RIM is getting Scared of Windows Mobile and tries some Marketing Spin

A colleague sent me a link to a "Get the Facts" page that RIM has created as part of a new advertising campaign. One of the benefits of blogging is that everything here is my own personal opinion and not necessarily that of my employer - or so the disclaimer reads -  so I want to share my view on this campaign from RIM:

I think RIM is very scared about Windows Mobile because of how it is now a mature platform that can compete head to head and win (i.e. the SCMDM launch at CTIA), and because many of their customers are cancelling their license, service and support contracts with them to ditch their Blackberries in favor of Windows Mobile. I was in one of our executive summits yesterday with a room full of Fortune 500 companies who were ready to make the transition.

So I am not surprised that RIM has been introducing FUD into the market, is giving software away for free and is upping their marketing. What is surprising is that they seem naive at marketing to IT. The first thing you learn when marketing to Developers or IT Professionals is that you can't market to them. The hate FUD, marketing spin and anything that comes from an ad agency. They need the facts and they want to play with the technology to check everything themselves.

Not ot say we are perfect, or that sometimes I get too excited and can sound too much like a marketer. But most of what I read in this site was misleading. Here are the main points and my opinions on each:

Security - RIM claims they have received more security accreditations. Well, more accreditations don't make you more secure. At the end of the day Windows Mobile supports now all the acronyms most IT people know around security: 3DES, AES, S/MIME, FIPS 140-2, DISA STIG, etc. But it should not be an acronyms game either. For 99% of companies out there, Windows Mobile 6 provides all the security they would need. Security is no longer an advantage for RIM. If you need more info, download the latest security whitepapers from the Windows Mobile site.

Wireless Applications. OK this is the one that gets me mad. Because when it comes to apps, there is simply no contest - from the number of apps to the power of the tools to the capabilities of the platforms, Windows Mobile is years ahead of BlackBerry here - no contest. For more details look to my recent post on the topic. And because this is a function of their platform, and RIM has no control over it (J2ME is now open source, which means Sun has lost any hopes to make money from it which means they will no longer invest in it), there is nothing RIM can do to fix this.

Infrastructure - RIM claims that a NOC is technically superior with better security and performance. Pluh-easee! Come on! At this point it went from marketing spin to FUD and Lies. The RIM site even links to a Jack Gold report that under the "Bottom Line" section says both NOC and NOC-less architectures have proven to be reliable and secure (so no advantage for NOC) and it says that in a few years NOCs will no longer be needed. And this is on a report RIM's site, linked from the same page. It's not like RIM got a number of wireless and security architects in a room to determine what was the fastest and more secure way to deliver email to mobile devices and they came with the NOC, no, it is technology that RIM inherited from their paging days as the first Blacknerries were designed for the Mobitex network. It is just common sense: how can adding a single point of failure and sending all my email to Canada and back can be faster or more reliable than sending it directly from the server to the phone? eMail me and I will send you another white paper comparing both NOC and NOC-less infrastructure.

Vendor Flexibility - This is also laughable: with RIM you have ONE hardware vendor and three basic phone models to choose from with a single architecture defined by RIM. What flexibility are you talking about? With Windows Mobile you can choose from 140 phones from 50 device manufacturers and 18,000 applications in the architecture you decide. You can even use a NOC if you want with BlackBerry Connect, Good Technologies, IntelliSync. You can connect to Lotus Notes with any of these or Common Time. From a device, carrier, software, partner and SI perspective Windows Mobile is waaay ahead.

Company - When I read "RIM - The Company , the Heritage" I could not help but laugh. It is obvious RIM hired some Madison Avenue (or whatever street ad agencies are in Canada) agency to come up with this. Of course RIM is not a small company, I believe it is now the company with the largest market cap in Canada. Their heritage: a text pager. Now, if you are an IT guy betting your job on a company for your organization's wireless vision, would you choose RIM or would you choose Microsoft?

TCO -  How does buying a solution that require middleware licenses, more servers, CALs and people managing and updating those servers more cost effective than one that connects from existing Exchange servers to mobile phones? At Microsoft we have over 55,000 mobile users - we would need an entire server room full of machines running BES and a few administrators to provide the same functionality we have today with four shared servers who also serve OWA and Outlook Anywhere. Take a look at this case study from EDS who replaced RIM with Windows Mobile in a 4,000 unit deployment resulting in $15 savings per month per user. There are many other case studies that prove this is not the case, including this one from Wipro that shows 20-28% cost advantage.

I then looked at the Infrastructure tab on the page and found a few reports, which I assume were created to demonstrate the value of the NOC. One of the reports was the one I mentioned earlier that contradicts their claim. The next one, from Strategy Analytics about the Wireless Industry is over two years old, which in technology is the equivalent of ten man-years.

RIM is a company we don't underestimate, they provide a good service and have pretty good devices. But when I look at the trends I can't help but think of Netware versus NT or Word Perfect versus MS Word for Windows. We will see in a few years....