Suspending Development of our BlackBerry client software for Microsoft SharePoint

On May 6, 2011, we suspended development of Pylon, a BlackBerry client for Microsoft SharePoint. This was a very difficult decision, as we started working on this product over three years ago and invested significant R&D, sales and marketing effort into it. Three issues factored into the decision:

  1. Breadth of Features: Microsoft SharePoint is a large and multi-dimensional product. As we narrowed the feature set to appeal to a few customers, we grappled with how to scale to a broader base. Enterprise SharePoint customers frequently build solutions assuming that Internet Explorer will be the user interface. Bringing these custom solutions to multiple mobile environments would require significant engineering work from both SoftArtisans and the customer.
  2. Microsoft’s SharePoint Protocol Patent Licensing, which imposes a significant royalty on a product like Pylon: By our reading, a client-only, software-only product like Pylon would require a minimum royalty payment of $5.80 per license, which is unfeasible in a typical app marketplace where products are either free or typically less than $20, not counting an app store’s 30% fees.
  3. Changes in the mobile platform demographic: When we first started working on mobile access to SharePoint in 2007, the preferred platform was Microsoft Windows Mobile 6. We quickly switched to RIM/BlackBerry as there was no serious competitor in the enterprises we solicited. We were further encouraged when RIM struck a deal to have DataViz’s DocsToGo for free as part of BlackBerry OS 4.5. Unfortunately, since we started development, the platform demographic has changed significantly with the adoption of both iOS and Android in the enterprise. In just the last 12 months, both the growth of the iPad and acceptance of employee-purchased phones instead of corporate BlackBerrys were dramatic shifts that few saw coming. We certainly didn’t. Since development for each platform (BlackBerry, iOS, Android and Windows) is so different and quality assurance is so challenging, our engineering costs increased significantly. RIM did not help matters by releasing the PlayBook with no means in the short term to run BlackBerry OS software.

So between significantly less net revenue opportunity and increased costs, there was little room left for this product segment. There are other SharePoint clients for iPad, such as SharePlus or Filamente. While these stay small in market presence, they may be under the radar of Microsoft enforcing its patent license. However, this does not remove their eventual fiduciary responsibility in our opinion.
I’d like to thank our customers and partners who helped refine Pylon’s strategy and feature set. Most of all, I’d like to thank our dedicated employees whose hard work will unfortunately not be used by our customers.

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