I attend the BlackBerry World conference last week in sunny Orlando, Florida. My duties included participating in a roundtable discussion on social business with my colleagues Rick McGee, Kevin Cavanaugh and Mike Hortatsos, attending an IBM-sponsored customer luncheon to discuss social business and working at the IBM booth on the product showcase floor to share details and answer questions on IBM Mobile Enterprise Services' offerings. This was the second time I've attended the conference and expectations were high. According to RIM, this year's conference was the biggest ever with over 6,000 attendees and the largest product showcase. Most of the attendees I spoke with had a singular, enterprise focus - true to BlackBerry's roots. However, in recent years, RIM has increasingly marketed and sold to consumers. Apple and Google took the opposite approach by initially targeting consumers and adding enterprise capabilities in later releases.
RIM was smart to provide a new PlayBook tablet to each conference attendee to serve as advocates to drive adoption. While the PlayBook shines in a number of areas, it's incomplete and I'm not sure the market will wait for the technology to be perfected. While RIM announced the new Bold 9900 smartphone, it's not expected to ship until the summer. While the Bold 9900 is a nice handset, it's not revolutionary and it's the smartphone RIM should have shipped last year instead of the Torch. BlackBerry is firmly entrenched in the enterprise and is the dominant smartphone platform due to its secure, highly-manageable and integrated platform. However, Android and Apple are gaining ground and arguably innovating faster than RIM. WebOS and Windows Phone round out an already crowded field and given Android's rapid rise and Nokia's rapid fall, anything can happen. One thing is certain: the day when enterprises standardized on a single mobile platform and issued corporate-liable devices to select number of employees is at at end. Increasingly, enterprises are supporting multiple mobile platforms driven in large part by employees bringing their own smartphones to the workplace.
I remain a BlackBerry fan and I'm excited about the new capabilities that RIM has planned for this summer including native e-mail, contacts and calendar and Android applications on the PlayBook.