BlackBerry. Given IT departments tend to retain a copy of software they download for deployment, backup, and reinstall purposes, I cannot in all honesty say that any of the numbers above reflect the full install base. That said, when we reflect on the number of installs, the ratings, and the number of reviewers, we can conclude that technology decision makers in various enterprises are giving BlackBerry a serious run.
  • Oftentimes, people like to say that rankings and ratings are unreliable because they can be rigged. To BlackBerry's benefit, with 54,070 reviews, the validity of the numbers stands unquestionable. The same cannot be said for the competition.
  • A thing of great beauty about BlackBerry's offerings is its simplicity. While the competition floods the market with a wide number of versions and apps, for BlackBerry to get the user to download 1 of 3 apps and then go from there makes for far fewer headaches and confusion.
  • True to its core commitment to support enterprise, BlackBerry's apps carry some of the most recent dates. Bug fixing, adding features in a timely manner, and taking care of enterprise with speed has long been BlackBerry's key strengths. By committing to creating a tech centre in Washington, DC, BlackBerry will bolster this image of fast and excellent service. Historically, developers have loved working with BlackBerry because they provide clarity around expectations and quickly disseminate information at BlackBerry Live. While BlackBerry Live is cancelled by Chen, he has said the expense has not been cut. Only it is now being spent to host smaller meetings with CIOs. I strongly believe that just as the huddle keeps a coach and his team in strong communication, these smaller meetings will strengthen relationships. Anyone with a complaint knows they are being heard by management, and customers who feel they are being heard will want to stick around. It is not a matter of making a product and feeding it to a million. BlackBerry is sending the message that they want to hear what YOU want and give it to you.
  • Aside from BlackBerry, Samsung (OTC:OTC:SSNLF) is the only other company with a very clean selection of products on the Google Play Store. For enterprise, they have the Knox. Quite unfortunate for them, when I looked deeper into Knox, it didn't check out. More on that later.
  • AirWatch, while a small company in the EMM space, has a following in Asia. This is duly noted by the fact that it has customized some offerings to support HTC, Lenovo, LG, Panasonic, and Samsung.
  • Fixmo grew by acquisition. Some offerings go by the name of "Fixmo" and others go by "Fixmo Carrier Services," with Fixmo CS being formerly Perlego Services. Fixmo Sentinel Integrity has been in the news. BlackBerry is a partner.
  • Good Technology looks like it could go on a diet. The first thing that bothered me when I looked them up was the plethora of softwares that populated my screen, all of them wanting my attention. A common complaint that comes up from reviewers is the lack of updates. After my complete list was built, I could not help but agree with the reviewers that maintenance and upkeep is the company's weakness. That said, one of Good's biggest clients seems to be Intel as they have a customized app for them.

Overall, I was very satisfied with having gone through the process of researching the players in EMM and MDM. What the mainstream media could not tell me, Google paved the way to greater knowledge.

How Samsung Knox Adds Headaches and Costs to IT

Back in February of last year, Samsung announced that they would launch Knox to compete with BlackBerry in BYOD. Information now supports the conclusion that it was hype. A more truthful announcement should have said Samsung is announcing Knox to support some Samsung devices. Galen Gruman's article, The Truth About Samsung Knox for Android Security is very telling. Though it was published in November of last year, my visit to the Samsung Knox page reveals that full support for all Samsung devices is not yet available 5 months after the article's publishing. And it is actually now well over a year since the launch announcement. Vaporware? That just might be the way to describe it.

Promises and availability issues aside, companies are expected to pay $43.20 per year per device for Knox. They are also expected to pick an EMM or MDM to work with, in addition to working with Samsung. Knox is like BlackBerry Balance, meant to separate work and personal information. For your Samsung phone to do more, you need to also go with one of their partners. Even without thinking about supporting the iPhones on the network, the IT professional is already seeing their workload multiply. If anything goes wrong, as part of their troubleshooting, they have to consider Samsung Knox and the EMM/ MDM. Running circles calling the tech support of two largely unrelated parties is not going to be fun. Besides which, if the Samsung phones are on Knox, what of the iPhones and BlackBerries on the network? More headaches and things to think about.

Below is a look at Samsung's pricing. The "You will need" section can be a deal breaker to a company looking forward to true BYOD:

How BlackBerry Wins on BYOD

In contrast to competitors, BlackBerry's BES10 is an offering with all the details laid out nicely on one page: what you see is what you get.

BlackBerry BES10

Given BlackBerry's pricing strategy and service offerings, the stress is not put on the IT department to gather all the information about the various vendors and try to describe what each will and will not offer to management to get budget approval for services. Samsung knows this is very likely to happen and has, in its infinite wisdom, tried to make the process easier by building a webpage that allows one to compare the service offerings from 3 MDMs at a time. Samsung's alternative is an in-house EMM, and that link points to a page describing a service that is not yet available. If you scroll down, you will see the words, "Coming Soon." It all becomes as complex as an executive search and hire: the IT department needs to go out and do that much more work; and then they have to answer questions from management and accounting. The decision makers want security, privacy, and peace of mind but while trying to decide if they will approve of a purchase, they will grill the IT people. Also of note is the fact that IT staff at small and large firms sometimes have to agree to be on call. If that person is able to influence the decision in such a way that they can reduce the number of calls they get in the middle of the night, they certainly will. BlackBerry is tested. The competition is all fresh to the field.

Disclosure: I am long BBRY. 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.