I confess it has been a while since I blogged, and although I am trying to get the energy to put together a post on innovation (or lack thereof) in Enterprise IT, that requires more energy than I have today (smiley). So think I will just talk about my latest gadgets.
I have a BB Z10. It is actually a very good device. Blackberry (nee RIM) has built upon some of the concepts of the Playbook, and the entire “hub” concept that integrates all of your mail services, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, et al is a very effective approach. In its heart, that is what the Z10 is. A device that focuses on communication, and assumes that people who use it are active across many channels. The swipe gestures are crisp and effective, and there is no question that BB10 represents multi-tasking much better that IOS or Android devices.
I guess the key question in terms of BB10′s success remains applications. Will those actively communicating folk be satisfied with a device that facilitates real time communication, or will they want apps? If so, Blackberry is still in trouble. Now they have made a big splash about application partnerships at launch, and there are some positive signs(Amazon Kindle is finally available!). But I’m not an app fiend, and even I remain unhappy about availability of things like Trip-It, ZIte, etc. Can Blackberry attract enough developers?
The other challenge in the short term is I cannot access my corporate email from the Z10. This is both Blackberry’s fault and a challenge for the firm where I work. The BB10 server requires build out of a Microsoft ActiveSync infrastructure integrated with the corporate email environment, which my firm is just doing now. However there are also some missing security capabilities in the BB10 server that most regulated enterprises must have, and that will not be available until the next software release in April/May this year. Complicating the entire matter is the BYOD issue. Blackberry provides a “dual persona” capability called Balance which is quite good,and separates enterprise data and applications from personal applications. But it is again different than the tools most firms are currently using to support BYOD (Good Enterprise, AirWatch, Mobile Iron, etc) and adds complexity that negates any intrinsic advantage Blackberry had by already being massively present in so many firms.
So, I like the device. I’m going to use it as my personal smartphone for a year. But I am certainly not smart enough to tell you if this will be a game changer for Blackberry.
The other device I am playing with is a Microsoft Surface RT. People are surprised when I tell them that I see similarities between these devices. Clearly they are radically different in terms of form factor, but Windows 8, and it’s spiritual cousin Windows Phone, also tries fairly hard to manage all of your communications in an integrated fashion, and with “Active Tiles”, to become a real time hub for the individual. RT does an ok job at this, but is not as effectively as Blackberry.
There are things I love about Surface RT. The hardware is beautiful, in many ways more attractive than IPAD. The box opening to install experience is seamless and automated, and gets you in a place where you have a Skydrive, Office ( very cool) and a reasonable set of applications. and a great browsing experience! At this point I was really impressed. Then it started to go downhill.
As you get into setting up all those email and Social Media connections, the process is harder, slower, and much more prone to failure than the BB10 process I has just gone through previously. Finding all of your messages is a mixed bag. The tile interface makes it easier, while at the same time there is a bit of the traditional “Windows” experience pulling you back towards confusion and complexity. But I can live with that. Where it gets painful is at the App Store. SImply put there are not enough applications. Maybe another place where Blackberry and Microsoft share some characteristics.
All that said, I am happily carrying around the Surface RT and having a generally pretty good consumer tablet experience. Not enough in truth to have me switch away from IPAD, but quite good.
Again connecting to work life is problematic. CItrix has a client for RT but it requires a version of their back end servers that my firm, and many others, does not operate yet. Other critical firms, such as Good Technology, have not released a client for RT yet.
Therein lies Microsoft’s problem. As it stands I think RT is a pretty good consumer/SMB device. It also has the potential to be a great BYOD device in large, regulated firms but the access and security applications need to be available. The paucity of apps in the App Store, and the reluctance of software firms to embrace RT, will hurt Microsoft a lot.
And for those who think Surface Pro is the way in to large enterprises, think again! Most firms are approaching exhaustion in Windows 7 upgrade battle, They do not want to hear about Windows 8 inside the firewall.