Newspaper article The Canadian Press

BlackBerry Battles to Keep Its Corporate Customers from Leaving for Competitors

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

BlackBerry Battles to Keep Its Corporate Customers from Leaving for Competitors

Article excerpt

BlackBerry fights to keep corporate customers


TORONTO - A growing number of Canadian businesses are betting against BlackBerry as they consider how to spend their future technology budgets.

From the big banks to small retailers, uncertainty about the future of the Waterloo, Ont.-based company has left some longtime customers worried, and that has forced BlackBerry to get on the defensive about its device management infrastructure.

On Tuesday, BlackBerry (TSX:BB) announced the latest update to its Blackberry Enterprise Server, the security and management system that supports a swath of corporate and government clients. The company said numerous changes have been made that will "significantly reduce" costs for customers who have a large number of devices on the system.

The decision comes as BlackBerry watches a number of its prized corporate clients turn to other companies for similar device management support, after some complained about how expensive it was to use BlackBerry's services.

Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO) and Royal Bank (TSX:RY) switched part of their smartphone management systems to a competitor earlier this year.

In the United States, even more customers have opted to completely sever ties with BlackBerry, including drug giant Pfizer Inc., and the U.S. Defense Department has stopped exclusively using the company for its device solutions, as part of a contingency plan for a worst-case scenario of BlackBerry shutting down.

In a letter posted online Monday, BlackBerry's interim chief executive urged some of its largest customers to stay with the company.

"Reports of our death are greatly exaggerated," John Chen wrote.

He said the smartphone maker would return to its roots with a focus on business users.

But the move was more an attempt to stem the bleeding, rather than anticipate a problem.

At one time, corporate and government clients were the faithful and reliable backbone to BlackBerry's business model, because they would sign multi-year agreements for its enterprise services, known as BES.

Over the past year, many of those contracts have come up for renewal, and after weighing cost and the growing popularity of bring-your-own-device for employees, some clients have chosen to look elsewhere. …

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