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Holy Buyout Batman! RIM Gets Into Cross Platform Mobile Device Management

Hello from beautifully sunny Orlando.  I’m here for BlackBerry World – Research in Motion’s annual conference.  I’ve been attending what they call Capital Markets Day, where a number of executives share with the analyst community what’s going on at RIM.  Right before the all day session began, RIM announced that it had acquired Ubitexx, a German mobile device management company that currently supports Windows Mobile, iOS, Android and Symbian.  All I can say is wow.

The plan is to ultimately integrate the ubi-Suite prouduct DIRECTLY into the BlackBerry Enterprise Server management console.  Again, let me say WOW.

Obviously a press release around mobile device management isn’t the huge attention grabber that would be a new smartphone or tablet, but I still think this is a major deal for enterprise mobility management.

Firstly, I find this to have been a very smart move on RIM’s part.  With the continued adoption of multiple mobile operating systems, the reality is that there is almost no company out there that is on only one platform.  The thing is that, historically, it’s been up to third party companies to be able to provide this cross platform support (even in the traditional PC/server) market.  As of today, you’re now going to have the owner of the operating system get into managing/supporting other mobile operating system platforms.

This is a big deal.  Back to why I said it’s a smart move.  RIM (unlike other mobile OS creators) is now officially recognizing that they are not the only game in town.  Do you think you’ll ever see Apple or Google provide tools to manage other platforms?  Of course not.  (You never know with Microsoft given how various business units don’t always work in sync.)

While much has been said about their declining market share (and more about what they need to do to reverse the situation), few will criticize RIM’s enterprise mobility chops or the power of the BES.  The addition of cross platform capability will help ensure that the BES remains part of the mobility mix in the workplace.

There are a couple of issues though (as I see it).

  1. The BES and the rest of the RIM middleware portfolio is great….as long as you have a BlackBerry.  The cold hard truth is that BlackBerry devices are perceived as not being as sexy as iOS devices nor as “cool” as Android devices…so if there are less BlackBerry devices to manage, will the additional BES functionality even be relevant?
  2. This is really going to annoy RIM’s partners….you know, the ones who are already providing cross platform enterprise mobility management.

So now we can learn from the Microsoft ecosystem again.  Over the years, Microsoft has baked more and more functionality into its (desktop) operating systems and server tools.  That hasn’t prevented third party ISVs from not only surviving, but thriving….as long as they continue to be able to innovate.  Can RIM successfully balance adding cross platform mobile device management all while supporting its enterprise mobility partners?  Only time will tell.

2 Comments

  1. Posted May 3, 2011 at 08:48 | Permalink

    In the spirit of Microsoft/Nokia, it might rate as a “big move”, but the jury is out on “smart move”.

    Philippe, you and I have chatted about this many a time – “why doesn’t RIM just open up BES to control 3rd party devices?”

    For the BES line of business, that would certainly be a good thing – sell lots more BES! But it would remove a major retaining wall for their handset business – one less reason to stick with Blackberry devices and a huge reason at that. As most of their revenues is in devices, I scratch my head.

    Other OS vendors not offering their own MDM? I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Stick to core competencies and allow third parties (a.k.a. “innovators”) build valuable and interesting security and management solutions.

    But back to RIM and conspiracy theories. The effect of multi-vendor MDM would be to accelerate handset attrition in the enterprise. But if RIM acknowledges that loss, this acquisition might be a means to shore up their position (value) in the enterprise. Imagine MDM + NOC. A reasonably complete management and security architecture with a vision (hope) that revenues for such a solution might grow their BES line-of-business by 10x or more (currently ~$400m, depending on how you count it) and at least earn some monetization off the backs of iPhone etc.

    That’s perhaps far-fetched, but I’m otherwise scratching my head why they would open the flood gates for non-BB devices!

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    • Posted May 4, 2011 at 16:42 | Permalink

      Excellent points as always Nick. The conflicting issues you mention (middleware vs. device business) are the inherent challenges of managing large “complementary” lines of business…we only need look at Microsoft to see similarities.

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