Samsung's deal with BlackBerry and Apple's efforts to make it easier to configure and deploy massive numbers of iPhones highlight how the smartphone makers are battling for supremacy among enterprise users.
As the smartphone market becomes saturated in the US and Europe, enterprise users will be big winners. To continue to grow, manufacturers are courting CIOs more aggressively by making products more secure and easier to manage.
"The big benefit we are seeing is that costs are coming down for managing these devices," said Leif-Olof Wallin, research vice president at Gartner.
Samsung has been trying to replicate its consumer success in the enterprise, but has so far struggled to make much headway. The company is hoping to change that by joining forces with BlackBerry to integrate BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) 12 with Galaxy smartphones and tablets. The devices will still be protected using Samsung's Knox technology, but BlackBerry will add its network infrastructure and management capabilities, the company said in an announcement last week.
On paper, the deal plays to their respective strengths; Samsung is better at developing smartphones people want to buy while BlackBerry is still the gold standard for mobile security and management. But they still have to prove the integrated solution is as secure BlackBerry's existing products.
"Just because you take something that's proven and certified doesn't mean the new platform is as secure," Wallin said.
It is important for both companies for the partnership to succeed. For BlackBerry, the deal comes just over a year after John Chen took over as CEO, with the goal of saving the struggling vendor by turning it into a more software-centric company with products for Android and iOS, as well as its own OSes.
Samsung, on the other hand, needs enterprise revenue to help make up for less-than-stellar smartphone sales. During the third quarter, Samsung smartphone market share dropped by over 10 percentage points year-over-year.
BES12 is expected to start shipping on Samsung's Galaxy devices early next year. As part of the partnership, Samsung will resell BES12 to joint customers and BlackBerry will offer Knox support as part of the Gold category of BES12 subscriptions. Pricing will be announced upon availability, according to BlackBerry.
But even if the partnership looks like a step in the right direction, success is far from certain as Apple continues to accelerate to compete in the enterprise market on multiple fronts. The company's partnership with IBM is a statement of intent, showing that it is going after enterprises more actively.
This week, Apple expanded its DEP (Device Enrollment Program) to 25 additional countries and regions, as well as to authorised resellers and carriers. Previously it has only been available in the US, which now has been joined by the likes of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the UK.
The programme eases the initial setup of iPhones, iPads and Macs by automating mobile device management enrollment, letting the IT department configure the devices without touching them. To further simplify the process, some Setup Assistant screens can be skipped so employees can start using their devices right out of the box, Apple said.
For Apple, the increased number of countries is a step in the right direction, but DEP needs to be expanded further to let enterprises buy compatible devices from more sources than just Apple, authorized resellers or carriers, according to Wallin.
The growing competition for enterprise dollars isn't likely to cool off anytime soon, as Apple gets ready to deliver the first apps as a result of its partnership with IBM, and Samsung and BlackBerry get to work.