Most analysts say that the once dominate market share for smartphones running the BlackBerry OS has shrunk to barely 3% of the North American market. That argues that BlackBerry app development is one segment of the mobile application development market that enterprise IT can afford to ignore – but is it?
Large companies and government agencies have historically been BlackBerry’s core clients, but the enterprise has largely abandoned corporate purchase of BlackBerry phones in favor of BYOD policies. Some analysts think that has the potential to change, at least in some regulated industries, thanks to BlackBerry 10’s focus on productivity, speed, and separating work and play with a new feature called Balance.
When combined with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10, Balance splits a phone into two separate devices: one for work and one for personal use. The separate profiles cordon off sensitive work information so that IT departments can control the flow of data.
Personal apps, e-mails and photos are on the “personal” side, and users can jump from one profile to the other. It’s the first smartphone OS designed to deliver a device that doesn’t sacrifice the company’s need for privacy or security in the name of consumer preferences and control. One of the things that corporate managers who’ve seen BlackBerry 10 like best is the fact that users can easily toggle between the two modes – but they can’t copy data or messages from the corporate mode to the personal mode.
Outside the U.S., BlackBerry says that up to 45% of the users who have purchased new BlackBerry 10 devices in the first month since it was launched were switching from another operating system – typically Android, iOS, or the legacy Symbian system that never made much headway in the North American market. Still, no one thinks that BlackBerry will regain the cool factor it had circa 2008 when businesspeople, celebrities, and politicians like Barack Obama weren’t afraid to confess to being CrackBerry addicts.
Is BlackBerry 10 Development In Your Future?
If you work in banking, then BlackBerry 10 development or deployment may still be part of your future according to American Banker. That’s because one area where there are still die-hard BlackBerry fans is in highly regulated industries where the management software’s security, remote wiping, and partition technologies are a big advantage.
Also, several enterprise software companies have jumped on the BlackBerry app development bandwagon, with Cisco (collaboration technology), SAP (finance apps), Box (file sharing), Bloomberg (news and market information) and the Wall Street Journal (digital content) showcased at the BlackBerry 10 launch at the end of January.
Neff Hudson, assistant vice president of emerging channels at USAA told American Banker that the underlying QNX operating system and BlackBerry Balance were the two reasons that he might look at BlackBerry 10. “QNX is generally regarded as an efficient, well-constructed operating system, and we expect that its performance will be solid and stable at release,” he said. “Its ability to offer separate profiles for work and personal use — and its ability to run applications concurrently under both profiles — is especially interesting.”
Unfortunately for the Canadian firm behind BlackBerry, even interested enterprise IT groups like USAA aren’t planning on doing any native testing, and are not developing a native app for the BlackBerry 10. Hudson says they will “procure a couple of devices” and test the BlackBerry 10, but that’s as far as he will go.
BlackBerry App Development Outlook
The bright spot in the BlackBerry App Development world may just be the support within the new BlackBerry enterprise server for Android and iOS devices. This would allow enterprise IT departments to adopt mixed-use server software for easier management, security and deployment of apps in a BYOD environment – but it may not help BlackBerry’s quest for market share since corporate support for the BlackBerry enterprise server no longer translates into a mandate about the mobile device an employee selects.
Customer and employee preferences will drive BlackBerry app development, and most companies are focusing on HTML5-compliant sites that offer mobile access to multiple devices. One of the problems that cloud the outlook for BlackBerry app development is that the new BlackBerry 10 is yet another device with another screen resolution and size. Managing the display and capabilities of customer and employee services and apps across all devices is an ongoing problem for developers of mobile and web-based apps.
Techcrunch reported on a new survey commissioned by Telerik’s Kendo UI that added to the gloomy outlook for BlackBerry app development. Among the survey’s findings:
- Half of the 5,000 developers surveyed said they developed apps with HTML5 in 2012 – but 90% plan to do so in 2013.
- Only 15% of developers said they prefer to use native-only approaches to new app development.
- Most developers said that they were interested in developing for Windows 8 (66%), ChromeOS (47%), but weren’t all that interested in BlackBerry 10 (13%).
Interestingly, the developers surveyed by Kendo also said that BlackBerry and iOS are the most difficult platforms to develop for, while Microsoft’s robust toolset made Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 the easiest, while Android fell in the middle.
So, while it is possible that BlackBerry will regain some of its market share, it’s not likely to be high on enterprise developer’s priority lists during 2013.