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RIM extends management software to iOS, Android

Releases 'BlackBerry Mobile Fusion' in bid to stay alive relevant

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Beleagured Research in Motion has extended its mobile-device management software, now dubbed BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, to embrace not only its own BlackBerry handsets and tablets, but also iOS and Android devices.

"BlackBerry Mobile Fusion allows organizations to manage a mixed environment of devices in the most secure, simple, and cost efficient manner possible," said RIM's enterprise marketing man Alan Panezic in a statement.

RIM reports that "approximately 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies" are currently BlackBerry users, but iPhones and Android smartphones are making rapid inroads into a market that has traditionally been RIM's stronghold. BlackBerry Mobile Fusion – the follow-on to BlackBerry Enterprise Server – is one part of RIM's reponse to that erosion.

In addition to support for RIM's BlackBerries and PlayBooks – and upcoming BlackBerry 10 devices – that's currently provided by the company's BlackBerry Enterprise Server, the new management software includes features accessible by iOS and Android devices. As RIM's announcement notes, these include:

  • Support for multiple devices per user
  • Application and software management
  • Connectivity management (Wi-Fi, VPN, certificates)
  • Centralized, easy to use, unified web-based console
  • Security and policy definition and management
  • Asset management
  • Configuration management
  • Security and protection for lost or stolen devices (remote lock, wipe)
  • User- and group-based administration
  • High scalability

A RIM video paints BlackBerry Mobile Fusion as being the foundation of "reliable, simple, secure, and scalable solutions." It's also a critical part of RIM's strategy to keep the wolf from the door, at least until the release of the BlackBerry 10 operating system sometime later this year.

The times are turbulent in the corner offices of RIM's headquarters in the all too aptly named Waterloo, Ontario. After a January management shake-up that deposed co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis and installed five-year RIMmer and ex–Siemens Communications CTO Thorsten Heins as headman, the company has cut prices on its poorly selling PlayBook tablet, taken heat for a decidedly non-enterprisey ad campaign, postponed its annual investors meeting until the BlackBerry 10 operating system is released, reported a lousy fiscal quarter, and – to add insult to injury – was outsold by the iPhone in its home country for the first time.

On the plus side, RIM also upgraded the PlayBook's operating system in February, bringing it belated native email and other standard tablet features, and announced that it will hand out free BlackBerry 10–capable devices at its May BlackBerry World developers conference.

Whether the release of the iOS and Android–embracing BlackBerry Mobile Fusion (available in a 60-day free trial for 20 users) will be enough of a plus to keep RIM alive – or, at minimum, make it a more attractive takeover target – until BlackBerry 10 devices appear later this year, remains to be seen.

Wall Street doesn't appear to think so. As we clicked the Publish button on this article at 12:30pm Pacific Time on Tuesday, RIM was going for $13.04 per share on the NASDAQ exchange, down 9.25 per cent for the day.

On June 16, 2008, RIM's shares peaked at $144.56. ®

Bootnote

Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that NXP Semiconductors of Eindhoven, Netherlands, has filed a multiple communications technologies patent-infringment suit against RIM. As the old saying goes, "It never rains but it pours".

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