RIM Upgrades BlackBerry Enterprise Server To Include Apple, Android Phones
Research In Motion is set to announce on Tuesday a global upgrade of its BlackBerry Enterprise Server to increase wireless security for devices other than its own BlackBerry smartphones.
The new upgrade, which stems from the company´s takeover of mobile device management firm Ubitexx in May, will be implemented for Apple´s iPhones and iPads and wireless devices running on Google´s Android operating system.
RIM said it will launch its new Mobile Fusion device management software in the first quarter of 2012, allowing corporate IT staff to set and monitor rules for passwords, apps and software on the Apple and Android products.
With the new security features, a company can remotely lock or wipe a lost or stolen device, a major selling point for security-minded corporations who have been guarded in shifting from the safety of BlackBerry to more popular consumer devices.
“What our enterprise customers are looking for, and the opportunity for us, is to become the de facto platform,” RIM´s vice president for enterprise product management, Alan Panezic, told Reuters ahead of the announcement.
“We will take full advantage of whatever security capabilities are provided by the core operating system,” he said. “We’re not going to hold that back in any way, shape or form.”
“People have told us things have changed,” Panezic told The Globe and Mail, noting younger tech savvy workers want to bring their own mobile devices to work. “Customers are telling us, ℠We would like RIM to step into this space to manage not just BlackBerry devices, but other devices´ “¦ to manage iPhones, iPads and the wide plethora of Android devices that are out there.”
For years, the BlackBerry was the preferred device for business and government agencies, who relied on RIM´s sophisticated security features for its BlackBerry device, and has distributed it to millions who needed secure email access.
But now, many business and government employees are preferring to use their own Apple and Android devices to access corporate emails, raising security concerns for the corporations they deal with. RIM is hoping to address those concerns with the new software.
RIM is also hoping Mobile Fusion will drive up sales of its PlayBook tablet computer. The first-quarter launch of Mobile Fusion is timed to coincide with a software upgrade for PlayBook, which should give RIM´s weak-selling tablet a home-grown email application.
Currently, the PlayBook can only access an enterprise email account when tethered to a BlackBerry smartphone´s mobile Internet connection. Panezic, who recently met with multiple Fortune 500 companies, told them he believes Mobile Fusion will accelerate the adoption of PlayBook among corporate users.
The security upgrade may also bring in extra revenue through additional device access licensing fees, but is unlikely to be a huge money maker, Scotia Capital analyst Gus Papageorgiou told The Globe and Mail.
Despite this, he remains optimistic for RIM. The company has remained profitable even as other analysts have downgraded the company through recent troubles, which include missed earnings, plummeting stock price and shrinking global market share.
They may effectively corner the profitable niche market for mobile device and risk management and push away companies such as Good Technology and Fixmo Inc., which recently raised $23 million in venture capital funding.
“It´s a way to kind of get rid of third-party software, keep everything in the BES [BlackBerry Enterprise Server], make it easier for the corporate clients and address their needs,” Papageorgiou said. “It´s them saying we hear you, we´re going to make life easier for you, even though we´re not going to make a lot of money off this.”
Panezic declined to give pricing details on the new Mobile Fusion upgrade, but said it would be “competitive” with rivals.
“It will help stem the tide of those companies that may have considered eliminating their BES but it won’t help sell more phones,” said Gartner analyst Phillip Redman. “That´s what they really need to do.”
Although the security feature upgrade is currently only being worked into Apple and Android platforms, Panezic said the company would consider adding support for other systems, such as Microsoft´s Windows Phones, if enough demand arises.
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