BlackBerry is laser-focused on the enterprise with BES10

Touts lower costs and 800,000 licenses given away since March

After encountering problems last year selling its newest smartphones, BlackBerry has shifted to a stronger focus on the enterprise, especially through distribution -- often for free -- of its BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 mobile management client software.

Fighting a steady stream of bad press in the past six months, the company regularly issues press releases and blog posts touting new or upgrading BES10 customers, such as this recent one regarding Virginia-based Science Applications International Corp.

On Thursday, BlackBerry proclaimed that it has issued 800,000 BES10 client licenses since March 31, when it launched a limited-time program called EZ Pass through which users could get free perpetual BES10 licenses.

On Wednesday, Strategy Analytics released a report (registration required) concluding that migrating from BES5 to BES10 cost less than half as much over five years as migrating from BES5 to five competing enterprise mobile management (EMM) offerings: AirWatch (with VMware), Citrix, IBM (with Fiberlink), Good Technology and MobileIron. Blackberry promoted the report's conclusion in a blog post.

BES10 works in highly secure settings, as well as at enterprises with bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, where multiple mobile platforms including BlackBerry, iOS and Android typically must be supported. IT staffs can use BES10 to manage a variety of devices, applications and users from a single console.

A BlackBerry spokeswoman, in a statement to Computerworld, said that BlackBerry is the leading EMM vendor, with more customers than the top three competitors combined. She noted the U.S. Department of Defense has granted BlackBerry devices "Full Operational Capability" certification, while all G7 governments and each of the 10 largest enterprises in the pharmaceutical, legal and auto industries are BlackBerry customers.

In a March blog post, BlackBerry presented an infographic touting its recent enterprise successes, and said it had more than 30,000 BES10 servers installed globally. Analysts, however, are concerned that BlackBerry hasn't stated how many of the 30,000 servers are for trial customers.

While 800,000 new BES10 client licenses since March 31 may sound like an impressive figure, analysts noted that those licenses have cost customers nothing or very little. Of course, the free client licenses don't cover the substantial cost of the BES10 servers that each enterprise will need, or other related costs. Other EMM providers are also offering customers free client licensing, according to analysts. Microsoft Exchange Activesync is free to any Exchange customer.

"I don't think whether BES10 is cost-effective or not is the issue for most of our enterprise clients," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner. "Many customers have been offered BES10 for free. Instead, customers are all about managing the risk issues."

Last year, Dulaney advised Gartner clients to consider finding alternatives to BlackBerry because of concerns about its products, such as poor sales of the Z10 and Q10 smartphones, and its shaky corporate and financial future. On Thursday, Dulaney said, "We are OK with staying with BlackBerry as long as the enterprise knows how to manage the risk factors. So it's not about Gartner telling them to get off BlackBerry; it's really about managing risk and their tolerance for risk."

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