This blog first appeared on Best in UC.
Just two years ago, it seemed that RIM’s Blackberry product set was unassailable in the corporate smartphone race.
Yes, the iPhone was all the rage with consumers. But corporate IT and telecom managers had marginalized the Apple product as not ready for primetime (or strict corporate security policies). RIM’s Blackberry Enterprise Server was head of the class in enforcing security and administering access policies for almost every corporate network. Thousands of business apps were deployed and in use every day.
But in the summer of 2009, I spotted a troubling trend for Blackberry. As we deployed an IP telephony solution for a Global 100 corporation, I had the opportunity to meet most of the company’s upper management. I quizzed them on their preference for handheld devices. To a person, all had a company-issued Blackberry in one pocket and a personal iPhone in the other.
They eagerly showed me the variety of business applications they could perform with the iPhone. We were deploying a client for their Blackberry to provide a virtual connection to the corporate IPBX, and the universal question was, “When will we have this for the iPhone?” I asked our vendor partner the same question.
Fast forward two years and look at the landscape now. For 2011, Apple forecasts 80 million iPhone shipments and an astounding 40 million iPads as well. An incredible number of these are destined for corporate America. The security issues have been addressed and a new dynamic has emerged: Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT). And the preferred technology is overwhelmingly Apple.
Just this week, I visited with one of our key vendors that transacts business in 27 countries, with a field force of more than 500 employees. They are providing iPhones to everyone and equipping the sales force with iPads. All others are encouraged to use their own iPads as needed. Yes, the Android is gaining steam, but it is actually hampered by the openness of the platform. App developers have to deal with multiple implementations of their software on all different screen sizes, resolutions, and front ends to the underlying Android operating system.
How does corporate telecom management handle this influx of employee-owned technology? The major smartphone manufacturers have tools for administering security, wiping stolen or lost phones, and distributing software. And with the move to cloud-based (centralized) computing, many of the applications are accessed via browser as opposed to phone-based apps. Distribution and standardization as provided by Apple and the Android market ease the workload of the telecom manager in deploying software.
BYOT is here to stay. It is the new normal in distribution and administration of smartphone apps, including unified communications applications.