RIM is most known for its iconic BlackBerry smartphones, but one of the driving forces behind the success of RIM—and one of the reasons it’s still as pervasive as it is today—is the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) infrastructure. Now, RIM has introduced BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, which extends BES to manage Android and iOS devices as well. While marketed as a value-add for BlackBerry customers, BlackBerry Mobile Fusion may very well be the core product for RIM moving forward.
RIM has been in decline–bordering on freefalling death spiral–for a couple years now. It was slow to recognize the rising tide of iOS and Android, and its market share has plummeted. RIM’s latest BlackBerry OS and smartphones have been delayed. Its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet has sold only a million units since being launched over a year ago. The new Apple iPad sold three times that amount in its first weekend.
Dumping the co-CEO experiment in favor of new CEO Thorsten Heins hasn’t improved things. The quarterly earnings call last week revealed dismal results and forced Heins to abandon the “stay the course” strategy in favor of a more dramatic change of focus to try and rebound. This week, RIM was accused of patent infringement in a new lawsuit. Things just seem to look worse for RIM with each passing day.
RIM isn’t dead yet, though. BlackBerry Mobile Fusion may be the shining knight that can rescue RIM. RIM is arguably the pioneer of mobile device management (MDM), but so far BES–RIM’s MDM platform–has been BlackBerry-centric. With BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, RIM is accepting the reality that customers are going to use multiple mobile platforms, and leveraging its position as the existing embedded MDM solution to regain some relevance.
One of my PCWorld peers feels that BlackBerry Mobile Fusion is just RIM digging its own grave. Customers are already migrating away from BlackBerry and embracing Android and iOS mobile devices. By smoothing the transition with BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, RIM may simply be expediting its own death.
Whether or not that is true is based on a core assumption, and depends on your perspective. It assumes that by not expanding the capabilities of BES to support Android and iOS that RIM could somehow stop the exodus away from its BlackBerry mobile devices. That’s unlikely.
As for perspective, BlackBerry Mobile Fusion may accelerate migration off of BlackBerry mobile devices, but it establishes RIM as a leading player for multiplatform mobile device management at the same time. BlackBerry as a mobile OS, and BlackBerry devices may continue to decline into obscurity or oblivion, but RIM can live on by shifting its strategy to that of a software company capable of providing the multiplatform mobile device management and security infrastructure customers need.
If Dell can brand itself as “not really a PC company,” then RIM may just be able to transform itself into “not really a mobile device company.” BlackBerry Mobile Fusion may be the thing that saves RIM from itself and removes some of the tarnish from the once proud brand.