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RIM Will Lose the Enterprise Market Too

RIM’s edges over Android, iPhones and Microsoft phones in the serious business world have included a reputation of being the no-brainer choice for businesses in terms of security, auditing and total remote control. Another edge, a lack of extraordinary pressure from employees and often the suits themselves who originally made the RIM decision really wishing they could use their iPhone or Android for work instead of carrying a second phone, a Blackberry, or just using the company Blackberry as their only phone.

In spite of RIM’s recent efforts to become edgier, those edges are dulling, to be blunt.

As of a little while ago, more Androids are now being fiddled with than Blackberries, same being quite true of iPhones. Yes, more and more people are still becoming Blackberry owners every day, no attrition just yet (though it’s heading that way), but for every Blackberry that’s sold more than five smartphones that aren’t Blackberries are also sold. Between Windows Phones (yay!), iPhones and Androids lit up in consumer hands right now and on Facebook, Blackberries are outnumbered three to one and pointing back to that previous fresh statistic, that number will elevate into boldfaceness too. That’s a high concentration of non-Blackberries and more and more businesses are hearing that some other company in their industry just went all iPhone so why the hell not.

Moving onto security and remote management, big brother stuff and sweet encryption (except in the Middle East) that owning a Blackberry Enterprise Server affords your company’s IT department and management, that’s being chipped away dramatically by Apple, Microsoft and Google. Their recent phones and complementary back-ends of various forms now have impressive company-friendly security, noteworthy near-1984-level management, not quite at parity with a BES rig but for many companies, close enough.

Well, you tell me if it’s close enough or at least getting there. Pretend your the bossman top suit in charge of what phones everybody will use and tell me if this is good enough for you versus what RIM could offer you: I don’t mean to turn this into a Google versus Microsoft thing over the cloud, but take Google Docs, fifty bucks a year per person, no BES, Exchange server, backup batteries, air conditioners, stacks of cassette tapes, tens of thousands of dollars on software not to mention the hardware; here’s what you can do in your make-believe shoes with the latest Androids, iPhones, iPads and Microsoft phones (including Windows Mobile):

Encrypt data remotely. Password policy management including strength, password changing frequency, prompt a change on a whim etc. Lock down the device. Lock down the camera, no syncing when roaming, reset passwords and remotely wipe. Actually I believe you get that with an Exchange server too.

But with Google Apps and Android there have been some further steps to escort RIM out the back exit: If you’re the IT guy or the management control freak as you’d no longer need an IT guy with Google, you can manipulate these settings for your organization from your Google phone’s browser. You can monitor screen-lock attempts. With Android 2.2 and up you can locate the phone on another phone with Google’s new My Devices, make it ring constantly and at full blast until you find it, reset the pin or lock it down if you give up or the battery dies in the event of which it will do what you told it to after it died as soon as the bad guys recharge it and turn it back on.

Good enough? Going to maybe let Tina from accounting buy herself an iPad instead of that Blackberry PlayBook no one gives a shit about, or do you really need to watch where she surfs and read her Facebook wall conveniently on that BES? That’s good enough for most people in your hypothetical shoes. One iPad for Tina from accounting, one Xoom for Jim the nepotism hire.

As for being able to monitor everything your employees do on their devices, their text messages, call logs and non-company email accounts (think BIS accounts, which can be monitored from a BES, though it’s tricky), I’m having a tough time finding those features on my Google Apps for Business admin panel but it’s either coming soon or it’s not coming ever because that would be trés uncool. Maybe that’s part of what’s fueling the Blackberry exodus, a preference among consumers that their bosses and quirky IT guy not have a plain view of their Blackberry wherever they go. And for those of you who say Hey, it’s the company’s phone, it’s their right, don’t do anything on a company phone you don’t want them to see, for those of you who say that, great advice but it’s just too big a pain in the ass for most people to live like that.

RIM’s worth a third of what they once were a few years ago and I still say it’s a good stock to bet against. Keep marking those words of mine, these bets. They’re failing and flailing. Running Android apps on their new gadgets, is that not a sad sign of desperation? If you had listened to me when I said short RIM a year ago you’d be up 30% and here I am telling you again to do it. Call your broker and short RIM.

Doug Simmons