BlackBerry this weekend defended its ability to continue serving enterprise customers with smartphones and secure mobile management software, responding to a Gartner report recommending that its corporate clients stop using the Canadian vendor's products.
"We remain steadfast in our mission to deliver the most secure and powerful mobile management solutions and smartphones to our customers," BlackBerry said in a statement emailed to Computerworld on Saturday.
The BlackBerry statement called the conclusions by Gartner analysts in the report "purely speculative."
In the eight-page report released on Friday, Gartner urged its enterprise clients to find alternatives to BlackBerry smartphones and BlackBerry Enterprise Service servers within six months.
BlackBerry's full response yesterday follows:
"We recognize and respect external parties' opinions on BlackBerry's recent news. However, many of the conclusions by Gartner about the potential impact of a sale or other strategic alternatives, are purely speculative.
"BlackBerry is restructuring and pursuing strategic alternatives to increase its focus on its core enterprise business. We remain steadfast in our mission to deliver the most secure and powerful mobile management solutions and smartphones to our customers.
"That commitment has been met with support from enterprises adopting BlackBerry and BES 10, which has more than 25,000 commercial and test servers installed to date, up from 19,000 in July.
"BES 10 is also the only EMM [Enterprise Mobile Management] platform to be awarded 'Authority to Operate' on U.S. Department of Defense Networks. Everyone at BlackBerry is grateful for the ongoing support of our customers, and we are working harder than ever to keep it."
Analyst Ken Dulaney, author of the Gartner report, wrote that his recommendations came after hearing concerns raised by clients after a series of recent blows to BlackBerry -- a second quarter loss of $965 million amid poor Z10 sales, a plan to lay off 4,500 of 12,500 workers, and management's agreement to sell the company to Fairfax Financial Holdings of Toronto for $4.7 billion.
The report noted that a Gartner survey of 400 IT and business leaders in August -- before the spate of bad news hit -- found that while 24% of respondents are now using the BlackBerry platform, the number would drop to 9% by 2016.
Dulaney did praise BlackBerry for trying to take the business private, though he posited that Fairfax or another bidder would split up the divisions, leaving the core business to focus on wireless services.
"The [smartphone] hardware business will remain for sale, but there will be few buyers, leaving BlackBerry to attempt to emphasize niche markets, such as high-security environments," Dulaney wrote.
He suggested the hardware group may be sold to a foreign government. Other analysts have suggested it could be the Canadian government. (BlackBerry is based in Waterloo, Ont.)
Dulaney said QNX, the foundation of the BlackBerry 10 operating system that runs the new Q10 and Z10 smartphones, could be reoriented to focus on real-time applications used in autos or pieces of the emerging Internet of Things.
He said that the software and services divisions could be wrapped into a group to focus on the remaining client base, the BlackBerry network operations center and on 500 carriers globally to manage and deliver applications and content.
"If the company is split up, one or more of those components will exist to support the customer base until a transition can be made," Dulaney wrote. "The customer list is just too valuable to be ignored by the entire market of potential suitors."
Dulaney's report calls on all businesses using BlackBerry to have backup plans for BlackBerry smartphones and BES servers, and suggests that they have up to six months to create them.
With that in mind, he said customers could do one of three things:
- Move off BlackBerry devices completely
- Place BlackBerry on a "contain" status where users are told that BlackBerry will be discontinued except when approved by management, possibly leaving a "controlled'' community of BlackBerry devices.
- Upgrade a limited set of users, such as executives who want a BlackBerry physical keyboard or users in high security jobs, to BB 10 devices, while supporting other platforms such as Android or iOS.
Dulaney also said enterprises should not activate BES 10 for management of Android and Apple devices until there is more clarity on BlackBerry's future.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.