Ditching BlackBerry Could Open Channel Floodgates

The channel will soon be ripe with new and big business potential when flocks of enterprises abandon BlackBerry hardware and the BES 10 platform and seek a new direction, if, that is, they heed Gartner's warning.

According to a Gartner report by analyst Ken Dulaney, 24 percent of more than 400 IT and business leaders surveyed said their users are currently on the BlackBerry smartphone platform. By 2016, the same organizations estimate only 9 percent of their users will operate on a BlackBerry.

If the report's numbers are not telling enough, Gartner's data was collected between Aug. 21 and Aug 30 -- long before BlackBerry revealed its $1.4 billion in annual revenue loss and announced it may go private, two factors the report said will accelerate its already rapid decline.

[Related: Even With Awesome New BlackBerry Z30 Partners Still Skeptical Of Success ]

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Enterprises are going to be seeking a new default device, opening up opportunity for channel partners to step in and recommend the next course of action, according to Dulaney.

Part of BlackBerry's enterprise appeal is that certain devices are often offered for free from carriers, Dulaney said. "Companies do not want to go from giving BlackBerry Curves they received for free to an iPhone 5S; that is going to cost a couple hundred dollars."

Robby Hill, founder and CEO of HillSouth, a Florence, S.C.-based solution provider, said an outpouring of enterprises searching for new mobile solutions would present "great potential on the market, and [HillSouth] is looking forward to it."

Hill said rumors around BlackBerry being sold have caused "consumer confidence to be at an all-time low." He added, "It is hard to reassure customers that new products are coming down the pipeline when [details surrounding BlackBerry] are still so fluid."

"BlackBerry just had too many hiccups," said Phil Poje, CEO of Overland Park, Kan.-based solution provider, TechOrchard. "We want to see businesses succeed, but BlackBerry just has not been bringing the innovation."

One BlackBerry "hiccup" was around the company's BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) tool, which was released prematurely at the end of September. Buzz around the new BBM platform alluded it would compete with iOS and Google Android platforms. But, an early release prompting 1.1 million downloads was quickly revoked, and a new rollout has yet to be announced.

"There is a pent-up demand for access to the BBM platform. We were disappointed when BlackBerry was unable to fulfill its own deadline [for release]" Hill said.

NEXT: Partner's On BBM, BES 10

TechOrchard's Poje said his company's clients have been moving away from BlackBerry for quite some time. Some clients chose not to adopt new BlackBerry's but kept devices already in use; others abandoned the brand altogether.

Further, HillSouth's Hill doubted the company's ability to instill trust among its customers with the BES 10 solution able to run on multiple operating systems and one of the few BlackBerry products still seeing a notable increase in adoption.

"BlackBerry has never emerged as a player to manage other devices. There has always been some kind of caveat when it comes to that," Hill said.

"What makes the BlackBerry situation even more unique is BlackBerry delivers their services through their own data centers," he said. "If [customers] are unsure about [BlackBerry's] future, do they want to trust them with their data? Customers are very much dependent on them every day."

In an email to CRN about Gartner's report, a BlackBerry spokesperson said, "we recognize and respect external parties' opinions on BlackBerry's recent news. However, many of the conclusions by Gartner about the potential impact of a sale or other strategic alternatives, are purely speculative."

"BlackBerry is restructuring and pursuing strategic alternatives," the statement said, "to increase its focus on its core enterprise business."

Hill and Poje both agree, despite incredible intellectual property, the company may be too little too late.

"They made a good run at it," Poje said, "But I think it's pretty much done for."

PUBLISHED Oct. 3, 2013