Research in Motion (RIM) has had a woeful year attempting to break out of its core BlackBerry smartphone business, and now it appears it is opening up its back end enterprise software and services to its competitors by launching a Mobile Device Management called BlackBerry Mobile Fusion. This will allow IT staff to effectively manage all the mobile devices on its network, regardless of brand. It expects beta testing to be complete for a March 2012 launch.
Long dominant in the enterprise and governmental sector with its end-to-end model, BlackBerry’s success has risen from its reputation for stability, high security handset encryption, a centralised BlackBerry server system and, in what was revolutionary at the time, the first ‘push’ email on mobile devices.
"BlackBerry Mobile Fusion brings together our industry-leading BlackBerry Enterprise Server technology for BlackBerry devices with mobile device management capabilities for iOS and Android devices, all managed from one web-based console. It provides the necessary management capabilities to allow IT departments to confidently oversee the use of both company-owned and employee-owned mobile devices within their organizations," said Alan Panezic, Vice President, Enterprise Product Management and Marketing at RIM.
RIM claims BlackBerry Mobile Fusion will manage and secure Apple iOS and Google Android devices. Administrators will be able to add and import iOS and Android users, create group memberships, view user and device information, define IT policies and connectivity settings, manage apps on devices and assist users in the recovery of misplaced devices.
RIM claims that 90% of Fortune 500 companies use its systems, but RIM’s service outages and outdated handsets have seen the company’s brand loyalty suffer with just 52% of users considering buying from it again. RIM, unable to provide the hardware devices the market wants, may feel it is losing out in the modern BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) workplace. Is integrating its competitors handsets into its backend systems a last ditch ploy to stay relevant?
Interestingly, this will include Google Android and Apple tablets, such as Samsung’s Galaxy and the iPad 2, which have thumped the struggling BlackBerry Playbook.
How much these companies want to share is another matter. Apple is notoriously secretive about its internal systems and hardware, and whether it will allow this integration and information sharing to occur will be another question. It is also stuck in a patent war with Samsung. Do these big dogs in the tablet and smartphone sector want to let BlackBerry back in the game?
CBR imagines high level corporate discussion will begin forthwith. If RIM can convince retail consumer-based Apple that BlackBerry’s backend is its key to the lucrative enterprise market, it may have a shot at pulling this off.
However, it will probably have much more luck with fellow Apple competitors Sony, HTC, LG and Samsung, all who run Google’s Android software, and all who may see RIMs established enterprise technology as a golden ticket.
More interestingly, RIM makes no mention whatsoever of the Nokia/Windows based partnership. Both companies have been pushing the new Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone running Windows 8. Both have thrown considerable marketing heft behind the project to try and rebuild market share. Their omission from RIMs announcement is curious to say the least.
RIM says BlackBerry Mobile Fusion is currently in early beta testing with ‘select enterprise customers’ and is now accepting customer nominations for a closed beta in January, with rollout in late March.
A quick list of BlackBerry Mobile Fusion’s capabilities (according to RIM):
- Asset management
- Configuration management
- Security and policy definition and management
- Secure and protect lost or stolen devices (remote lock, wipe)
- User- and group-based administration
- Multiple device per user capable
- Application and software management
- Connectivity management (Wi-Fi, VPN, certificate)
- Centralised console
- High scalability