Research In Motion is enticing IT managers to prepare for BlackBerry 10 with the offer of a free phone. It's also offering businesses free upgrade licenses to the new BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) if they buy BlackBerry 10 phones.
The offers are fine ideas, but they ignore the BYOD trend and shine a spotlight on RIM's uncomfortable position in the market.
Because its phones are most secure when paired with BES, RIM needs to connect with the IT department which makes the decisions to buy and manage servers. That worked fine when that same department made the decision to buy certain, approved phones for employees to use. But those days are long gone. Workers now buy their own phones and bring them to work. And that phone is seldom a BlackBerry.
RIM has at least acknowledged the shift in the enterprise to a wide variety of phones by adding management capabilities into its server that support other platforms. That's a good move, although BES is probably not the solution IT managers will think of unless they are also managing a serious number of BlackBerry phones. There are also plenty of third-party solutions that offer some functions of BES while capably managing other devices.
The offer to upgrade customer BES licenses will appeal to the holdouts, like some banks and government agencies, that continue to issue phones for workers. But even the federal government has opened the door to non-BlackBerry devices. For instance, the Department of Defense invited other companies like Apple and Android to go for a contract to supply phones to its workers. And the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement just dumped BlackBerry devices for iPhones.
RIM is better off doing its best to promote BlackBerry 10 as a consumer device that people will want to buy and then bring to work. It surely will do some of that.
But appealing direct to consumers will be tough for RIM too, especially after such a long stretch without a refresh. The market is losing interest. IDC reported that as of the third quarter, BlackBerry had just 4 percent market share.
There are still plenty of BlackBerry fans out there, even among consumers. The question is whether the new phones will win them – and a whole new crop of people – over.