New research commissioned by Research In Motion Ltd. says it is often cheaper and more secure for companies to continue using BlackBerrys despite the waning popularity of the device in an era when consumers more broadly prefer using iPhones or Android devices.
Companies are increasingly adopting so-called "Bring you own device" (BYOD) policies as the aging fleets of BlackBerrys traditionally deployed by large corporations are gradually supplemented, or in some cases replaced, by Apple Inc.'s more popular iPhone and a variety of devices running Google Inc.'s Android software.
But Strategy Analytics, a global research and consulting firm, was asked by RIM to look into the costs associated with an organization that switches devices and found that costs often increase, despite the savings of not having to pay for and provide phones to employees.
"In summary, Strategy Analytics found that the costs of utilising the BlackBerry solution not only provided the most secure platform, but also the lowest (total cost of ownership) when considering all elements of the network, required device management and the devices themselves," the firm wrote in its report, released on Monday.
In the first year of BYOD deployment in a firm with 100 people, according to Strategy Analytics, it would cost 39 per cent more than using BlackBerrys, and roughly 14 per cent more in subsequent years – due largely to increased IT support and the requirement to purchase security software from third-party mobile device management companies. Despite the fact that BlackBerry consumer plans often use less data and can be cheaper than other smartphone plans, the research firm did point out that BlackBerry "enterprise" plans for corporate users are often more expensive, and that RIM's support services also often cost more.
Strategy Analysts also says that a "single supplier providing an end-to-end architecture" is more secure than deploying a variety of devices. Past interviews with Canadian wireless executives, though, suggests that other platforms such as Android are often secure enough, given the increasingly large gap in functionality between older and even current BlackBerry models and some of the newest devices, from companies such as Samsung, running Android.
RIM, of course, has a big stake in convincing companies not to switch from using BlackBerrys. Corporate users are incredibly valuable to the company and are an influential core part of RIM's user base – which, after years of rapid gains, has slowed to around 80 million global users. But in developed economies, the era of business people carrying two phones – one for work and one for personal use – is beginning to dwindle as companies increasingly offer employees the choice of what device to use. RIM, desperate to remain at the core of big companies' IT policies, launched a service called BlackBerry Mobile Fusion that helps IT departments management more than just BlackBerrys.
Tyler Lessard, a former RIM executive who now works for Fixmo Inc., a third-party mobile device management company that competes with RIM, says RIM is likely correct about savings that come from the status quo – sticking with BlackBerry. But he adds that companies need to weigh more than just the hard dollar amount because decisions about which mobile devices employees can use can impact productivity.
"There could be a cost saving because you're not buying all these devices, and yeah, you may not get bulk rates on your data plans with carriers," he said. "But when you look at it from the other side, companies are saying there's huge productivity gains to be had by letting our employees use iPads and iPhones and Androids ... it's not a should I do it (implement a BYOD policy) or not, it's I have to do it, now how do I not compromise security?"
RIM, which still sees strong growth in many emerging markets, fell out of a top five ranking of global smartphone makers for the first time in July, according to research firm IDC. The firm says RIM gradually slipped from nearly 20 per cent of the world's smartphone market to 6.7 per cent, before falling out of the top five entirely.