Businesses have long been loyal BlackBerry users thanks to its reputation for reliability and security. But increasingly enterprises have new options – not just the multitude of Android handsets and iPhones but Windows Phone 8 devices, too.

And so while the enterprise is still a core market for RIM, it’s not so clear that the BlackBerry is necessarily the default choice for the enterprise. Indeed, many see the glory days of the so-called CrackBerry as now long past.

As such, RIM has a lot to prove to its enterprise customers with the release of its next operating system, BlackBerry 10, expected at the end of January.

The new operating system features a revamped user interface built round the new concepts of Flow, Hub and Peak, which RIM hopes will persuade smartphone users to take another look.

But it seems – at least according to TechRepublic’s CIO Jury panel of tech decision makers – that RIM will face an uphill battle to prove to CIOs that the company is still relevant to their needs.

When asked, “Will BlackBerry 10’s new features be enough to persuade businesses to choose BlackBerry devices?” the CIO Jury responded with a unanimous no. The CIO Jury takes its verdict from the first 12 of the CIO Jury pool to respond, so is very much an informal straw poll, but it still suggests RIM will have to work very hard if it wants to make BlackBerry 10 a success with enterprise customers.

A number of CIOs on the panel made the point that the smartphone landscape is now different to that in RIM’s heyday. As Tim Stiles, CIO at Bremerton Housing Authority, put it: “The industry has moved on”.

Other tech chiefs were similarly dismissive. Neil Jones, head of IS at Newport City Homes, commented: “There’s no going back now, surely?” While Laurie Dale, director of IT for Ability Beyond Disabilty said: “It’s too late”. Delano A Gordon, CIO at Roofing Supply Group, simply said: “Too little, too late”.

A number of CIOs pointed to the new competitors in the smartphone market as making life more difficult for RIM.

“Companies that have already moved on to iPhones and Androids won’t be going back,” said Kevin Quealy, director of information services, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia.

Rob Neil, head of business change and technology Ashford Borough Council, said: “It’s a vicious circle for RIM.” He explained he’s not inclined to invest more in a BlackBerry enterprise infrastructure while the supplier remains in its present financial position, adding: “And that position won’t improve until more people start buying from them.”

Robert Cireddu, director of technology at Riverside Local School District, said: “Just in the past day, our C-level users have had questions for me regarding the viability of BlackBerrys. After reading about the new BlackBerrys they were excited but unsure, as they have read there won’t be any developers working on apps for the new platform.

“As a result, I ordered an iPhone 5 for one of them to try. Until yesterday we were a BlackBerry-only shop for devices supplied by my organisation.”

Cireddu added, “I can’t say for sure, but if the non-tech leaders of the organisation don’t believe in RIM – and they have been diehard BlackBerry users – I don’t see where there is hope for them.”

Several of the tech chiefs mentioned the impact of BYOD. Mike Roberts, IT director at The London Clinic, said: “Smartphones are moving in to the BYOD space and the enterprise cost model doesn’t support BlackBerry”.

Gavin Megnauth, director of operations at Morgan Hunt, said RIM needs to improve issues such as handset performance and enterprise application integration. “[Otherwise] RIM risks losing further ground in the corporate sphere to cooler brands and the emergence of BYOD,” he said.

However, some members of the CIO pool do see BlackBerry 10 as providing business benefit, with Jürgen Renfer, CIO at German insurance organisation Kommunale Unfallversicherung Bayern, saying it combines enterprise needs with “customerisation wishes”.

Meanwhile Gavin Whatrup, group IT director at marketing services company Creston, said there is now a clear dividing line between BlackBerry and Windows Phone, and iOS and Android phones: “The [BlackBerry and Windows Phone] are designed to properly accommodate the enterprise, with [iOS and Android phones] aimed primarily at the consumer.”

Looking to the future, Whatrup said one hope for RIM is that it can stay relevant enough, to maintain its share of current 10- to 14-year-olds, “where Blackberrys still seem widespread”, as they grow into the next generation of employees.

This week’s CIO Jury was:

Tim Stiles, CIO at Bremerton Housing Authority

Neil Jones, head of IS at Newport City Homes

Laurie Dale, director of IT for Ability Beyond Disabilty

Joel Robertson, director of IT, King College

Richard Storey, head of IT at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

Rob Neil, head of business change and technology Ashford Borough Council

Robert Cireddu, director of technology, Riverside Local School District

Matthew Oakley, group head of IT at Schroders

Mike Roberts, IT director at The London Clinic

Delano A Gordon, CIO Roofing Supply Group

Gavin Megnauth, director of operations at Morgan Hunt

Kevin Quealy, director of information services, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia

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