A few years ago most SMB and enterprise-level businesses were feeding mails, device management and compliance rules through their BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), hitting thousands of Blackberry Curves across the world to better mobilise their employees and empower them with their real-time calendar updates and mail.

However, after the many challenges faced by Research In Motion, from confusion in the boardroom to an evolving smartphone market currently riding the demand for bring your own device (BYOD) and corporately-owned personally-enabled (COPE) devices, I am working in a very different mobile world from what it once was.

Microsoft sign

With carriers across the UK and Europe offering Windows Phone devices at cost price and without the pre-requisite of an expensive BES, Samsung offering corporate-friendly solutions (SAFE, KNOX) and Apple joining an enterprise partnership with IBM and rolling out their device enrolment program (DEP), I've observed that for the customers I have met with across many countries throughout Europe, nobody has really discussed a strategy that includes the procurement of Blackberry 10 devices. Though personally I quite like the look of the BlackBerry Passport and the conversations often go as far as phasing Blackberry devices out in favour of BYOD or COPE, this is certainly true for how we have transformed internally at IBM.

Of course every business type has different requirements, some of which better suit one device type over another, such as iOS + IBM Mobile First for pilots, investors, insurers etc; iOS for education, coupled with Apple’s DEP to ensure devices are managed in the right way. But ultimately, I’m seeing more or less a 50/50 split between Apple and Android across the larger corporations including those with a BYOD strategy - people love their apples and robots!

Cost-price Windows phones

However, for SMB businesses and those in the public services area, such as police forces, I have observed that Windows Phone is regarded as a good alternative to BlackBerry. It’s cheap (sometimes offered at cost price by carriers, which can result in four Windows Phones for the cost of one iPhone) and it can be managed by a variety of mobile management tools and you're not forced to stick with the Microsoft Intune solution (it's good, but offers limited functionality when stood up against the competitors). Also, it is generally considered to be user-friendly and fun to use, especially where companies are so reliant on the broader Microsoft offerings, such as office, OWA and Lync.

The downside of course is the lack of developers/apps in comparison to other providers and the additional Company Hub cost to manage the devices properly. Microsoft, I feel, are a little behind when it comes to mobile device management (MDM). Amongst other things a real sticking point is a requirement for customers to purchase Company Hub licences (and register as a Windows Phone developer in the process) in order to leverage some fairly basic management requirements such as app management and location services.

But hey, ultimately I get the sense that Windows Phone is an improvement on what BlackBerry have/had and the trend as I observe it leads me to believe that Microsoft is in fact eating up the BlackBerry-pie leftovers.