The rapid shift in platform dominance among smartphone sales in the consumer market over the past 3 years, as clearly seen in NPD’s report on US Smartphone sales 6 days ago, shows how quickly RIM’s decline has occurred.

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Now, only 2 days later, on a quarterly conference call, RIM has announced that it will not release any of its BBX Blackberry 10 devices until late 2012. The IT consumer is way too savvy these days and will gravitate to one of the more modern platforms. Though I am not stating that Blackberry 10 will not be a good mobile OS, which it very well may be, it may simply be a classic case of too little, too late. Based on the recent consumer trends, they have a chance to rebound by 2014 if RIM has any magic left, but that remains to be seen.

Regardless, Blackberry is still incredibly prevalent in highly managed IT environments that rely on Blackberry Enterprise Server. Even though the rapid growth of Bring Your Own Device in enterprises is not going away, some organizations are far from on board with the idea for a variety of reasons -- legal and security being the two biggies. Company approved, owned and managed devices are the only acceptable option. This is a strong area for RIM and some of these organizations are going to be looking very soon at who to turn to to fill the void that RIM’s imminent demise within the smartphone market creates.

Who Fills the Void? Apple? Android?

Each platform will likely see continued growth within the enterprise as mobile device management software matures and enterprise mobility may very well become dominated by two dueling juggernauts for a few years.

On the other hand, these two platforms may not be the answer right now for highly-managed IT environments and instead sets the stage for a very strong alternate narrative with a surprising lead role, Microsoft.

How it Could Happen

A move by Microsoft last week was quite interesting:

Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, was reported to have moved President of Windows Phone, Andy Lees, to a “new role working for [Ballmer] on a time-critical opportunity focused on driving maximum impact in 2012 with Windows Phone and Windows 8.”

Was this just some internal backlash to the struggling sales of the rather well executed mobile OS? That would be one way to read between the lines. On the other hand, it made me sit back and think about what could happen if Microsoft were to pull off something big in 2012.

What if Microsoft were able to integrate the user experience fluidly across desktop, laptop, smartphone, and tablet form factors between Windows Phone and Windows 8? Think of an experience that gave consumers and enterprises alike a clear reason to invest in the whole ecosystem.

Let’s look at how the enterprise already leverages Microsoft technologies:

  • Active Directory is widely used for domain authentication and security
  • The enterprise has used Windows as its OS of choice for quite some time
  • Use of Microsoft Exchange and ActiveSync is quite prolific
  • Lync is gaining traction
  • Microsoft Office is the de facto productivity tool and Office 365 is gaining traction
  • Sharepoint is a massive presence within the enterprise

There is real opportunity for some innovations to come out of Redmond for the enterprise that create a ubiquitous digital environment -- a true Digital Workplace platform -- that provides productivity, collaboration, communication and security.

If (and this is a really big IF) Redmond can get real traction around a Windows 8/Windows Phone ecosystem, the enterprise may well turn to this as a Blackberry Enterprise replacement, especially in highly regulated environments like healthcare, law and financials.

Only time will tell, but don’t count out Microsoft from enterprise mobility just yet.

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