by Al Sacco

Why iPhone, Android Won’t “Replace” BlackBerry on Wall St. Anytime Soon

Sep 13, 2010
MobileSmall and Medium Business

Wall St. bank JPMorgan is security testing iPhones and Android devices. But it's not time to say Bye-Bye, BlackBerry just yet.

On Friday, published a news story about Wall Street bank JPMorgan Chase & Co. testing a few hundred Apple iPhones and Google Android devices for future employee use. JPMorgan, the second largest U.S. bank with some 220,000 global staffers, according to Bloomberg, has traditionally been a Research In Motion (RIM) shop, so the fact that that such a large financial services group is considering alternatives to BlackBerry, which is largely considering to be the go-to enterprise mobile platform, is interesting news to many BlackBerry-watchers and other mobile-minded folks.

BlackBerry Torch 9800 with Padlock (Image Credit: Brian Sacco)
BlackBerry Torch 9800 with Padlock (Image Credit: Brian Sacco)

However, the details of this particular story were soon blurred, tweaked and altogether lost by news outlets and blogs that were quick to jump on the BlackBerry-Is-Doooomed train, printing headlines like “JPMorgan Ditching the BlackBerry,” “Banks scrap BlackBerry as phone of choice,” “JPMorgan trades in corporate Blackberries for iPhones,” etc., etc.

The problem: Not one of these headlines is remotely accurate…though they do serve their purpose, which is to create sensationalism and grab more potential readers’ eyeballs. What follows is some clear-headed analysis of what JPMorgan’s move toward accepting Apple’s iPhone, Google Android smartphones and other non-RIM devices actually means for its employees, RIM and BlackBerry, and enterprise mobility overall.

First and foremost, the reported facts from Bloomberg: JPMorgan will security-test a few hundred iPhones and Android devices in batches over the coming months, with a decision expected on whether or not the devices are acceptable before year’s end; JPMorgan has no plans to purchase iPhones and/or Android devices for its employees, even if the devices do pass all the appropriate security-tests; and finally, JPMorgan has no plans to abandon BlackBerry smartphones, even if it decides to support other non-RIM devices. The Bloomberg post also mentions Swiss bank UBS, which is similarly piloting iPhones, but has no plans whatsoever to ditch BlackBerrys for any other mobile device.

The idea at JPMorgan, UBS and plenty of other organizations is to see if the iPhone and/or Android can meet their specific security needs, so that employees who use these devices can connect to corporate infrastructure and receive e-mail etc. on their personal devices. Then those companies won’t have to shell out cash for their staffers’ devices and/or wireless service.

In other words, these organizations continue to put their money on RIM, but they’re willing to try to see if your personal device is secure enough to connect to work e-mail, so you can work from wherever you have your smartphone–and the company won’t ever have to pay a dime.

I think it’s great that JPMorgan, UBS and other organizations like it are testing the iPhone and Android in corporate environments. Choice is good, and the more acceptable tools mobile workers have to do their jobs, the better.

The reality is that very few large corporations, especially security-minded organizations, have at this time all-out abandoned or avoided the BlackBerry and embraced Apple’s iPhone or any Google Android device as their enterprise smartphone of choice. And that’s not going to change for at least a couple more years, if it does at all. Sure, exceptions exist, but 9 times out of 10, organizations for which security is essential still deploy BlackBerrys, because RIM devices always have been designed from the ground up with security in mind. And BlackBerry is still the most secure enterprise mobility option.

But many organizations, even the most security-aware, like Wall St. banks, are giving the iPhone a chance, if for no other reason than the darn thing is so unbelievably popular. That means lots of employees own iPhones, even if they’re issued corporate BlackBerrys. And companies could save a significant pile of scratch by simply supporting employee-owned devices, instead of purchasing BlackBerrys for staffers and paying for service.

In the long run, RIM’s enterprise market share will slowly erode, as more players enter the game with platforms that meet basic security needs and organizations support new platforms. That’s only natural. And I believe it’s a good thing for RIM and corporate IT, since examining other alternatives to BlackBerry will likely only serve to highlight RIM’s proficiency on the security front and/or result in more viable tools for workers who require varying levels of security.

Bottom line: There’s a big difference between organizations testing/considering/piloting iPhones and organizations REPLACING or DITCHING BlackBerrys for iPhones/Android/etc. JPMorgan Chase is not ditching RIM and the BlackBerry. Neither is UBS. Nor will they anytime soon…though Apple, Google and others are certainly ratcheting up the pressure on RIM to stay ahead of the security-curve.


Al Sacco covers Mobile and Wireless for Follow Al on Twitter @ASacco. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Al at