My friend Matt Kojalo sent me the following URL recently as the battle for enterprise capable mobile devices rages on.
My knee-jerk reaction was “that guy…lost me at ‘However, with the release of the $199 iPhone, which syncs with
Microsoft Outlook on a PC’, … The guy doesn???t know what he???s talking about…”
Then someone in the thread provoked me with “Blackberries 4 EVA !” 🙂 In my job at BzzAgent, I took over IT in addition to my normal duties and had to deal with blackberries for all sales people and executives so I wrote a little note back (it’s a little pretentious, please forgive me) :
Blackberries are fine, I use one at work. They’re like emacs, a command line text editor, it does the job extremely well and is streamlined. The job in this case is answering emails, reading emails, accepting meetings and checking your calendar. Beyond that, the blackberry falls short. It is the tool today for enterprise mobile use but it’s not going to last much longer. It started its existence as a glorified 2 way pager and its decline will follow soon.
The iPhone obviously redefines what a mobile platform can do. Sure, it has many issues which will need to be solved. While the battery life is far from ideal, already the keyboard is pretty good and Apple moved it to 3G which is more compatible with its lofty ambitions.
Surfing the internet with the iPhone mobile browser is beyond actually possible, it works and works well. Safari is an order of magnitude better than any mobile browser out there. Before that, browsing on a mobile device was an exercise in masochism or a lackluster experience at best. Now it’s something you can use every day with every site, not just the MLB standings page formatted for mobile phones.
Beyond that and though the SDK was late coming, we’ve seen more applications available for the iPhone in a month that ever were available for Blackberries. Sure some of them are a joke but we’re starting to see generic mission critical apps on the platform (Oracle Business Object, professional references, Medical Apps, Sales Force, various CRM). This coupled with VPN support, Exchange support and a capable browser to browse your company’s extranet and intranet sites.
So yes, today the RIM devices are still better for your basic email and calendaring but even there, the iPhone has become a strong contender. Beyond those basic features, the iPhone has re-defined was an enterprise mobile device can be. And the Blackberry is not it.
RIM’s strategy at this point is befuddling, they’re focusing on making new handhelds that look cool, with UI that look cool. Microsoft tried to copy Apple’s Mac OS X since 1984 with very little success, it’s an exercise in futility. Instead they should figure out what they need to leap forward in terms of enterprise mobile platform. This might involve a better SDK, UI toolkit, application distribution model, VPN support, partners, mobile browsing, …
But all of that would just help them get close to the iPhone, not better.
I discovered Blackberries in 1998 at Javaworld, have used once every day a few years after that and have had an iPhone since it launched last year. I stopped using my blackberry for work a few weeks ago.
Now, reading it again, I realize that I failed at taking into account the administrative UI and rollout options for those. Of course, right now Blackberry has the upper hand there with many server based options to alter policies globally, restrict rights, reset handhelds, … But for that flexibility, you pay a hefty price of up to $100 per user. Also, of course Blackberries are available on all carriers while iPhones are restricted to AT&T in the US, something an enterprise might not want to standardize on.
There are many other criteria to compare them but in reality it’s Apple and Oranges (pun intended) since the iPhone as a device is so new and much more capable that it has redefined the space. All revolutions are not ideal and some enterprise needs might not be filled yet but it’s just a matter of time before the iPhone is 100% enterprise ready. I think.