Research In Motion is reporting a silver lining in the dark cloud that's been hanging over its smartphones: Sales to government agencies are on the rise. In fact, there are plenty of BlackBerry sightings in the White House.
RIM will take any encouragement it can get in its battle against the iPhone and Android-powered devices. RIM saw sales decline a whopping 57 percent last quarter as consumers opted for devices with faster browsers and larger touchscreens than the BlackBerry currently offers.
"Compared to the enterprise over the last year and a half or so, the federal business on whole is up," said Scott Totzke, senior vice president of BlackBerry security , told Bloomberg. "The employee base is shrinking, so if we're looking at a market with fewer employees and our install base is stable to slightly up, that would seem to indicate that we have an increasing market share."
One of the ways RIM is working to hold on to government clients is via a new Mobile Device Management solution aimed at the market. Last week, RIM announced Mobile Fusion, which integrates the government-friendly features and security architecture of BlackBerry Enterprise Server with other IT management tools and enforceable IT policies.
"For businesses and government, managing a mix of mobile devices on any scale is chaotic. Organizations face pressure to allow employees to bring their own devices into the workplace," said Alan Panezic, vice president of Enterprise Product Management and Marketing at Research In Motion.
Panezic said BlackBerry Mobile Fusion allows organizations to manage a mixed environment of devices in a secure and cost-efficient manner without having to move to the lowest common denominator on security for all managed devices. That should be good news for 90 percent of the Fortune 500 companies using BlackBerry smartphones -- and government agencies.
Pirated Android Apps
Michael Disabato, managing vice president of network and telecom at Gartner, shared his thoughts on RIM's move to keep a firm grip on the government market. As he sees it, if RIM has any strong hope of surviving in an ultra-competitive smartphone landscape, it comes through the government market -- and any other customers with very high level of security. That's because, he said, RIM still offers the best security and managed mobile device program on the market.
"The whole problem is that the rest of the planet is using consumer devices," Disabato said. "RIM needs to manufacture something that consumers want or they are not going to be around much longer, unless of course the government steps in like it did with Iridium because they couldn't afford to have that satellite network go down."
In other RIM news, the company is moving to combat pirated apps on its devices. Alec Saunders, RIM's vice president of developer relations, took the gripe to Twitter. In an exchange with a developer, Saunders said he's seen apps from developers uploaded by others and charged for by people who don't own them.
"We're removing sideloading for consumers," Saunders said. "Piracy is a huge problem for Android devs, and we don't want to duplicate the chaotic cesspool of Android Market. Pretty sure we've got a solution for devs."