Talking smartphones with RIM -- transcript

By Jonny Evans

What follows is a complete transcript of an interview between myself and Anthony Payne, director of Platform Marketing for BlackBerry maker, Research In Motion. Read my interview write-up here.

If you'd only just landed and were trying to get to grips with what's happening in the smartphone space, you'd be forgiven for seeing it as a two-horse race between two media magnets, the Apple [AAPL] iPhone and the Google Android option. You'd be wrong -- there's others at play, including BlackBerry maker, Research In Motion[RIM], a company that's ready to rumble in the smartphone war. I spoke with Anthony Payne, director of Platform Marketing.

Q: RIM -- you're deep in the enterprise, and despite the reporting you're selling more than ever, it's just your marketshare's changed a bit

Anthony Payne: There's no question the market has changed in the last three or four years. We're still growing really rapidly in the most exciting industry on the planet, in my opinion. A significant percentage of our growth has come from the consumer markets. It's certainly changed, its a far more competitive environment, but we think we're doing very well...

Q: I alluded to the way the smartphone market is reported these days, RIM seems to be the fall guy in the mobile sector, with all the focus on Apple and Google, so what's going on?

Anthony Payne: As we said, it has become a very competitive market in the last three or four years. What matters to us is what the customers think, and the way we measure that is response to the products and they are being received very well. My area is the enterprise, and overall there customers like what we're doing..

[This story is from Computerworld's Apple Holic blog. Follow on Twitter or subscribe via RSS to make sure you don't miss a beat.]

Q: Apple came to market with a disruptive smartphone vision -- this has posed a competitive challenge is there anything about its entrance into the sector that has been good for RIM?

Anthony Payne: I think overall if you look at any market it's always a good thing if new entrants to the market come in and attract customers based on different value propositions, it opens everybody's eyes up to new possibilities, so I think it is generically a good thing for the industry. We think we had a great offer and we still think we do, and i think the numbers back this up.

Q: What are the USPs for business users that they just won't get on other platforms?


Anthony Payne:
I think platforms are the key words. What BlackBerry provides is a genuine platform, it's not just a device with App development and an App catalog. Our thoughts are that we have a platform and for enterprise that's important. We have a software management control component, the network pieces, and the actual development environment. For enterprise the platform enables us to provide the most secure smartphone environment in the marketplace, the most manageable, the easiest to control. It's an extremely reliable platform and an extremely efficient platform, all these things matter to business users. Sometimes they make for extremely dry discussions in an extremely competitive marketplace, but they are so fundamental, and it's the BlackBerry platform which enables us to deliver this.

What it gives to enterprise as a whole also makes for a great experience as a whole. We think of the BlackBerry device as the greatest communication device on the planet, one which enables you --a push environment, a reliable device. It's the platform that enables this.

This week we announced BlackBerry Balance. Balance brings together the IT department with its legitimate concerns on security, and the end user who wants a smartphone for two reasons...partly for the consumerization trend, and partly in order to do their job better and there's elements of technology to enable them to do this. And of course they also want access to the consumerization, the Apps and so on.

What Balance does is to enable the IT department to effectively unlock some of the controls that have previously been put in place on BlackBerry, while still ensuring security for email and other elements on the device itself. All those Apps and data, they can be controlled, they can be wiped if the device is lost or stolen and access rights can be invoked or revoked without accessing a person's email client or their access to Facebook or the ability to download an app. We think this is a terrific new capability and it has attracted a very positive response.

Q: Your IT department can choose what user's can use, without threatening the enterprise infrastructure?

Anthony Payne: The BlackBerry experience is about always being on, having content to the device delivered in the background, having good battery life, etcetera,...the way we've approached it is to make a seamless experience for the user. For example, forwarding an email to your own personal email account may not be appropriate so then that's locked as and when you try to do it, rather than having two separate environments [in this case the enterprise use of the device and the personal use of the device, additions mine.]

Q: The consumer market is growing for you, but what do you offer them right now?

Anthony Payne: We think we have the pre-eminent communications device out there right now. We have a fantastic multimedia experience as well, but for us communications -- it's our heritage, we think it is what separates us from the rest...And, of course, communications isn't just telephone and SMS, it's also increasingly about social networking, engaging with friends and family, just looking at the stats we're number one: there are  33.4 million Facebook users on BlackBerry, there are 44 million users of VPN on BlackBerry. We're also number one for Twitter...We think of BlackBerry as the pre-eminent communication device for consumers...

Q: And of course you have an increasing focus on Apps, how do you see this progressing for BlackBerry?

Anthony Payne: Apps are absolutely part of the smartphone ecosystem. What is interesting for me is that the first third-party apps were deployed on BlackBerry 8-10 years ago. It has been part of the platform for a long time. In the early years it was enterprises deploying apps for their employees while in recent years it has been Apps via an app store model, but apps have been part of BlackBerry since the beginning.

For enterprise users, they spend a lot of time thinking, how can we help our employees do their job better, and we think apps are a great way to do that, provided they are reliable, are integrated with those key sources of information, and provide a rich, integrated experience on the device, for example they are integrated with your contacts, your calendar, email, and between apps on the actual device. That's when apps really start to deliver value to the enterprise.

Q: Apple and Google both spoke to the Senate this week. They were talking about location data, but it raised a whole host of interesting discussions on privacy and their different models of security.

Anthony Payne: BlackBerry has for a long time prided itself on security both for end users and for company's managing the deployment. Data resting on the device is secure, it's very hard to access it as it travels across the network, we take security and privacy of data extremely seriously both for enterprise and consumer users. We also think that's one of the reasons consumers value BlackBerry: they look to the key security-conscious markets we serve, government, enterprise, and think if the security is good enough for them, then it will be good enough for me as a consumer. So, security is a key part of the BlackBerry proposition.

Q: Last week it emerged that malware attacks on Android have increased 400 percent. What kind of a malware problem does BlackBerry face?

Anthony Payne: This isn't an area I'm strong on, but as part of the wider security strength of BlackBerry, it is extremely difficult for individuals to access content on devices, on the server or on the journey between the two. We pride ourselves on security and think we have a strong capacity there. The evidence is in the people who use our platform: government, intelligence agencies, banking...I think security is a key part of that.

Q: Crowd-sourced security: Is that really relevant to a consumer market, or to a business market where people don't necessarily want to spend time IT-managing their phone...what are your perceptions of that?

Anthony Payne: The end user doesn't want to worry about security. They don't want to worry what happens if they lose the device and someone gets access to the content on that. On the consumer side we recently launched BlackBerry Protect, which lets you remotely wipe the device, control the device, or have a message pop-up next time someone uses it. We have cloud-based services for consumers now, to protect....

Q: How do you see the smartphone market evolving?

Anthony Payne: I think there's two areas, one is the consumerization, which we've touched on -- and I think it is early in the process of consumerization. The other is cloud.... It's ultimately about choice.

I like to see consumerization as about an employee, seeing technology in their personal life which enables them to do their job better, or that enables them to interact with their personal life while they are working. This happened first with Web technology, Skype and personal email and so on. It is a huge trend....enterprise users have two options: lock it down and refuse access to personal email and services, but we don't think our customers should do that.

-- We suggest they embrace this trend, and one of the reasons is that enabling employees to access enterprise systems -- which cost a great deal to roll out -- using solutions they like to use -- whether that's accessing work email after hours or information that's held behind a firewall... 

-- They are coming in and asking for this access using their own technology, and this is a wonderful opportunity for IT and we think they should embrace it. BlackBerry Balance helps enable this, whether it is a device the employee has been issued with or bought in themselves.

-- The other thing -- we've announced our pending acquisition of Ubitex. Ubitex provides a multi-platform device management capability. Pending approval of the acquisition, we intend rolling this into the BlackBerry platform, which will provide the IT department with some element of management of devices other than BlackBerries [including iPhones, Android devices].

-- We would still absolutely argue that for the gold standard of device management, BlackBerry is still the gold standard, both for the end user and the IT department, but there are other devices out there, employees are buying them and it is a real challenge for IT departments how to manage those. They don't want to have to say 'no' all the time. We think that by offering device management tools like these, we're offering them the opportunity to have BlackBerry at the core, but to still be able to manage other devices.

We think these two strategies position BlackBerry very well for handling the consumerization of IT that's impacting enterprise users.

Q: So, part of RIM's future strategy is to become part of the infrastructure, as well as part of the device offering?

Anthony Payne: I would argue that we were part of the invention of the smartphone space, and the development of managed devices for the enterprise, hugely important against which any other offering should be measured. We also recognize this is a heterogeneous environment now, we listened to our customers when they said "if only we could support these other devices, then we'd be able to accommodate these requests," so that's the direction we're taking. We're still absolutely keen to ensure we maintain a good share of the device purchase decisions...

Q: Is RIM down and out, or is it ready to rumble?

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