For years, CIOs have watched iPhones force their way onto corporate networks. Now IDC reports that iPhone shipments will surpass BlackBerry shipments in the enterprise this year, noting that companies are buying iPhones "in droves."
The report states: "By the end of 2012, Apple iOS will be the number one corporate-liable operating system device by volumes shipped. It is expected to hold onto this position throughout 2016."
Corporate-liable iPhone shipments will reach 68.9 million by 2016, IDC says. Research in Motion led the category last year with 22.4 million corporate-liable BlackBerry shipments.
IDC's findings track the iPhone's incredible rise in the enterprise, both company-owned phones and employee-owned phones. With the latter, the iPhone has been displacing BlackBerry phones via "Bring Your Own Device" policies, rogue behavior and other channels.
Losing the pole position in the enterprise would be a major blow for RIM. BlackBerry phones had ushered in the smartphone era and have long held sway among CIOs. But that all began to change with the arrival of the iPhone—and the CEO's affinity for it—a little less than six years ago.
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It's unclear whether or not IDC's research takes into account the number of corporate-issued BlackBerry phones not being used. Some companies continue to issue BlackBerry phones to employees because they're unwilling to commit to a formal change. Yet lots of employees end up using their personal iPhones for work without IT's knowledge, while the corporate-issued BlackBerry sits in a drawer collecting dust.
The recent BYOD trend hasn't helped the venerable BlackBerry, either. CIOs are empowering employees to make their own decisions about technology through BYOD policies. Opening up their wallets, employees are choosing more consumer friendly iPhones and especially Android phones over the BlackBerry.
As BYOD gains steam, iPhones and Android phones will further displace BlackBerries in the enterprise. Some companies are hog-tied to BlackBerries via carrier contracts. When these contract come up for renewal, CIOs may look to a more iPhone-friendly option.
Case-in-point: When a sweeping wireless carrier contract came up for renewal last summer, tech distributer Ingram Micro chose to end the contract and turn its optional BYOD smartphone into a mandate. VMware also enacted a BYOD smartphone mandate that is similar to Ingram Micro's.
In both cases, BlackBerries were displaced in favor of iPhones.
Tom Kaneshige covers Apple and Consumerization of IT for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org