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 unveiling in March.
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 in an email interview on Friday. "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.
Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney, who authored the report, could not be reached for comment. Gartner said the report hasn't been released to clients and would not provide a copy to Computerworld.
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 toward BlackBerry smartphone alternatives, underway for some four years, has increased steadily in the last year.
Though BlackBerry indicated Friday 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.
BES 10 also doesn't offer all the device management components for Android and iOS devices that it does for its own BlackBerry devices, analysts have noted. 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.
The Z10 first appeared in the U.S. in March, six years after the first iPhone launched.
For all the second quarter, BlackBerry sold just 5.9 million smartphones, the company said Friday. Meanwhile, Apple on Monday reported that 9 million iPhones were sold over 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," Menezes said on Friday. "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 [email protected].
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