A report by IDC Research published this week says that in 2012 the iPhone and Android-powered devices will for the first time replace the BlackBerry as the most used handset by company employees around the world.

The results of the research, outlined in a Computerworld report this week, will be a tough read for RIM executives as the company gears up for the launch of its next-generation BlackBerry 10 platform in January, a platform it desperately needs to succeed.

Distinguishing between business-bought phones (“corporate-liable”) and employee-bought ones (“employee-liable”) – separate from consumer-bought handsets – IDC said that companies were buying iPhones “in droves” for employees, although Android-powered devices were more popular in the employee-liable category.

IDC forecasts that for the whole of 2012, employee-liable Android shipments will hit 87.7 million, while corporate-liable shipments will reach 15.1 million. Although Apple’s combined total puts it some way behind Android with 37.1 million employee-liable iPhones and 31.1 million corporate-liable iPhones bought, IDC predicts that over the next four years the Cupertino company will extend its lead significantly in the corporate-liable sector with 68.9 million shipments in 2016. The research firm said it believed Android will suffer in the business world due to its fragmented ecosystem and concerns about security.

So what of BlackBerry? IDC said that when shipment totals for corporate-liable iPhone and Android devices are combined, the figure exceeds BlackBerry sales for the first time this year.

In its report, IDC did manage to say something positive about RIM, stating that BlackBerry continued to be the “gold standard” for security. However, it added that the Ontario-based company faced enormous challenges due to dwindling consumer interest and lack of enthusiasm from developers. It appears that BB10 is going to have to be something mind-blowingly special for it to get back into the good books of IDC’s forecasters.

In the last year, a slew of companies and government agencies have announced moves to equip workers with Apple’s iPhone, ending long associations with the BlackBerry.

With the launch of RIM’s next-generation BB10 handsets early next year, we can expect to see an aggressive marketing campaign from the mobile company as it attempts to reclaim the business market. Whether it’s all a little bit too late, however, we’ll just have to wait and see.