In a sign of the changing nature of the smartphone and enterprise mobility market, Research In Motion (NAS: RIMM) said it will offer mobile device management tools that work with Apple's (NAS: AAPL) iOS and Google's (NAS: GOOG) Android platforms.
The BlackBerry maker unveiled Mobile Fusion, its new mobile device management solution aimed at responding to the consumerization of the enterprise mobility market, where consumers have increasingly made iPhones and Android phones their primary gadgets for work and play. "Our customers have been saying, 'We're moving to these different adoption models, and we'd like you on board with that,'" Alan Panezic, RIM's vice president for enterprise product management, told the Wall Street Journal in an interview.
RIM said the new service, which will allow RIM to better compete in the mobile device management market alongside companies like Good Technology, will sit alongside its BlackBerry Enterprise Server inside corporate firewalls. Prior to the move, RIM's BES only supported BlackBerry smartphones. Some of the features of RIM's Mobile Fusion solution include remote locking and wipe if a device is lost or stolen, security and policy definition and management, application and software management and other IT functions that were previously only available on BlackBerrys.
"What our enterprise customers are looking for, and the opportunity for us, is to become the de facto platform," RIM's Panezic told Reuters. "We will take full advantage of whatever security capabilities are provided by the core operating system. We're not going to hold that back in any way, shape or form."
RIM said Mobile Fusion is currently in early beta testing with select enterprise customers. The company is now accepting customer nominations for the closed beta program, which will start in January, and general availability of the solution is expected in late March.
"It will help stem the tide of those companies that may have considered eliminating their BES, but it won't help sell more [BlackBerry] phones," said Gartner analyst Phillip Redman. "That's what they [RIM] really need to do."
Starting in February following a software update, the solution will manage RIM's PlayBook tablet indepently from BlackBerry devices; currently PlayBooks need to tether to BlackBerry phones to get email and other services. Mobile Fusion will be comptaible with RIM's current BlackBerry 7 software as well as its BBX, RIM's next-generation platform due out on phones sometime next year.
Separately, Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) inked a somewhat similar arrangement with U.S. mobile engineering firm AgreeYa Mobility to allow users of iOS and Android devices to connect to Microsoft services. While not specifically mobile device management, it is another sign that Microsoft and RIM want to extend their software and services to consumers who bring their own devices to work.
Meanwhile, analysts continued to be divided over RIM's prospects amid BlackBerry's shrinking U.S. market share. Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu wrote in a recent research note that RIM's October BlackBerry service outage could have lasting impacts. "Network outages ... will likely put pressure on services and software margins as both carrier and enterprise customers receive concessions and demand discounts," Wu wrote.
Others, however, are optimistic, and think RIM has assets that will help it bring in revenue for years to come. "RIM remains a highly profitable company with a growing subscriber base, yet it is trading as if the underlying business were distressed," Scotia Capital analyst Gus Papageorgiou wrote in a research note.
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