BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) today announced a brand new set of enterprise mobility tools, called BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, which are designed to help IT manage not just BlackBerry smartphones and tablets, but mobile devices running Apple's iOS and Google's Android OS, via a single, Web-based interface from RIM.
With the release of BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, which is currently undergoing closed beta testing and is expected to be released in late March 2012, RIM is trying to retain its strong foothold in the enterprise space by helping IT manage iPhones, iPads, Android handhelds and Android tablets while still employing software tools from RIM. The announcement shouldn't come as a surprise, since RIM announced its intentions to release Android and iOS management tools last spring. But BlackBerry Mobile Fusion should give RIM an edge over its rivals, since none of the company's direct competitors offer any sort of similar cross-platform security or managements offerings--though some third party software providers do.
RIM says the ongoing "bring your own device" (BYOD) trend has created a new challenge for its enterprise users in managing a variety of multiple platforms, and the company responded with BlackBerry Mobile Fusion. As such, the new offering incorporates RIM's existing BlackBerry Balance technology, which lets IT create separate partitions on users' device to separate and security work and personal data.
The basic features and functionality in BlackBerry Mobile Fusion are as follows:
- web-based console, so IT managers can access security and management features from any Web-connected PC
- 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)
- Centralized console
- High scalability
Other new and noteworthy features within the BlackBerry Mobile Fusion toolset include new "self-service" features that enable users to attempt to secure or wipe their own lost or stolen devices without IT intervention, to reduce potential strain on IT resources. New BlackBerry PlayBook tablet features will also enable IT to manage RIM tablets directly through BES instead of having to secure corporate PlayBooks through a connected BlackBerry smartphone and the associated "BlackBerry Bridge" app, which is the way IT admins must manage enterprise PlayBooks today.
And BlackBerry Mobile Fusion isn't just for iOS or Android smartphones; admins will be able to manage Apple iPads and Android tablets. It's worth noting, however, that Mobile Fusion security and management capabilities will be dependent on the specific mobile OS security features to a certain extent. So, for example, Android and iOS devices still won't necessarily offer the same level of security as BlackBerry devices, since some BES features aren't supported at a device level, i.e, on-device encryption on Android 2.3, etc.
System requirements include the latest version of BES, v5.0.3; Apple iOS 4 or later; Android 2.1, 2.2 or 2.3--it's unclear if Mobile Fusion will support the latest Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" tablet OS--and some BlackBerry PlayBook security and management features require a Microsoft Exchange server or virtualized server, according to RIM. It's unclear whether or not BlackBerry Mobile Fusion will be available to BES Express users, or customers who employ RIM's free, slimmed down BES software, but is seems likely that the company will require full BES for access to the full range of BlackBerry Mobile Fusion features.
RIM plans to hold a business and government webcast today at 1 PM EST, and the company is sure to provide more details on the new offers for BlackBerry, iOS and Android at that point.