In the world of mobile computing, the bring-your-own-device to work trend, or BYOD, is all the rage. Smartphone manufacturers realize the line between business and personal phone usage is getting awfully thin, and that's gotten the attention of industry-leading Samsung and the revitalized Nokia (NYSE:NOK). BlackBerry (NYSE:BB) was once the undisputed king of the enterprise market. But as BYOD gains momentum for cost-conscious businesses, the big boys in mobile computing are getting in the game.
The article from a couple of weeks ago describing the defection of Home Depot (NYSE:HD) from BlackBerry's corporate client base wasn't a condemnation of BlackBerry. Nor did the article suggest that the 10,000 Home Depot employees now using Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone had irreparably damaged BlackBerry's comeback attempt; 10,000 phones is significant, but hardly catastrophic for BlackBerry.
Home Depot's decision to ditch BlackBerry is concerning because of the trend it highlights: Companies of all sizes are exploring BYOD to save costs, give users flexibility, and make it easier for employees to use mobile computing in the workplace. If you have an iPhone, making the transition to business use is a snap compared to learning the idiosyncrasies of an entirely new device.
BlackBerry's claim to fame, whether as Research In Motion or under its new moniker, has always been the commercial market. Its security features were viewed as a must-have in the workplace, and BlackBerry was more than happy to oblige. When it came time for the testing of its new BB10 OS, it's no surprise that a lot of the beta work was done by either corporate or government agency clients.
Thanks, BlackBerry, we'll take it from here
Apple and its iPhone, as we know from Home Depot's recent decision, is certainly making inroads into the enterprise smartphone space. No news there, really, considering Apple's domestic smartphone market share. As if bumping up against Apple weren't enough, BlackBerry now needs to fend off global smartphone market leaders Samsung and Nokia, another personal smartphone manufacturer with designs on the enterprise space.
The Mobile World Congress, or MWC, going on in Barcelona, is the biggest collection of mobile computing representatives anywhere. MWC is the ideal place for the mobile industry to wow users with their latest and greatest goodies. On Monday, Samsung introduced the world to its KNOX package -- a system specifically designed to make Android OS-driven smartphones ready for the workplace.
For upcoming Samsung Galaxy phones, KNOX will essentially split Android OS in half : One side for the office, the other for personal use. With the push of an icon, users can access either side of their OS, safely and securely. Not quite as slick as BlackBerry's ready-to-order BB10 Balance feature, which also allows users to bounce back and forth between work and play, but it's right up the BYOD alley.
Another BlackBerry competitor, though not quite in the same league as Samsung, has emerged in BlackBerry's enterprise space: Nokia. With its new Lumia line and Asha smartphone alternatives, Nokia is already making inroads in both the high-end and low-end personal mobile phone markets. Now, Nokia's a legitimate competitor to BlackBerry in the enterprise market, primarily because of the shift to BYOD, and its affiliation with Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Windows 8.
The Lumia recently ousted BlackBerry as Mall of America's choice for its executives, in large part because of Nokia's partnership with Microsoft. As BYOD picks up steam, BlackBerry will see more Mall of America-type decisions. Coordinating personal smartphones with a company's existing business systems, many of which are running Windows, makes a lot of sense. That's great news for Nokia, at BlackBerry's expense.
BlackBerry's sweet spot, enterprise users, is quickly becoming a crowded place to try and make a living. To its credit, BlackBerry is doing its part to move beyond the commercial market. There are rumors that BlackBerry will make its secure email available to iOS and Android users, and it has unveiled a new payment solution in conjunction with Visa (NYSE:V). Suddenly, there's a lot riding on the non-enterprise solutions that BB10 offers.
The road to relevance for BlackBerry is getting bumpier, and it was hardly smooth to begin with. When the likes of Samsung, Apple, and yes, even Nokia, slap a bullseye on your back, even the most die-hard BB10 fans need to take notice. Is it time to run for the BB10 hills? Not for raging BlackBerry bulls. But keep your eyes peeled on the horizon, and your running shoes at hand.