In the Wheelhouse: Cloud, Services, and Kicking RIM While They're Down (Again)

Analysis of News Events
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This week, I'm trying to make sense of what the heck is going on with Research in Motion and how it will affect BlackBerry customers. Plus, there are some new announcements on IBM SmartCloud and IBM PureSystems you need to know about.


IBM Announces More SmartCloud Options

IBM recently expanded on its cloud-based SmartCloud for Social Business portfolio by announcing IBM SmartCloud Notes Entry.

IBM SmartCloud Notes Entry is a product that may go well with customers who've already employed IBM SmartCloud Notes in their organization but would like a lower-cost option for elements of the organization that may not need the full Notes experience. For instance, perhaps you have a nucleus of office users on IBM SmartCloud Notes and you want to extend basic email functionality to places like your shipping dock, production floor, and quality control labs. IBM SmartCloud Notes Entry is browser-based email with basic functionality such as the following:

  • Integrated Sametime Instant Messaging
  • Out of Office
  • Full-text indexing (my favorite feature of Notes, by the way; Notes full-text searching is unparalleled)
  • Antivirus and antispam
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Encryption
  • 1 GB mailbox

There is no data conversion supported for this product, so essentially it's designed for clean, new email accounts. For a pricing comparison, IBM SmartCloud Notes starts at $5 USD per user/month with a 25GB mailbox (and a more feature-rich Lotus Notes client) while IBM SmartCloud Notes Entry starts at $3.75 USD per user/month. As for all SmartCloud offerings, the prices get even less expensive as you add more users.

In the same announcement letter, IBM also announced IBM SmartCloud Archive Essentials, "a cloud-based storage application used for high performance and reliability." The features are listed below:

Native .nsf Data Retention

  • Email is collected at the server level, both internal and external, sent and received.
  • Email is preserved, including user-deleted emails, for a customer-selectable retention period or for as long as desired.

eDiscovery Feature and Function

  • Search, tag, review, and create saved searches (collections) for reuse or modification
  • Apply retention periods on organization-wide basis
  • Apply legal hold to specific emails or collections of email
  • Audit access and use of systems

According to Ed Brill, IBM Director, Product Line Management, IBM Collaboration Solutions, IBM SmartCloud Archive Essentials is an important addition because "customers are increasingly interested in automating compliance and information lifecycle governance (ILG) tasks. Email is still the #1 source of discoverable content for legal and regulatory actions, so an email archive with retention and discovery features has become a logistical requirement for organizations of every size and type."

Essentially, it will give you access to IBM SmartCloud mail in a secure, searchable, and indexed fashion, giving you accurate and rapid retrieval of archived data.

IBM Cuts Prices to Flex Systems Chassis, and IBM Global Services Adds More Offerings to Its Arsenal

IBM is making IBM PureSystems even more attractive for customers. The PureFlex chassis price has been cut from $5,589 to $3,738 USD, a 33 percent reduction.

In related news, IBM announced the following implementation services from IBM Global Services:

  • IBM Implementation Services for Flex System—enablement and configuration
  • IBM Implementation Services for Flex System—virtualization enablement
  • IBM Implementation Services for Cloud—IBM SmartCloud Entry enablement for Flex System

I'm not going to list all the features because it's a big list. In a nutshell, IBM Global Services can help you plan, configure, implement, and test PureFlex configurations. Please check out the announcement for the details.

Research in Motion, Maybe You Should Stay Down This Time. You're Gonna Get Hurt.

Research in Motion is in the news. Again.

It seems like someone at RIM said the word MacBeth in a loud speaker underneath a ladder to an audience of black cats. Maybe even worse.

RIM seems to be in the news the last few years for all the wrong reasons: service disruptions, inebriated (now former) executives disrupting an Air Canada flight, someone getting stabbed at a RIM-hosted event, and dropping support for the 16GB Playbook (arguably the wrong one to drop as 16GB is the most popular size out of all tablets on the market), to name just a few. That's not even mentioning the stock falling from $148 per share in 2009 to $7 last week. Ouch.

I was joking awhile ago that major decisions at RIM must be made by the fictional Douglas, President of Reynholm Industries from the British television show The IT Crowd. Reynholm's decisions seem to keep the company in constant disarray, but somehow it stays barely afloat.

To put it in context if you haven't seen the show, this excerpt is from an episode where the company lawyer is trying to explain how Reynholm's actions are negatively affecting the company and drawing the ire of shareholders:

Reynholm: "Don't worry about the shareholders. I can handle them."

Lawyer: "But you've missed every single meeting with them for the last seven weeks. Where were you last time?"

Reynholm: "Ha ha! You're going to hate me for this, but I fancied a day off. So I took some of the pension money out of the bank, and I lost it on a horse."

Lawyer: "You were gambling with our employees' pensions?"

Reynholm: "Gambling? No! I was riding on a horse and it fell out of my pocket."

But wait! Just a few months ago, RIM decided to refocus back to its roots: the business customer. The business world rejoiced at the idea. RIM is going to focus on servicing enterprise mobility needs.

Sadly, a good portion of the business world seems to like a physical keyboard.

RIM's recent announcement states that the first new BlackBerry 10 devices being shipped, now in Q1 2013, will not have a physical keyboard. That doesn't sound like an enterprise refocus to me. It sounds like they're still competing at the retail level as their primary goal.

The keyboard is the main physical difference between BlackBerry and competing devices. RIM did state that they will eventually make Blackberry 10 devices with physical keyboards. Just not first...later.

While companies stick with BlackBerry because of the security features, many corporate employees like their BlackBerry for the physical keyboard.

This summer, smartphone sales are forecast to be down. People are holding fast until they can get iPhone 5 in October and have a sniff at RIM's new offering. With RIM's disastrous 2012, Q1 2013 will be disappointing as companies will wait for the release of a physical keyboard model.

RIM has plenty of cash in the bank, so they're not in danger of closing up shop. With stock prices slipping fast, there is continued talk of RIM being sold off or split into two companies, which RIM denies.

The Globe and Mail recently reported that BlackBerry is becoming less and less attractive to several young demographics. Simply put, teenagers would rather use an Android or an iPhone.

Morgan Stanley calls the company "essentially broken."

What does all this mean?

Those kids will be working for you in a few short years. No piece of technology can tell you what RIM will look like then. But I'll bet you five bucks the chances are slim that the average 15-year-old with an iPhone today will be a big BlackBerry advocate in three years. Ease of use and the cool factor will trump security from a user perception point of view 10 times out of 10.

I can almost say for certain that unless RIM strongly refocuses to the business customer needs, making attractive phones for the retail market won't measure up to much in a few short years. I think they've fallen too far behind.

That's if RIM, in its current form, still exists by then. I have my doubts. Personally, I see Microsoft taking a piece of it. Microsoft already has a relationship with Nokia and its own Windows Phone 8, but where RIM is mostly entrenched is in the enterprise...for now. Competitors are taking that space. I can see Microsoft buying a portion of RIM because the security reputation of BlackBerry would certainly help erase the stigma of Microsoft being, put nicely, not as secure. As well, it would help Microsoft make deeper inroads into enterprise customers. There would be more business relationships and opportunities to install instances of Windows Server, Exchange, and Sharepoint. The architecture behind BlackBerry Enterprise Server is all running off Windows Server and Microsoft SQL Server. It's not a bad fit at all.

BlackBerry is known as a business smartphone and is marketed to businesses as a business smartphone, but somehow it wants to compete in the retail market against Android and iPhone. RIM promises change but appears to do the "same old same old." Huh? It's all such a confusing mess.

For long-time enterprise BlackBerry customers, venturing into the calmer iPhone and Android waters is tempting. Very tempting.

The kids see it...and they're smarter than you might think.

Steve Pitcher
Steve Pitcher works with iTech Solutions, an IBM Premier Business Partner. He is a specialist in IBM i and IBM Power Systems solutions since 2001. Feel free to contact him directly


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