This week Ford became the latest large company to jump off of BlackBerry's (NYSE:BB) sinking mobile device ship, opting to switch its employees to iPhones for their business needs. It's yet another blow in BlackBerry's attempt to turn itself around in the mobile space, and another win for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) in the enterprise sector.
Losing at its own game
BlackBerry has long touted its platform as the most secure choice for businesses and governments. The company's enterprise server, BES 10, and its BlackBerry 10 devices were the first to be approved by NATO for classified communications up the "restricted" level. The company also says no other mobile device management vendor has received the "full operational capability" certification level by the US Department of Defense.
In addition to all this, BlackBerry just increased its security know-how this week when it purchased a voice and data encryption company, Secusmart. The German-based company provides business and governments with mobile and landline encryption, and even calls German Chancellor Angela Merkel as one of its customers.
But over the past few years it appears businesses and governments find Apple's iOS secure enough for their needs. The U.S. Federal Air Marshal Service, the Coast Guard, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and some divisions of the Department of Homeland Security have switched from BlackBerry devices to iPhones over the past couple years. The United Kingdom has approved iPhones for government employees as well.
Ford's spokeswoman Sara Tatchio told Bloomberg (which first reported the news) that the iPhone "meets the overall needs of the employees because it is able to serve both our business needs in a secure way and the needs we have in our personal lives with a single device."
The fact that Ford said Apple's iPhone can support its needs in a "secure way" is one of BlackBerry's biggest problems. As governments and large businesses no longer believe they need BlackBerry's security, the iPhone is wide open to taking up more enterprise market share.
The new enterprise
Earlier this year, Forrester Research asserted that Apple could take 11% of the enterprise market by the end of 2015, driven in part by the iPhone's "halo effect." Meanwhile, BlackBerry's business market share dropped from 30% in 2010 to just 8% last year.
Apple's enterprise market share estimate came before the company doubled down on the business sector when it teamed up with IBM just a few weeks ago. Apple and IBM will create at least 100 new apps specifically for this market and will tap into IBM's security, cloud storage, and device management capabilities.
IBM will also sell iPads and iPhones directly to business customers and provide the 24/7 support for those devices.
While it's not clear how long Ford had been considering switching to iPhones, the new Apple-IBM partnership makes the automaker's decision even more prudent. Pairing the high-end iPhone with new enterprise apps, security, and services should make the device a stronger contender in the business world than it was before.
Ford has about 182,000 employees worldwide; though it's unclear how many in total will eventually receive iPhones, Bloomberg reported that 3,300 will have them by the end of this year, with at least another 6,000 receiving them over the next two years.
Selling an additional 9,300 phones will barely add to Apple's bottom line, but it's still a significant win. Not only is Apple making new gains in the enterprise world, but once there it can continually upsell its customers with additional products. As Apple uses its iPhone to get its foot in the door at Ford and other companies, tablet and Mac sales will benefit as well.