BlackBerry's MDM business still has value, despite handset woes

While the tone of most recent media coverage of BlackBerry has understandably been one of doom and gloom, the company's mobile device management business retains substantial value, according to financial researchers.

A recent report from analysts at Jeffries asserts that 18% of IT executives surveyed said they plan to use BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 to help manage non-BlackBerry mobile devices. This ties BES10 with AirWatch for top spot among those polled, in terms of future deployments.

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According to equity analyst Peter Misek, the fact that half of those planning on using BES10 did not plan to deploy BB10 mobile devices speaks to the overall strength of BlackBerry's MDM offering.

"One of the advantages of BlackBerry's MDM solution is that it allows for more in-depth and granular control of BlackBerry handsets than competitive MDM offerings. That half of the companies implementing BES 10 to manage non-BlackBerry devices are doing so without utilizing this benefit means that BlackBerry's MDM solution is competitive on an equal playing field as well," he wrote.

Despite the apparent strength of the MDM business, BlackBerry's handsets continue to underwhelm less than one in five of the executives surveyed by Jeffries planned to upgrade to BB10 devices.

Whether that's a good idea or not, however, is up for debate, according to Forrester enterprise mobility analyst Christian Kane.

"Given consumerization trends and the skyrocketing marketing share of iOS and Android companies have to embrace an MDM solution which supports all platforms. ... That's where BlackBerry has been struggling trying to get a solution to be cross-platform and focus on workforce enablement just as much as security," he tells Network World.

Kane added, though, that BlackBerry's pending privatization deal with its biggest shareholder, Prem Watsa, doesn't seem likely to materially affect current purchasing decisions.

"Honestly, I don't think it will change many plans," he says.

The company appears desperate to get a go-private deal done with Watsa. According to Bloomberg, BlackBerry has agreed to pay $157 million in breakup fees if the widely publicized deal with Watsa's Fairfax Financial Holdings doesn't go through. An expert source told Bloomberg that such a move without a committed deal in place was "unheard of."

Others told Canada's Globe and Mail that the final bid for BlackBerry could go as low as $7 per share, emphasizing the severity of the company's financial position.

Rivals are said to be interested in splitting the MDM business off from the rest of the company, according to Forbes. AirWatch executives said that the Fairfax deal would be an additional complication to such a move, however, comparing the lengthy process to "running through jello."

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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This story, "BlackBerry's MDM business still has value, despite handset woes" was originally published by Network World.

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