I stopped down to RIM's WES (5,000 enterprise mobile pros, ISVs, and carriers) conference in Orlando yesterday. The company's been taking heat lately from Wall Street analysts who seem more interested in watching iPhones rise than tracking BlackBerry units shipped. What you as an information & knowledge management professional should care about is if RIM will be a strong partner in the future. At the conference, I saw six things that give me great confidence that RIM is future-proofing companies' investments in the BlackBerry platform:
BES Express is basic BES for $0. And it's good enough for most employees in most industries. RIM says it's taking off, with 55,000 downloads of the server software since March. And according to RIM, it's designed to scale out to enterprise levels.
BlackBerry 6 is the OS that you've been waiting for. While the mobile world was going WebKit browser, RIM was still Java-only. They've fixed that in the next version of the operating system, due out in Q3 2010. See the video clip for a sneak peak: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlO8KMv7Bx4. It has a much better browser, better touchscreen features, and a cleaner interface. And with RIM's participation in Adobe's open screens initiative, I expect to see Flash support as well, something iPhone doesn't have.
The Pearl 3G and a new Bold prove that RIM understands fashion and usability. Frankly, these devices are gorgeous. I've always loved the Pearl, but I got tired of the Edge network. With the Pearl 3G, and its optical track pad, 3G, Wi-Fi, better screen, it's a beauty with brains. And it fits into my pocket in a way that the iPhone just doesn't.
RIM's carrier-focus means it will get the attention that you need in every market. 175 carriers. Enough said.
Apple yesterday announced OS 4.0, it's latest iPhone and iPad operating system. This release confirms what we believed last year: that Apple is actually listening to what enterprise IT needs from iPhones. Let's review the history:
July 2007. Apple launches iPhone with OS 1.0 as a consumer device without anything that companies require.
July 2008. Apple releases iPhone 3G with OS 2.0 and introduces Exchange support, including remote wipe, but little else that companies need. Even so, some firms allowed their employees to bring their own iPhones and get email support.
July 2009. Apple releases iPhone 3GS with OS 3.0 and hardware encryption and enough policy-based control to give IT professionals the ability to more comfortably support the devices, particularly in non-regulated industries. The big remaining gaps in 3.0 from our 100+ conversations with IT pros? The inability to distribute applications wirelessly, to push software and policy updates to the device, and to manage iPhones or iPads in the same way that BlackBerry Enterprise Server (or Server Express, the $0-cost version) does.
July 2010. Apple will release OS 4.0 that includes wireless app distribution, better data encryption, more APIs for device management, and a significicant number of enterprise features that are outlined below. For other details, check out these Forrester posts on consumer functions and on mobile advertising.