RIM's New Management Platform Includes Apple, Android Devices
Struggling mobile-device maker Research In Motion has decided it needs to position itself for a multiple-device world. On Tuesday, the Waterloo, Ontario-based company introduced its next-generation enterprise management platform -- designed not only for RIM's BlackBerry devices, but devices running Apple's iOS or Google's Android.
RIM Vice President Alan Panezic said in a statement that the new platform, called BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, makes it "easier for our business and government customers to manage the diversity of devices in their operations today." He noted that the new platform marries the existing BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0.3 technology with management capabilities for iOS and Android devices, all of which can be managed from a single Web console.
Living in a BYOD World
Those devices can also include tablets, either RIM's PlayBook, Apple's iPad, or the various tablets running Android.
BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, which is in an early beta testing with selected customers, offers management for assets, configurations, applications, connectivity and security, the ability to secure and protect lost or stolen devices with remote lock or wipe, user- and group-based administration, and the ability to manage multiple devices for each user.
The release version of Mobile Fusion is expected in first quarter, and each Fusion server is projected to be able to handle 10,000 devices.
RIM said that, while more than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies provision BlackBerries, there is growth in both company-provisioned and employee-owned devices -- a category being called Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD. This had led, the company said, to "an increased demand for mobile-device management solutions," as consumer-oriented devices increasingly populate the enterprise.
'Lemonade Out of Lemons'
Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, said that RIM's new approach was "making lemonade out of lemons." In other words, he said, the company's strategy with the new platform appears to be putting RIM in "a less worse position" rather than in a better position.
If it were up to RIM, he said, of course they would prefer that enterprises only use BlackBerry devices. "But other devices are being used," Greengart said, and the approach of a management platform for a variety of devices could lead to RIM becoming a larger player in management software, and could help ensure that companies will continue to have the infrastructure for managing BlackBerries.
Interestingly, the new Mobile Fusion platform does not currently support Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 devices, which have a relatively small footprint in the enterprise. Microsoft's presence could grow as the company leverages the enormous strengths it does have in companies, and as the Nokia-Microsoft alliance delivers a stream of new Phone 7 devices.
Greengart said that, when "Microsoft rebooted their franchise" into Phone 7, they largely abandoned many of the management features built into the previous Windows Mobile 6.5, and are now building them back in. RIM might well be waiting to add Phone 7 to their new platform, he said, until those management capabilities return.