Why Apple — Not RIM — Is Poised to Own the Mobile Enterprise

Shares of Research In Motion (s rimm) plunged late last week after the company slashed its earnings and sales forecasts for the current quarter, but the company was positioned for a rebound this week with a flurry of announcements from its BlackBerry World event. It introduced the Bold 9900 and 9930 handsets, announced a deal to integrate Microsoft’s Bing (s msft) on BlackBerry handsets and trumpeted the acquisition of software-maker Ubitexx. But there are a few reasons why Apple, not RIM, may be better positioned in today’s mobile enterprise.

  1. BlackBerry OS is old and there are still no QNX handsets. The days of BlackBerry being the device of choice among the business class have ended. End users are increasingly determining which devices they use for work, and they’re opting for consumer-targeted devices that run newer, slicker operating systems. RIM recently said it expects a shortfall in BlackBerry sales, leading to a 10 percent plunge in its stock. QNX looks promising, but the new handsets are powered by BlackBerry 7, and as my colleague Kevin C. Tofel noted, they aren’t enough to lure users away from the iPhone.
  2. Apple’s iOS is ready for business. While the platform once had some crucial shortcomings, Forrester said last year that “most enterprises can use Apple mobile enterprises securely.” IOS clearly doesn’t offer the kind of iron-clad security that, say, would be necessary for Barack Obama, but it now supports email encryption, one-second remote device wipe and other management policies IT departments demand, such as wireless app distribution and improved email support. And businesses are responding: Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said last month that 88 percent of Fortune 500 companies are testing or deploying iPhones, and 75 percent are testing or deploying iPads.
  3. Apple still owns the tablet market. The iPad accounted for a whopping 85 percent of worldwide tablet sales in 2010, according to recent data from ABI Research, and the gadget is already finding a home in the enterprise. And viable competition for the iPad in the enterprise has yet to emerge: RIM’s PlayBook has met with mixed reviews at best, and it is targeted at the ever-diminishing audience of BlackBerry users. RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky recently predicted RIM would sell 500,000 PlayBooks by the end of May, a respectable figure, to be sure, but nothing to the one million iPad 2 tablets that sold during that gadget’s opening weekend.

RIM won’t disappear from the mobile landscape — the Ubitexx acquisition underscores the role RIM could play as a device-management company — but it is rapidly losing its standing as the preeminent provider of a mobile operating system for the enterprise. Meanwhile, the likes of Android (s goog) and Microsoft (s MSFT) and Nokia (s NOK) remain more likely to flourish inthe consumer space. For more that, and to read more about Apple’s chances in the enterprise, please see my weekly column at GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Image courtesy Flickr user Cristiano Betta.