Pundits have been writing off BlackBerry, formerly Research in Motion, and its eponymous smartphones for years, now. The company has been stumbling, running late with new products, never getting close to catching the Apple iPhone or the host of Android-powered devices. Finally BlackBerry announced its new line of phones that were supposed to be competitive and — guess what? — the market watchers reacted positively.
In fact, BlackBerry received a single order for a million of its new Z10 phones. That should make working professionals with an information systems degree happy. After all, BlackBerry always had superior security and understanding of the enterprise market. But those who think like is about to get immeasurably better should take a moment and realize that BlackBerry can’t solve mobile IT problems. Neither can the Apple iPhone or any of the Google Android-based smartphones. That is because mobile IT has a much broader sets of issues that need management.
Of course security is a big issue, and BlackBerry’s ability to maintain controls over information transfer between a mobile worker and corporation back end operations is laudable. However, security is more complicated than just the device. One of the big developments in smartphones has been apps. People love to download small programs that can help them achieve what they need to. But a combination of third party apps, even well-known ones, can present a significant problem for corporations.
For example, what do the following companies have in common: Evernote, Microsoft, Dropbox, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple? They all have cloud services that people use from mobile devices and all were successfully hacked within the first three months of 2013. People use enormous numbers of apps. A recent survey of its employees’ devices by Netflix found 496 apps. Cisco did a similar survey and saw hundreds. If users put corporate data onto any of these services, data security could be compromised.
Having a device like the BlackBerry would be nice. But for the vast majority of companies, it simply isn’t going to happen. There is a reason that Android and iPhones have such enormous market share: people like them. That includes executives. Although there may be companies in which people at the top are enamored of BlackBerrys, many executives will continue to gravitate toward the market leaders.
Combine that with the short quick lifespan of devices (even Apple has taken to introducing new phones more frequently than once a year) and you have a potential dizzying array of devices that someone might want support. You probably can’t support them all, but don’t count on a single model from one vendor.
Availability of services and files
Apps aren’t the end all and be all for mobile users. These people need access to the information that they need to work. That will mean finding ways to give them access to data and corporate services, otherwise the productivity gains people expect won’t happen. Instead, they’ll be stopped dead in their tracks. Will you move everything to the cloud?
Find ways of granting people access through the corporate firewall to keep better control of data? Whatever approach you choose, making it work is anything but easy. These are just some of the issues that come up. Others involve HR and legal complications such as having corporate data on personal devices and whether you will be able to remotely wipe information off devices. Getting comprehensive control of mobile computing will be a difficult proposition — all the more reason to gain the experience that something like a masters of information systems degree can offer.