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Apple?s popularity threatens enterprise strategies for RIM, Microsoft

Apple?s mobile devices are making inroads into enterprise and government organizations, challenging Research In Motion, which used to have this market cornered but is increasingly finding itself vulnerable, as well as Microsoft.

The incredible popularity of the iPhone and iPad with consumers is spilling over into the business world, as mobile users increasingly use their personal devices for business purposes. The result is that companies are opening up their mobility strategies to allow for more choice, with BlackBerry losing share as a result.

?Apple is definitely a disruptive force in the enterprise simply because it is making the enterprise rethink how to connect employees in our growing multi-screen world,? said Dan Shey, practice director for mobile services at ABI Research, NY.

?Their app development ecosystem is their biggest strength which is driving such positive consumer sentiment and both challenges and opportunities for enterprise,? he said.

?The government and enterprise sectors are critical to RIM as it gets its act together to introduce new products.?

Embrace Apple
The General Services Administration, the U.S. government?s main procurement agency, recently said it has decided to issue iPhones alongside BlackBerrys, meaning that staff may request iPhone devices if they find this will help them do their job better. The move could open the door for other agencies to follow suit.

Others reportedly phasing out BlackBerry devices for iPhones include the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Halliburton.

In the past, most companies? information technology departments would dictate what devices employees could use while working. However, as consumers increasingly become enamored of their smartphones and tablets, they are bringing these devices to work.

A recent report from ABI Research shows that Apple is already present with 41 percent of executives and that one in five information workers globally uses an Apple product for some part of their job.

While Apple?s has been gaining market share, RIM has been losing it. The company?s share of the smartphone market dwindled from 44 percent in 2009 to just 10 percent in 2011, according to NPD Group.

Realizing that employees are going to use these devices whether or not IT says they can, companies are trying to figure out how to set PINs for individual mobile devices, be able to track what is being installed on the devices and how selectively swipe data or sandbox certain data.

Companies are considering stipend programs that will let employees choose the device they want as they try to open up access to more devices, which could further erode RIM?s position in the enterprise as its market share continues to erode.

Down but not out
However, RIM could still regain some footing in the enterprise if it brings out a device that garners a lot of consumer attention.

?RIM dominated the enterprise space as the only or one of the only smartphone devices,? said Christian Kane, infrastructure and operations analyst for Forrester Research, Cambridge, MA.

?There is definitely a redistribution going on there as companies increasingly are letting users decide which device they want,? he said.

?We see many firms in the near term looking to support RIM. There is room for them to get back into this but they are really going to have to deliver on product deadlines, get a new version of their operating system out there and attract more developers.?

Windows 8
Apple?s growth is also presenting a challenge to Microsoft as well, which could see its overall share of the enterprise market shrink as some workers discover all they need is a tablet and that they do not need a desktop or laptop computer.

?The market is waiting to see if Windows 8 will provide a complete mobile OS suitable for the enterprise which can then be easily integrated with all their large embedded base of enterprise back-end systems,? ABI Research?s Mr. Shey said.

Microsoft is in a better position than RIM because it has an easier time attracting consumers thanks to its footprint with the Xbox.

However, the adoption of Windows Phone 7 has been slow.

?Microsoft is in a better position in terms of RIM but it still has a lot of work,? Forrester?s Mr. Kane said. ?It has to deliver on Windows 8, which can enable a device to be a tablet and a traditional laptop at once.

?This would enable employees to plug a device into a keyboard on their desk and have it act like a desktop and then take it home with them at the end of the day and it works like a tablet,? he said. ?That kind of flexibility is really interesting.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York