How RIM's fortune could affect your BlackBerry

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has had a couple of rough years, prompting some experts to speculate whether the Canadian telecommunications equipment company is inching closer to its demise. It's quite the change from just five years ago when RIM was leading the smart phone sales game with its seemingly ubiquitous BlackBerry line of handheld devices.

But with competitors such as Apple’s iPhone and other Android-based devices rapidly gaining ground and winning over customers, RIM has lost its edge on the market. Its stock has fallen to unprecedented low levels, and has in the past year lost 77 percent of its value.

Adding to RIM’s hardship is the laundry list of misfortunes, including a multiple-day global service outage in October 2011, which prompted infuriated users to take to Twitter to vent their frustrations. Another service disruption occurred in March 2012, affecting users in the Asia Pacific region. The problem was solved within hours but it nonetheless added to the PR nightmare RIM had been plagued with.

For RIM, dusting itself off and regaining customers’ trust will continue to be an uphill battle, said Benjamin Robbins, principal at Palador, a Seattle, Wash.-based consulting firm that provides strategic guidance in mobility, policy and apps.

“Not only have they fallen behind in terms of capabilities but they also have lost their preeminent place as a ‘secure’ solution,” said Robbins, a guest contributor on mobility for the Guardian. “Organizations can now experience greater productivity and the same level of security as was once only achieved with [BlackBerry].”

For many federal employees, the BlackBerry has been their smart phone of choice primarily because of its built-in security features. The Defense Department, for example, in May approved agencywide use of BlackBerry 7 smart phones, Government Computer News reported.

However, BlackBerry’s status as the go-to device for feds could be changing. General Service Administration CIO Casey Coleman told Reuters that although the BlackBerry remains the most commonly used smart phone at the agency, GSA has begun issuing iPhones and Android-based devices to some of its workforce.

RIM is unlikely to go belly up anytime soon, experts say, but in the event of a demise, agencies would have to identify an ecosystem of devices and software that provide the same level of security BlackBerry does, Robbins said. He added that he foresees best practices emerging from those agencies on the leading edge of mobility and others quickly following suit.

“From a perception standpoint, Apple and iOS has a better reputation for security than Android, so I can see iPhone and iPads emerging as the device of choice to replace RIM,” he said. “On the security side, there are several MDM vendors who are already present in government agencies that would be in the running. I don’t imagine one would beat out the rest; rather, there would be several variants of recommended best practices for security.”

If RIM does go bankrupt, it would not necessarily disappear, said Tom Suder, founder and president at Mobilegov and co-chair of the American Council for Technology - Industry Advisory Council's committee on mobility. He recalled former telecom giant Worldcom, which went bankrupt in 2002 yet continued providing telecommunications service to 70 percent of all agencies using the FTS2001 telecommunications contract. Worldcom also supported the Navy Marine Corps Intranet, DISA, and the Federal Aviation Administration through other contracts.

“There was no interruption in service, and eventually the assets were purchased by Verizon,” Suder said.
 
Robbins agreed, saying his prediction was more of RIM selling a portion of its assets rather than a experiencing  a complete lights-out scenario.

“Depending upon the buyer, agencies would have time to evaluate whether to continue with the new BB or make a change based on security first, capabilities second,” he said. 
 

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Sun, Dec 29, 2013 Mmannini RSA

May you please come back to business. I love BB.

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 Ed

Seems to me that the main outlet for BB is to companies. Employees do not have a say in the matter and have a BB shoved down their throat. I should know. With a bit of luck RIM will go out of biz soon.

Fri, Oct 12, 2012 KP US

RIM is long over due for an overhauling. Black Berry software is outdated,slow,and limited to what it can do. they need to either get faster phones and expand the BB market to match apple and android or get out of the way. even adapting to android software would only help a little. and apple wouldnt share theirs.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group