Gartner to IT shops: 'Game over' for BlackBerry

Upcoming Gartner report recommends that enterprise users quickly find alternatives to BlackBerry smartphones and servers

Respected analyst firm Gartner is set to recommend that all BlackBerry enterprise customers find alternatives to the struggling vendor's smartphones and enterprise management software over the next six months.

Garner's advice to users comes after BlackBerry today confirmed that it expects to lose $965 million in the second quarter amid slow sales of its Z10 smartphone since its release in March.

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On Monday, BlackBerry had announced plans to sell the company to Fairfax Financial Holdings of Toronto for $4.7 billion. That came just days after BlackBerry disclosed plans to lay off some 4,500 of its 12,500 workers.

"Gartner recommends that our [BlackBerry enterprise] clients take no more than six months to consider and implement alternatives to BlackBerry," said Gartner analyst Bill Menezes today. "We're emphasizing that all clients should immediately ensure they have backup mobile data management plans and are at least testing alternative devices to BlackBerry."

Menezes said a full Gartner report with three recommended courses of action will be delivered soon to Gartner clients that use BlackBerry Enterprise Service servers and/or BlackBerry smartphones.

Menezes noted that while he and Gartner are clearly foretelling BlackBerry's demise, "BlackBerry isn't going to disappear overnight and there's probably a six-month window to consider and then implement alternatives."

Many large companies, including some U.S. government agencies, have already replaced BlackBerry devices with Apple iPhones and iPads or Android smartphones. The trend of moving away from BlackBerry smartphones, under way for some four years, has increased steadily in the last year.

Although BlackBerry toay indicated in its second quarter results an uptick of organizations installing or testing the latest BES 10 servers, analysts have noted a large number of organizations are also abandoning earlier versions of BlackBerry management software.

More than a dozen established software companies now offer alternative mobile device management and mobile application management software, and many clients already have one or more such tools installed.

In a statement, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins said there is "increasing penetration of BES 10," with more than 25,000 actual or test servers installed, up from 19,000 in July. BlackBerry has devised a way for BES 10 to work with iOS and Android device management, partly as a way to hold onto enterprise customers who have relied on BlackBerry smartphones and BES for years when the company used the software as a gateway to BlackBerry's global, secure network. But the BES 10 server does not work with older BlackBerry models, which require that enterprises continue to run the separate BES 7 server.

BES 10 doesn't offer all the device management components for Android and iOS devices that it does for its own BlackBerry devices, analysts have noted, due to different capabilities in those other devices. Also, despite its reputation for network security, BlackBerry hit a turning point in trust for many users two years ago when much of the BlackBerry network went down for several days on nearly every continent.

Even with the BES deficiencies, most analysts believe BlackBerry's biggest problem was failing to keep up with consumer-grade advances seen on Apple's iPhone and on various Android devices. The Apple and Android device can also be managed with MDM tools at work.

For all the second quarter, BlackBerry sold just 5.9 million smartphones, the company said today. Meanwhile, Apple on Monday reported that 9 million iPhones were sold in just three days after the new iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c went on sale last Friday.

"BlackBerry totally whiffed on the smartphone and consumerization of IT trends that Apple hit out of the park and that Android successfully has exploited," Gartner's Menezes said. "BlackBerry failed to make timely moves and product introductions to keep itself in the consideration set for consumers who in the age of BYOD increasingly are shaping enterprise device and platform choices. ... Once it became clear to IT that iOS was a viable choice, it was game over for BlackBerry," Menezes concluded.

Gartner's three recommendations for Blackberry alternatives do include an upgrade to BlackBerry 10 devices for executives who want a physical keyboard or those in high-security jobs. But Menezes said even that scenario recommends that a company begin support of other smartphone platforms, either smartphones purchased for workers or those under an employee-purchased BYOD program.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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This story, "Gartner to IT shops: 'Game over' for BlackBerry" was originally published by Computerworld.

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