In a recent interview, Mobile Iron's (NASDAQ:MOBL) CEO Bob Tinker had this to say, when asked how he felt that BlackBerry (NYSE:BB) is repositioning itself as a broad mobile device management company:
We don't actually see them [BlackBerry] inside competitive customer deals. We just don't see them. There's probably two reasons for that. One, choice. CIOs want to bet on mobile IT that's neutral. BlackBerry is a conflict of interest. And, two, enterprise mobility is a strategic decision, so they [IT] will buy the best product. BB is now just joining the party for platform independence three years late. One of the biggest arbiters of who is big is Gartner. We were in the leaders' quadrant.
Bob Tinker is absolutely right. However as he also points out, "BlackBerry is now just joining the party for platform independence three years late."
BlackBerry has been behind the curve for a long time
While BlackBerry pioneered the MDM space, its MDM software was exclusive to BlackBerry devices. And when the iPhone and Android devices came out, BlackBerry was so convinced its devices were better, it did nothing to update its devices and OS. Being in denial as to the state of the smartphone market to come, when it finally decided to update its OS and devices, Apple and Google had already taken over the world.
BlackBerry devices are still widely in use
But even if BlackBerry's devices and OS were outdated, if you were an enterprise customer who placed a high value on security, BlackBerry was still the only choice. As a result, even as iOS and Android devices became ever more popular, enterprise customers still used BlackBerry's MDM software and devices. Until two or three years ago, that is.
BlackBerry is still playing catch-up
BlackBerry finally entered the era of modern smartphone operating systems with the introduction of BB10 and BES10 (BlackBerry's MDM solution), and with devices like the Z10 and Q10. However BlackBerry miscalculated one thing: the extent to which companies would upgrade to the the new BlackBerry platform.
See, BlackBerry's BES10 software did not cater to older BlackBerry devices. And with millions of older BlackBerry devices still in use, if companies wanted to upgrade to BlackBerry's new devices, they had to undertake the time and effort to manage two platforms. So, many companies decided not to bother. As a result they did not upgrade to BlackBerry's newer devices nor BES10. They needed a solution that could manage older BlackBerry devices, new BlackBerry devices, and iOS and Android devices as well. BlackBerry did not have such a solution.
As a result, many enterprise customers decided to keep using older BB5 devices, until BlackBerry could come up with a solution to manage both (in addition to manage iOS and Android devices). In many cases, however, they simply dropped BlackBerry altogether, since most of their staff used Apple's iPhone or some other Android alternative. But for companies that wanted maximum security, BlackBerry was still their only choice.
BlackBerry's BES12 is the answer
BES12 will provide device management for both BB5 and BB10 devices, as well as iOS, Android, and Windows 8 devices. In addition, clients will be able to migrate to the cloud effortlessly, and there will be support for deployment models, including on-premise, public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid environments.
In order to help facilitate the transition to BES12, BlackBerry introduced its EZ Pass Program on March 31, 2014, which ends on January 31, 2015. Every BES10 license that is activated through the program comes with free BlackBerry Advantage Level Technical Support until January 31, 2015 and a free upgrade to BES12.
So, did the market respond? Yes. As per BlackBerry's recent quarterly report:
EZ Pass Program resulted in a total of 1.2 million licenses issued for BES10, including more than 10% of total licenses traded in from competitors' Mobile Device Management
What's important to note -- in addition to the fact that older customers are upgrading to BES10 as well as the fact that new customers are coming to BlackBerry -- is that for the first time ever, BlackBerry says customers using other MDM solutions are coming back to BlackBerry.
BlackBerry has been behind the curve for a long time, but with BES12 coming online by the end of the year, it will finally be in a position to compete against other MDM solutions.
BES12 will allow enterprise customers to mix older and newer BlackBerry devices, as well as all other smart devices. If BES12 is well-received, not only will it mean BlackBerry will finally be back on its feet, but for the first time in years, BlackBerry will be ahead of the curve, and not behind it.
While we don't know if BES12 will be a success or not, the fact that BlackBerry is already taking business from the competition is encouraging, to say the least.
George Kesarios has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.